It’s our turn, and our team

It’s time the Canuckleheads graduated, if not for the city on the West Coast that embraces the Vancouver Canucks as its own, then for a nation that is desperately trying to reassert itself as the centre of the hockey universe.

It’s time the Canuckleheads graduated, if not for the city on the West Coast that embraces the Vancouver Canucks as its own, then for a nation that is desperately trying to reassert itself as the centre of the hockey universe.

Twice the Vancouver Canucks have made it to the Stanley Cup finals: in 1982 an improbable group lost in four straight games to the mid-dynasty New York Islanders; and in 1994, again as a long shot, but this time in seven games to the destiny-driven New York Rangers.

But for the better part of their 40-year history, the Canucks have been just another underachieving post-expansion team.

Certainly their track record is better than the Toronto Maple Leafs (at least the Canucks have made it to the finals in the last four decades), but in the 40 years since Vancouver entered the league, most other remaining Canadian teams have won the Stanley Cup at least once (Calgary) and in some cases repeatedly (Montreal and Edmonton).

Only Ottawa (the Senators lost in the finals in 2007, but won repeatedly in an earlier incarnation), just 19 years into the modern NHL, and the Winnipeg Jets (now Phoenix Coyotes) have not captured the cup.

Even the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise has Stanley Cups to its name.

This time, the Canucks will face either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning (Game 7 goes tonight) in their quest for the National Hockey League’s holy grail.

And this time, boasting the league’s best regular-season record, the Canucks go in as favourites.

Does that make a difference? Not always.

But the Canucks are an exceptional team, talented, deep and resilient.

And the Lower Mainland is Canucks Crazy, and sometimes a community — or a country — can carry a team to extraordinary heights.

Will the rest of the nation get on board?

Probably, particularly since the coming of spring has been slow and dreary, and sometimes televised hockey games are the only solace from miserable weather.

And probably, also, because Canadians are starved for a winner in a game that is increasingly dominated by players from other nations, teams from south of the border and, on the international scene, teams from around the world.

Since Canada’s best men and women narrowly claimed gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games just 15 months ago, Canadian teams have lost repeatedly on the international stage: at the women’s world championships, the world juniors and the men’s world championships.

And a Canadian-based team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens won the last of their 22 cups since the NHL claimed ownership of the trophy in 1927.

Never mind that hockey-mad fans in Winnipeg, Quebec City and Hamilton have lost or been denied their rightful place in the NHL brotherhood (although the Atlanta Thrashers seem likely to soon be reborn as the Winnipeg Jets, with the hope that they won’t jet off again at the first time of trouble, or greater profit).

So as hockey fans, and as a hockey nation, we’re allowed to feel like we’re overdue for a celebration.

Even if we have to pin our hopes on the Canucks to throw the party.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

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