x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Canucks in line for Olympic feat pattern

You host the Olympic Games one year, you win the Stanley Cup the next. Ask Montreal (1977) and Calgary (1989). Vancouver is hoping that trend continues.

Sidney Crosby of Canada plays the puck through the neutral zone past Jamie Langenbrunner of USA during their men's gold medal game of Winter Olympics.
Sidney Crosby of Canada plays the puck through the neutral zone past Jamie Langenbrunner of USA during their men's gold medal game of Winter Olympics.

We should have known nearly a decade ago that Vancouver would be playing in the Stanley Cup finals. It was predetermined when Canada was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, with Vancouver selected as the host city.

In Canada, it is a simple hockey fact: if your city hosts the Olympics one year, your city's NHL team wins the Stanley Cup the next year.

Montreal hosted the Summer Games in 1976; the Canadiens won their second of four consecutive cups in 1977.

Calgary hosted the Winter Games in 1988; the Flames won their first, and only cup, in 1989.

Vancouver hosted the Winter Games in 2010. Now the Canucks are in the finals, holding a 2-1 lead over the Boston Bruins.

Conspiracy? Coincidence? Whatever the case, the hockey gods are seldom wrong, and they have set a championship precedent that the Canucks can verify again with two more victories.

For Vancouver, a title would end four decades of frustration. The Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup since joining the NHL in 1970. They have come close, with a surprise run to the 1982 final that ended in an unceremonious sweep, and a 1994 cup charge that fell just short in Game 7.

The core of the Canucks have been together for several years - twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Sami Salo, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and others. They have known play-off disappointment. They have known what it is like to be on the cusp of glory, as they have always come up short.

This time, they are on the verge of winning their first cup as an Olympic encore - an especially sweet encore a year after the city celebrated Canada's gold medal thanks to Sidney Crosby's overtime goal against the United States in the final.

For Canada, too, Vancouver's first Stanley Cup would be a special one. It would be the first time the cup has come "home" to Canada since Montreal won in 1993. Ottawa (2007), Edmonton (2006), Calgary (2004) made it to the final in recent years, only to lose to the unlikely hockey hotbeds of Anaheim, Carolina and Tampa Bay, respectively. Before that, the last Canadian team to make it to the final were the Canucks, in 1994.

As mentioned, Vancouver lost that time. But this time, they have history on their side.

 

sports@thenational.ae