Once the Montreal Expos of heartbreak, the Vancouver Canucks have matured into a team worthy of the ultimate success. This is not a lovable underdog, but a team with the admirable look and feel of a champion.
It has been a long time since a Canadian team hoisted the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens were the last to do it, in 1993. Now Vancouver has reached the finals, waiting to play either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning. There has been some discussion as to whether Vancouver is Canada's team. Of course it is. It is the duty of all patriots to cheer the Canucks on. Enough about that.
There are a few things casual observers should know. One is that Vancouver features two forwards unlike any hockey pairing ever - the Swedish twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who play the game magically, as if inside each other's brain. (When Vancouverites talk about Swedish twins, they mean the Sedins.) Then there is Ryan Kesler, a United States citizen who occasionally gets ribbed by his teammate, goalie Roberto Luongo, for having been on the team that lost in the finals to Canada at last year's Olympics (two guesses who was the goalie). It bugs Mr. Kesler so much he has felt driven to become the best player in the playoffs.
Ask Vancouver fans about heartbreak and they hardly know where to start - anyway, it's too painful to mention the goal that Dan Cloutier let in nine years ago in the playoffs from centre ice, against Nicholas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings. But this year's team had 117 points, 10 more than anyone else, and scored 77 more goals than it allowed (only one other team was better than plus-40). It is strong everywhere, including in quiet leadership, and that intangible, cohesion. (Cohesion is to winning as the egg is to the chicken.)
The universe is once again unfolding as it should.