The Vancouver Canucks will request that their front-office staff be seated in a protected area of the United Center, should their NHL playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks require a sixth game Sunday.
General manager Mike Gillis and assistant GM Laurence Gilman got into a verbal joust with Blackhawks fans seated in the upper reaches of the arena last Tuesday, during the late stages of Chicago's 7-2 victory in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarter-final.
"We shouldn't be sitting there to begin with," Gillis said when asked about the incident. "You can only take so much abuse for so long, and I took it longer than I normally would."
Gillis, Gilman and other staff members were only seated in that booth because three television outlets are covering the series, occupying the suites usually reserved for visiting team officials. Oddly, the NHL supervisor Rob Shick and the video goal judge were seated in the same suite, alongside Vancouver radio broadcasters and Canucks managers.
Should Game 6 become necessary, the Canucks will ask the 'Hawks to place their hockey operations staff among the working journalists and communications officials in the arena's main press box, which is further away from the stands. A similar option was presented to the Canucks before Game 3, but Gillis and Co. asked for the suite, which is in close proximity to the arena's last row of seats.
The foul-mouthed insults began after Raffi Torres's controversial hit on Chicago's Brent Seabrook in Game 3 last Sunday, but the interaction between Canucks loyalists and 'Hawks boosters in that area dates back at least two years. Former Canucks radio colour man Tom Larscheid used to banter back and forth with the same group, but he did so with a twinkle in his eye, and after distributing programs and game notes to the Chicago supporters.
There was no twinkle in Gillis's eye. He and Shick were seen hollering and pointing at a fan, and security wasn't quick to arrive on the scene.
Profane comments were hurled towards the Canucks staff for the better part of two games, and the exchange got heated when a Vancouver official suggested the chief antagonist return to his mother's basement.
"It's fine. We had fun," Gillis said. "After it was all said and done, we were laughing about it. Nothing was going to happen there."