There is nothing quite like a Canadian city when the home team has made the Stanley Cup final, and that isn't lost on the Vancouver Canucks' biggest stars.
Even if they are foreigners.
Sweden's Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler of the United States are proud international players who want nothing more than to beat Canada in the international arena, but both are career Canucks and longtime Vancouver residents who know the score: no Cups in the franchise's 40-year NHL history, none in Canada since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.
Sedin and Kesler have been here so long, in fact, that they were asked if they have been "Canadianized" after spending 10 and seven years, respectively, north of the border.
"Maybe Vancouverized, if you can say that," said Sedin, the Canucks captain and an Olympic gold medallist. "This is home for us. We [he and twin brother Daniel]pretty much grew up here, even though we were 20 years old coming over. But if you look at pictures from back then, we were different guys.
"So, it's been a long journey, and this is where we spend 90 per cent of our time. We have friends here, we had our kids here, they are Canadians, and of course, it's a big part of your life. I've said this before, but it [would]mean as much winning in a city where you were born, and where you grew up. That's how big it feels for us."
Kesler, who was raised in suburban Detroit, chuckled when asked the same question, because there is no bigger flag-bearer for USA Hockey. But while he may have "hated" Canada at the 2010 Olympics last February, even the guy who relished playing the ugly American had some sentimental words about the possibility of winning a Cup in a Canadian city.
"I came here when I was 19 or 18, and it's the same as [Sedin] I grew up here," said the Livonia, Mich., native. "I have an apartment here, and I love it here. It's definitely feels like home for me. It's an unbelievable city with unbelievable people.
"For me, it's a great place to grow up, and it's going to mean something really special to do this in your home away from home."
Sedin said his earliest memory of a Cup presentation came in 1989, when the Calgary Flames and Swedish forward Hakan Loob defeated Montreal. Kesler's Cup memories include Canadian hockey legend Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings winning back-to-back championships in the 1990s. (He rooted for the Minnesota North Stars as a youth because he was a fan of American forward Mike Modano).
Those are their childhood memories, but Sedin and Kesler are both aware that they are now creating memories for the Canucks' long-suffering fan base.
Following victory Tuesday over the San Jose Sharks, which clinched the Western Conference championship and the franchise's third appearance in the Cup final, Vancouver erupted in joy. Horns honked, people revelled into the night, and commerce slowed to a crawl the next morning.
Thousands of fans made the trek to San Jose in the last round, hundreds are now greeting and sending the players off at Vancouver International Airport, and the team will raise more than $500,000 for its charitable arm with playoff-themed fundraisers.
"We're definitely feeding of the emotion and the passion in the city right now," said defenceman Kevin Bieksa of Grimsby, Ont. "Just walking around the streets … and how much it means to them when you see people crying when they come up to you, just because we're going to the Stanley Cup finals. We're definitely impacting the community in a large way, and it's a great feeling.
"Of course we want to win for them."Report Typo/Error