At this moment, there is no more bitter rivalry in the NHL than the one between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins.
There is as much vitriol in this one as in any of the league’s feuds that are far more historical, such as the Battle of Alberta or the Montreal-Toronto wars. It is a perfect storm that started with the players and coaches and, in a testament to how today’s media world shapes our thinking, is fanned everywhere from newspapers to web sites to local talk shows to blogs to the social media.
For those of us on the outside, this one has a tinge of Iran versus Iraq to it. Neither side is distinguishing itself here. The reactions of the players and even Canucks head coach Alain (Brad Marchand Will Get His) Vigneault are to be expected following a game that saw Marchand draw a five-game suspension for tumbling Canucks defenceman Sami Salo into the boards. But the media fencing, egged on by Twitter, is what really put this rivalry into the sandbox.
Some members of the media in both cities have well-deserved reputations as homers. There is Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards of NESN, whose over-the-top boosterism makes Saddam Hussein’s flak Baghdad Bob look like a mere observer of the passing scene.
On the Vancouver side, there are a number of folks who enthusiastically advance the Canucks’ apparently sincere belief the NHL’s head office and the entire sporting world conspires against them. Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher has been known to espouse this theory from time to time and he unwittingly became the focal point of the latest skirmish in this week-long battle.
Gallagher appeared on a Comcast Sportsnet New England show and ripped Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for challenging Daniel Weise of the Canucks to a fight in last Saturday’s 4-3 Vancouver win. Gallagher said Thornton violated the NHL code of ethics for fighters (yes, I’m being facetious) because Weise was tired from an earlier fight with Nathan Horton.
The Comcast host ambushed Gallagher by having Thornton waiting in the wings unannounced to jump on the air and debate him. It was awkward for a moment or two for Gallagher but he escaped relatively unscathed save for a lament at the end about the Canucks being the most hated team in the NHL.
But the hounds were released and there is now no end of gleeful tweets and blogs about Gallagher being punked by Thornton.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog has a (relatively) reasoned look at how Gallagher and the Vancouver media do not help themselves in this war. On the Vancouver end of things, Province blogger Wyatt Arndt has a civilized view from the other perspective.