Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't be Hating

“In 22 years they are the most arrogant team I played against, and the most hated team I’ve ever played against.” – Mark Recchi on a Boston radio program November 16, 2011.

So Mark Rechhi, one of BC’s own native sons, has helped resonate the sentiment that the Vancouver Canucks won’t be winning any popularity contests any time soon. Most Canuck fans are too tired of the topic of their team’s approval rating to care if one of their own is calling down their team. I think I speak for the majority of the Canuck fans when I say we’re right now more concerned about trying to win some games.

As the famed English Dramatist Douglas Adams once remarked:

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”

By now most Canuck fans have resolved themselves to the idea that they’re team is hated, but Recchi’s comments stand out and should be paid special attention because he has at long last supported his disdain in stating: A) A reason, arrogance and B) Evidence to support his bold statement that in a long and storied career his experience in last year’s Stanley Cup Final was enough to call the 2010-11 Canucks “the most hated team I’ve ever played against.”

In all fairness, Roberto Luongo’s critique of Bruins’ Vezina Trophy winning goalie Tim Thomas epitomized arrogance. Canuck defenseman Kevin Bieksa can accredit great vision and ability to carry the zone to his upright skating posture, unfortunately, he also walks around off the ice with his head in the clouds. Ryan Kesler’s nude ESPN photo shoot was both arrogant and latently homo-erotic. Recchi might be on to something here…
As far as the diving goes, well, it’s almost indisputable that a team that features Kesler, Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows can be presumed guilty of any offense of embellishment.

Lucky for Recchi he’s just hopping on the bandwagon and the target of his distaste has grown so obviously revolted amongst their own brethren that even players they trade for that are buried in some other teams minor league system don’t want to come play with the Canucks.

While Recchi’s comments are accurate and fully supported by indisputable evidence the most overlooked aspect of the whole Canuck-bashing fad is the fact that the very team they lost to in the finals, Mark Recchi’s own Boston Bruins, could be considered the biggest collection of jerks in one single dressing room, so why are they getting a pass?

Ya, there was some diving by some Canucks, but we’re not talking Mike Ribiero here. And yes, they’re arrogant, but the only harm of arrogance is self-infliction.

So here’s my list of the top five hated teams in the history of the NHL starting with….

5) The 2010-11 Boston Bruins: In a game between two of the most heated rivals in sports Boston Bruins defenseman, the Captain of the Black and Gold, broke a guys neck and got away scott free. Watch the replay. Chara knew exactly what he was doing as he looked up at the blunt edge of plexi glass and rode Canadien’s forward Max Pacioretty’s head right in to it, breaking two of Pacioretty’s vertebrae and giving him a concussion; did I mention these two had a long-running feud?  In game six of the Stanley Cup Finals Bruin defenseman Johnny Boychuck rode diminutive Canuck forward Mason Raymond in to the boards away from the puck and in an awkward position, and broke his back – is there an echo in here?  Brad Marchand is probably among the top-five least respected people in the game.  He’s now joined by power forward Milan Lucic who accidentally-on-purpose steam rolled and subsequently concussed Sabres’ star goalie Ryan Miller, who just happens to be the most important player on a key division opponent, as well as gives up about 75 pounds to Looch.  Again, no suspension was warrented. Throw in a healthy dosage of nepotism as Bruin winger Gregory Campbell is former league disciplinarian Colin Campbell’s son – no favouritism here of course.  Boston’s whole game plan that year was to play great team defense and beat the crap out of everybody else.  They were a couple minor penalties away from having four players with over 100 PIM. They were the 8th most penalized team in the league that season, with the third most major penalties and game misconducts.

4) The 2008-09 Dallas Stars: An interesting case, but hated none-the-less.  You could start at the top when Brett Hull, hated in Canada as a traitor and Buffalo as a cheater, was added to the management team. His first order of business? Go out and give a ridiculous contract to the games most hated player, Sean Avery, who would soon alienate his entire team and be exiled to the minors and then getting jettisoned to New York where he would go on to alter the NHL rule books and infamously call Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur ‘Fatso’. Hull apparently felt it necessary to add the league’s most hated pest because the number two guy on that list, Steve Ott, wasn’t already doing a good enough job. Ott was recently selected the top agitator in the league after Avery’s most recent banishment to the minors. Add to the mix the Stars playmaking centre Mike Ribiero, who made his name while in Montreal, doing the funky-chicken during a playoff game which turned out to be a complete act to stop play.  Team Captain Brenden Morrow racked up an astonishing 49 PIM in just 18 games that year. He didn’t do himself any favours getting caught-up in the middle of usurping the Captain’s ‘C’ from the franchises favourite player, Mike Modano. You can even go as far as adding Krys Barch name to the hated list, by whom you ask? Sportswriters, for having the most ridiculous alternate spelling to a normal name ever.

3) The Islander Dynasty: Let’s start with Bad Boy Billy. The Islander goalie was known as one of the greatest ‘Money Goalies’ for his clutch play, but his goaltending ability is overshadowed in his legacy by his stick work.  This guy makes Ron Hextall look like Jean Ratelle.  Just ask Curt Fraser. A youtube search of his name reveals a near vomit-inducing playlist of horrific on-ice acts. The Isles were anchored on defense by Denis Potvin, a man Don Cherry describes as, “One of the meanest hockey players who ever played.” Let’s not forget about Bryan Trottier.  One of the greatest all around players to ever lace up the blades the digital era has shed new light on just how complete Trotts’ game was by exposing perhaps his most gifted area of expertise: trash talk. If you haven’t seen it already enjoy this fine example of his handiwork (not for the faint of heart) . One of the biggest reasons this team was so hated was the fact that they almost won at will during their hay-days and the feeling of total helplessness in playing the Isles must have instilled an awful lot of hate.

2) The 1978-79 Boston Bruins: This team nearly took the top spot when you look at the shear depth of pugilism on its roster. Five players recorded over 100PIM for the Lunch Pale Crew that year, including Terry O’Reilly who actually topped the 200 PIM mark, John Wensink, Mike Milbury, Al Secord and Dennis O’Brien. Perhaps the biggest goon on the squad, Stan Jonathan, had 96 PIM in just 33 games on a goon-squad that also featured the rugged Wayne Cashman. Don Cherry, loved by his players and known as a true player’s coach, was the appropriate leader of this group of ruffians.

1) Who else could it be? The Broad Street Bullies of course. Probably the only team that can boast to be rougher and tougher than the ’79 Bruins. Lead offensively by Bobby Clarke who recorded three 100+ point seasons during the Bullies’ Salad Days.  Clarke was known to warn opposing centremen that if they even made an effort to touch the puck during the face-off he’d take their eyes out. In those wild days of hockey you didn’t dare question him. Clarke was a saint compared to some of his Flyer teammates. The most notable of the pugilists was Dave “The Hammer” Schultz who topped the 300 PIM mark in seven seasons and in 1975 set the insurmountable single-season record for PIMs with 472. Gary Dornhoefer had five straight 100+ PIM seasons for the Broad Street Bullies. Andre “Moose” Dupont had three straight 200+ PIM seasons, four total for the Flyers, finishing with a career mark of nearly 2000. His son Danny lead the QMJHL in PIM in 1994-95 with 446. Ed Van Impe and Don Saleski rounded out the best of the Bullies as the Flyers fought their way to back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 1974 and 1975.

Catch my interview with JESSE NEWMAN of the BC Lions as we preview tomorrow's big match-up: and of course Canucks chat!

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