Before the Vancouver Canucks’ had even stopped tripping over the confetti that spilled onto the ice after their Game 5 defeat of San Jose, fans began to immediately think back to two dates: 1994, the year of the heart-wrenching Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers, and 1915: the last time the city of Vancouver won the Stanley Cup(let’s be honest, blog commenter #6, you didn’t think about 1982 for even one second. You couldn’t have. Grow up).
The 2011 run to the Cup got compared to 1994 in a lot of ways, many of them negative: the crushing Game 7 loss, the riots, etc. But no one bothered to think about 1915. The Millionaires. The team who actually brought the Cup home. I have always been fascinated by the 1915 squad, even if the main reason is a largely fashionable one(those brown-and-cream sweaters with the iconic “V” logo are some of the best ever, in this humble man’s opinion), so I decided to do some research into the team, and discovered that the 2011 Vancouver Canucks would’ve been poised to take the Cup home if they could’ve borrowed a few things from their ancestors.
First of all, the co-owner of the league the Millionaires played in(the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, or PCHA), Frank Patrick, also played on the Vancouver Millionaires. Vancouver fans have long been known to sport a tinfoil hat (or tuque) when it comes to their opinion of league refereeing, and many Canucks playoff games seem to end with debates about “East Coast bias” or feeling Ron MacLean hating everyone who has ever worked in, lived in, or played for Vancouver. I think it’s safe to say, however, that if our owner also co-owned the NHL, it’s more than probable a few more calls might have gone our way. If nothing else, this would shut up the myriad of boneheads on Twitter post-game who noted that Alex Burrows’ teeth were nowhere near that French gentleman, or asking for the diagnosis of the health of the city from Dr. Recchi.
Frank and his brother Lester Patrick were also known to have fathered some of the league’s rules–sometimes even in the middle of the season! While the rule changes they brought in are some rules we subscribe to even today, such as adding goal creases and face-off circles to the ice, allowing forward passing, and letting a goalie fall to the ice to make a save, there’s no question we could have brought in some rules ourselves to assist the Canucks on their way to glory.
There are two rules the league subscribed to already that I can imagine the Canucks having an absolute field day with. The first is that no hitting was allowed within 10 feet of the boards. I’m not sure what the instigating event for this rule was, but one would have to assume it was to protect players from the crude boards in those days. It is also likely the rule would have existed to protect the fans, who often sat very close to the action with no glass/nets/common sense to protect them. But fan and player safety aside, could you imagine how good the Sedins would be if no one could check them within 10 feet of the boards? They rarely get hit anyway, and their use of the boards to play their cycling/puck distribution style is unmatched in the league. With the ability to move the puck freely in a zone around the boards, opposing defenses would be forced to play a zone-style system on them, which would be as ineffective as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ penalty kill(how did they JUST become 30th? And how was San Jose previously 30th? That’s mind-boggling). In any case, the Sedins might’ve scored a heck of a lot more goals even-strength and erased those unsightly -7 and -5 numbers from last year’s playoff stat totals.
The second other awesome rule that would’ve helped the 2010-11 Canucks is the “rover” rule. The PCHA played with an additional player on the ice, a “rover” who doubled on forward and defense. Is this position not taylor-made for Ryan Kesler? He could have been the additional forward playing with the Sedins late in the game if they needed a tying-goal, or could have been the additional d-man with the skills to win face-offs and play hard in his own zone to protect a lead. With his speed in transition, he would be a candidate for one of the best rovers in the NHL, without question. The Canucks also had a few other candidates who could have very reasonably filled the position: Alex Burrows, Christian Ehrhoff, Jannik Hansen, and hey, a move to rover might even be what could spark the lost Keith Ballard out there. Okay, fine, nothing will spark Keith Ballard, but still. One can dream.
And finally, and perhaps the most obvious of all, when the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators, they had home-ice advantage the entire series(because of travel costs/limitations, all games were played in one city and rotated between the East and West each year), and the series was only a best-of-FIVE games. The Canucks proved all playoffs long they were tough to beat at home, and despite losing Game 7 to the Bruins, won the other three games in Vancouver, won all three games at home against San Jose, won 3 of 4 at home against the Chicago Blackhawks, and overall, were 10-4 at home in the playoffs. Oh, and there’s that little thing about the series only being 5 games. If that were the case last year, well…we know how that would’ve turned out. We would’ve been celebrating a Max Lapierre Stanley Cup-winning goal up and down Georgia St., and the world would be a better place.
So as we prepare for another Cup run in this city, maybe it’s time we look to the Millionaires’ success as we wish for our own. If 2011 were 1915, we’d probably already be celebrating. And look at the bright side: either way, there would’ve been no cars to flip over.
>Big thanks to Robert at Habs Eyes on the Prize for a lot of the info.