Regrettably, the vandalism of Milan Lucic’s families church was done in the Canucks name, or at least, in the "Canuks" name. In the aftermath of that incident, iconic Vancouver Sun sports-writer Cam Cole wrote a must-read take on the embarrassment a minority of over-zealous Canucks fans have caused the city, and the franchise. The take originally ran on-line in the National Post with a line about Mike Gillis not being able to be reached for comment. Late yesterday evening, however, the column was edited to include some choleric comments from the Canucks general manager.
These comments are something else:
“Some stupid people did some stupid stuff. It’s embarrassing as a citizen of Vancouver.
Our answer for it is that we’ve begun a complete campaign, unilaterally , about being responsible. Responsible citizens, responsible fans, to behave responsibly, and that you’re not part of our fan base if you choose to be irresponsible — whether you’re celebrating or you’re angry or whatever you are. It’s our initiative, because we found that what we suggested last year fell on deaf ears.
Our biggest issue last year with team perception occurred when Canadian media from other cities showed up here for the playoffs and wanted to accuse us of all sorts of nefarious things because their own [crap] teams weren’t in the playoffs They created a huge storm of negativity around our team … [that] started by saying we could never be Canada’s Team because the exalted Toronto Maple Leafs owned that perch. It got to the point where I was getting calls about it from radio shows in the U.S..
I think that the only thing we can say is that we have absolutely no association with any person that would do such a thing,” the GM said [about the Lucic church vandalism incident], “and they are not representative of what we are as a business, the way we act in the community, and what we attempt to do daily."
It’s like Gillis woke up so far away from the right-side of his bed yesterday morning, that he breakfasted in Yemen. I also think it’s safe to assume that his shots at "Canadian media from other cities" is directly targeted at the members of Toronto’s hockey media – what with the Leafs in town and his explicit reference to the "exalted Toronto Maple Leafs."
The point about "team perception" is the most likely to draw the ire of the Canadian hockey media, and various Hockey Night in Canada pundits tomorrow. In the past, Mike Gillis has been portrayed as a "whiner" and I assume we’ll see that theme resurrected this weekend.
The "whiner" charge dates back originally to Mike Gillis’ open distaste for the too public Maple Leafs courtship of the Sedin twins in the summer of 2009. It reared its head again after Game 6 of last season’s first round series against the Blackhawks, when Gillis called out the officiating to deflect pressure from his hockey club. As in his infamous press conference before game 7 of the 2011 Blackhawks series, when Gillis throws this sort of tantrum, it’s never just to kick up a fuss: there’s always method to it. Just ask Alan Eagleson.
The charge about "Canadian media from other cities" portraying the team in a villainous light throughout their most recent Finals run is well taken, and I think fair. While last year’s team did embellish on occasion, and employed head-shot artist Raffi Torres – the overreaction to the club’s on-ice actions from members of the North American hockey press was frequently over the top.
While I doubt this was co-ordinated on the part of the media, the near weekly articles admonishing the Canucks for "not being Canada’s team" somewhat suggest otherwise. As I see it, it was more likely shaped by a type of professional "group-think." Undoubtedly, by the end of the postseason, the coverage had become absurdly slanted. Looking back at the way the Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton was covered, or at Scott Burnside’s question to Maxim Lapierre following game five of the finals – it’s hard to entirely disagree with Gillis here.
But, of course, team perception isn’t what Cole’s article was about. It was about an embarrassing pattern of fan behavior that has tarnished the reputation of the city, and the hockey club. Gillis’ "rah rah" comments about the Toronto media pass my biased smell test, but his idea that "you’re not part of [the Canucks] fan-base if you choose to be irresponsible" is more dubious. I suppose Gillis has been in "the show" for long enough that he just doesn’t quite understand what being a fan is.
In talking about Gillis’ comments yesterday with Harrison Mooney, Mooney compared being in a fan-base to belonging to a church. Half the people in your congregation are asshats, and those folks are the loudest, and the ones who will ultimately "define" the group with their over the top actions. But beneath the sometimes unattractive surface, there’s an awful lot of good going on. All of us will always spend time among jerks: whether as a fan, a churchgoer, an employee, a student, or at events that include your extended family; and the unsavory nature of such characters doesn’t automatically rescind their membership to the group. That’s just not how it works!
Gillis’ notion of being able to pick and choose who is and who is not a Canucks fan is telling. The man is a control freak, but who cares, he’s a firey bad-ass and one hell of a General Manager.