After a decade of wandering, the Canucks and Vancouver rediscovered each other in 2024

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
20 days ago
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Every great story has a first act.
I’ve been staring at my computer screen for the last week, trying to figure out the right way to eulogize the 2023-24 Vancouver Canucks. For the ride to come to an end in an agonizing Game 7 loss to the Edmonton Oilers of all teams was absolutely gut-wrenching. And yet, if you asked everybody in Vancouver before the season, the number of fans who would’ve deemed it a failure wouldn’t have filled a line for pregame hot dogs at Costco.
This season was nothing short of a pivotal turning point for the Canucks. Right from the season opener when the Canucks clobbered the Oilers 8-1 on home ice, the good vibes never stopped rolling.
First-year captain Quinn Hughes bested his own franchise record for points by a defenceman (again!) in a Norris-worthy season. J.T. Miller reached 100 points for the second time in three years. And Brock Boeser turned a four-goal performance in the Canucks’ season opener into a 40-goal campaign.
Even the lowest points of the season felt like a vacation compared to previous years. Elias Pettersson struggled while dealing with tendinitis during the second half of the schedule, but he still put up 89 points. Thatcher Demko’s season and playoffs were once again derailed by injury, but Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs performed admirably in his place and helped prevent a death spiral.
People across the hockey landscape kept waiting for the bottom to fall out for the Canucks like it always seemed to. But much to everyone’s surprise – and the relief of many – that day never came.
It took some time for fan interest to catch up with the improved play on the ice. But you’d forgive people for being cautious, given how much false hope they’d been sold since 2014.
For the last decade, fans were understandably cagey about putting any faith into the Canucks organization. Year after year, the front office’s promise of a team turning the corner was made, and time after time they’d prove that faith was misplaced. With every passing season, the buzz around the Canucks outside of the diehards got quieter, and a generation of fans too young to remember the 2011-era team found their heroes elsewhere.
By the time the Canucks clinched the Pacific Division title, the NHL had been put on notice: hockey in Vancouver was finally fun again. And for the first time in far too long, Vancouverites felt they had permission to fall in love with the Canucks and a special roster of players.
The amount of magical moments this team stuffed into 13 playoff games didn’t entirely make up for the previous eight seasons, but it came pretty damn close. The energy the city took on grew larger with every passing game, as fans both old and new came out of the woodwork to join the party, be it at the rink, on the streets, or at the number of watch parties around the province. Vancouver finally got to see the Canucks at their best again, and it was a treat from start to bittersweet finish.
Still, for some folks who’ve followed the team their whole lives, it might be hard not to only see a season that ended like the 52 before it: one with no Stanley Cup parade through the streets. But therein lies the true fun of sports. If you only observe success and failure in hockey through the myopic lens of wins and losses, goals and assists, saves and hits, you’re never seeing the forest for the trees.
When you step back and take a look at a team beyond the stats line, the stories are what will stick with you. Perhaps Brock Boeser’s clutch hat trick performance against Nashville was a precursor to an entire playoff series he’ll take over down the line. What if J.T. Miller’s late game winner against Edmonton is foreshadowing a goal that will deliver Vancouver a Western Conference championship? And maybe Elias Pettersson will use his struggles in this year’s postseason as fuel in an eventual Conn Smythe Trophy performance, leading the Canucks to their long awaited first Stanley Cup.
As we saw following the weird circumstances of the 2020 bubble playoffs, all that new hope can turn right back into apathy if this ends up a one-off before another stretch of futility. But this version of the Canucks, from the core players to the coaching staff to the front office, feels more than capable of turning 2023-24 into a stepping stone to greater adventures ahead.
Beginning a story is the easy part; figuring out the rest of it is much, much harder. If the Canucks take what they’ve learned about themselves over these last 95 games and build off of it, Vancouver might get its championship ending yet. And no fanbase in the NHL deserves that day more than this one.
Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, Canucks fans. You’ve certainly earned as much.

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