A big week for Vancouver Canucks schadenfreude
Photo credit:© Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
Schadenfreude is one of the best words not available in the English language.
It’s a German term that roughly translates to “pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune.”
Now, that might strike you as fairly mean-spirited, at first, but there’s more to it than just laughing at other folks’ pain. Traditionally, schadenfreude often involves an extra wrinkle of the misfortunate party in question having wronged you in some way prior to the schadenfreude. Sometimes, schadenfreude reads more like second-hand revenge.
And that’s the kind of schadenfreude that fans of the Vancouver Canucks are feeling after last week.
When we celebrate the fact that the Boston Bruins were just eliminated in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a season in which they made (regular season) history, we’re not just reliving the old wounds of 2011. That would be more than a little petty. It’s always fun when the Bruins lose, but this year, there’s more to it than that, because it was the Bruins who chose to open up those old wounds first.
Way back in December of 2022, the recently-retired Zdeno Chara spoke up, entirely unprompted, about a tale he’d apparently been keeping to himself for the past decade. As Chara told the hosts of some random podcast, the Bruins had caught the Canucks practicing lifting the Stanley Cup after going up 2-0 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
Sounding an awful lot like Ralph Wiggum amidst the scandalous Skinner/Krabappel affair, Chara breathlessly reported that “After losing two games in Vancouver, we saw players from Vancouver coming on the ice in the Garden, and they were actually practicing how they would be lifting the Cup and handing off the Cup to each other.”
By the next time he was asked about it, Chara backtracked all the way from having personally seen the Cup-rehearsal to having just “heard about” it. But the damage was already done.
Kevin Bieksa used his national platform to instantly refute the story, calling it “one of the dumbest things we’ve ever heard” and correctly noting that “You think about all the media that’s there covering the Finals and all the competitiveness of trying to find some story different than the other person — clearly, somebody would have reported about that or had a camera.”
Then Bieksa really went off, stating that “…it’s a little bit of an attack on our character as a team and an organization but also our leadership group. You’re talking about three first-ballot Hall-of-Famers in the Sedins and [Roberto] Luongo. You’re talking about [Manny] Malhotra and [Dan] Hamhuis and myself. To think that we would allow something like that to happen, let alone participating in it, is disappointing.
Coming from a guy like Chara, you would expect more — and maybe a little bit more of a mutual respect — that he wouldn’t repeat a story like that that’s so insulting to us without fact-checking it or witnessing it firsthand.”
But fact-check, Chara did not.
Jannik Hansen backed up Bieksa’s strong refutation, and the controversy seemed to die off shortly thereafter…until Milan Lucic, perpetually a few steps behind his fellow NHLers, decided to reopen the discussion in February of 2023.
This time, the claims were even weaker, with Lucic telling John Scott that “We used to be able to watch the other team pre-game skate as we were eating pre-game meal. Before that Game 6, I don’t even know if the Canucks skated or not, but somebody went out and started doing something like [lifting the Cup].”
What were you eating for that pre-game meal, Milan? Was it bologna?
Believe who you want, but either way, the messaging is quite clear. It seems that the Bruins at least strongly felt that the Canucks had got ahead of themselves in 2011, and that their arrogance and certainty about their impending Stanley Cup win led directly to their subsequent collapse and the Bruins’ ultimate victory.
Which brings us back to schadenfreude, and the specific feeling of having the Bruins — in the same year in which they made their retroactive accusations — fall victim to their own arrogance and wind up surrendering one of the biggest playoff upsets in NHL history.
To be clear, no one has yet to insinuate that this year’s Bruins did any fake Cup-lifting. But it is fairly obvious that at various points — like the outset of the series, the point at which they were up three games to one, and the point at which they were up a goal in Game Seven with one minute remaining — the Bruins must have thought they had this one in the bag.
But they did not, and now the winningest team in NHL regular season history is golfing.
If that’s not an opportunity for schadenfreude, we don’t know what is. And remember, they brought all this up in the first place, so it’s not even schadenfreude of the old, bitter, sour-grapes variety. Anti-Bruins sentiment is now a fresh and recent disdain again, and it feels good.
And that wasn’t even the only clear-cut case of Canucks schadenfreude to occur this past week.
Now, your mileage may vary on this next controversy, but it’s probably fair to say that the majority of Vancouver fans were at least slightly rankled by former captain Bo Horvat’s comments about the pre-playoff atmosphere in Long Island being “a lot better than Vancouver, I will tell you that for free.”
We’re not here to equate the animosity that Vancouver fans feel for the Bruins to any ill will they might have held toward Horvat. The two are not really comparable. But schadenfreude can happen in different degrees, and most will probably admit that, at the very least, they wanted to see Horvat’s new team flame out in the playoffs as a bit of minor vengeance for his words.
Well, mission accomplished. Horvat and the Islanders were the first team eliminated this year, with Horvat himself managing just two points in six postseason games.
It’s a performance that must have the Islanders’ brass questioning the massive contract extension they handed Horvat previously, and we’ll tell you that for free, too.
For those who seek them out and celebrate them, that’s two pretty considerable doses of schadenfreude in a single week. The more bitter and spiteful of those amongst the Vancouver fanbase are eating well this week, and you know what? They deserve it.
It’s been a long year, and it’ll be a long time yet before the Canucks are back on the ice to take a direct hand in putting together some more directly positive moments.
The fanbase will have to be satisfied with indirect pleasure until then.
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