Another hockey season has begun and there seems to be much more meh in the air than usual. There’s probably a number of reasons fans don’t seem quite as fired up over the Canucks this year, including lingering bitterness over the unnecessary lockout, the equally unnecessary riot, management’s piss-poor treatment of Roberto Luongo and/or the stench from the disastrous John Tortorella experiment. Even the Green Men have gone AWOL from their usual seats next to the penalty box.
On the other hand, the team is on a winning streak. The twins are looking like their old telepathic selves again, there’s no goalie controversy (yet) and perennial fan favourite Trevor Linden is sort of back in charge. Heck, there’s even a new player who is named after Linden, and this has to count for something with the hockey gods. This could be the year the team doesn’t crush the city’s hopes and dreams for a Stanley Cup parade for the first time in history! When they unveiled the new slogan “Change is coming,” surely they didn’t just mean introducing craft beer at Rogers Arena.
The problem is that fans are probably just sick of all the Mess.
Unlike in most NHL cities, the majority of hockey fans in Vancouver can’t actually afford to go see their team play and instead have to watch games on TV. Which this year, now that Sportsnet has stolen broadcasting rights away from TSN and CBC like it was a loose puck in front of a dehydrated defenceman, means they are forced to see a lot of the enormous bald head of Mark Messier.
It’s tough to enjoy a game, even when the home team is winning, when the most despised sports figure in town keeps popping up on screen every few minutes either wearing a suit as an analyst between periods or wearing a too-small black leather jacket in annoying commercials for his new gig as an NHL ambassador.
Now, it’s true that this hate-on for the man is a uniquely B.C. thing. He’s a hall of famer who won a total of six Stanley Cups and is revered elsewhere across North America for his alleged “leadership skills.”
But for readers who didn’t watch much hockey back in the ’90s or think it is kind of un-Canadian for fans to not let bygones be bygones, here’s some backstory.
Messier can be forgiven for helping beat the Canucks in the finals back in ’94 when he was captain of the Rangers, and possibly even for viciously elbowing an injured, down-on-his knees Linden in the dying seconds of Game 6.
And it wouldn’t even be so bad that he was simply a huge disappointment during his three seasons in Vancouver, never once leading the team to the postseason despite earning $6 million a year, at the time one of the highest salaries in the league.
The problem is he stripped the “C” from Linden and then helped get him traded while poisoning the dressing room. He also got the popular Pat Quinn run out of town. He insisted on wearing number 11 on his jersey despite the team having retired it in honour of former star player Wayne Maki, who died of brain cancer in 1974 while still in his prime. He continued to act like a superstar even though he no longer played like one and was considered far too cozy with the widely disliked new GM and coach Mike Keenan, who traded away a number of heart-and-soul players. Adding insult to injury, after he was cut loose as an unrestricted free agent, he went back to Broadway and promptly put up a 67-point season at age 40 as if to rub our noses in it. And adding insult to that, two years ago he sued the team over a clause in his contract that would allow him to profit from any increase in the franchise’s value and was handed yet another unearned $6 million.
Mark Messier is basically Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies and Canucks fans are George McFly, only there’s no time machine invented yet that will allow Michael J. Fox to come save us from him.
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