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It’s the Stanley Cup Finals, and there’s something strange going on around the NHL. There is a growing sense of unease as we approach tonight’s Game Seven. It’s something nobody’s quite willing to say or admit to, because, in truth, it makes very little sense. But it’s there, just below the surface.

Everybody hates the Vancouver Canucks. No, seriously, they do. It’s kind of weird. I’ve talked to a number of people about this, and even if many of them started the series either neutral or slightly pro-Vancouver, they’ve quickly developed a healthy dose hatred real fast.

They hate the Canucks for the obvious reasons: the diving, the whining, the diving, the cheap shots and ugly play, the diving, the obvious attempts at manipulating the officials and the diving. Oh, did I mention that people really, really dislike the diving? Lots of hockey players dive… (cough, cough, Sidney Crosby)…but the Canucks have turned it into an art form. If you breathed on Henrik Sedin from your desk on the East Coast, he would immediately fall to the ice in Rogers Arena, and Daniel Sedin would quickly follow…just because. It’s shameful.

But besides that, what is it that really gets under people’s skin? Here are a few possibilities:

The Sedin twins

Nobody likes the Sedin twins. Ok, I’ll admit to a personal bias on this one. These guys, Creepy #1 and Creepy #2 if you will, completely freak people out. There’s something unnerving about identical twins on the same line. Even one of their own teammates agreed, comparing their silent on-ice communication to a scary school of dolphins. But all that should matter is that these guys are really talented, right? They’ve won the regular season scoring title the past two years (first Henrik, then Daniel…or first Daniel, then Henrik? Who knows). So they can score pretty much at will…oh, wait. No, they can’t. Not in this series. The two best scorers in the game have a combined 5 points. The least they could have done was grow some decent playoff beards, but no, they can’t even manage that!

Don’t Believe the Hype

The Sedins are not alone in their disappearing act. All season long we heard about how special these Canucks were. How finally, after all the disappointment, this was the year. Nobody could beat them. Finals against Boston? This wasn’t even going to be close. But a funny thing happened on the way to TD Garden. Vancouver kind of imploded. Yes, they’ve won 3 games and are on the verge of winning it all, but they’re being outscored 19-8. They’ve won 1-0, 3-2 and 1-0 in games Boston could have easily had. So, but for one (huge) mistake by Tim Thomas in Game 1, this could have been a Boston rout. And yet…and yet, Vancouver is this close to winning it all.

The Curious (mental) Case of Roberto Luongo

Enough of the Roberto Luongo mental merry-go-round. The knock on “Lou” has always been, “regular season champ, playoff chump.” Yet this time was supposed to be different, winning the Olympic gold medal had changed all that. Nope. Listen, Roberto Luongo did not win that gold medal (ugh, Sidney Crosby). Luongo was not even the best goalie in that tournament (sorry, Ryan Miller). All Luongo has proven is that he’s as inscrutable and confounding as ever. And then, in an attempt to shift the focus from his own performance, he tried to throw the opposing goalie under the bus. Um… When you’ve given up 18 goals in the Stanley Cup Finals, perhaps you shouldn’t call the other guy out on one bad play. Just a thought. But, if you do feel so compelled, you really shouldn’t follow that up by getting pulled from the next game in under 5 minutes. Thank god Canada has universal health care, because this guy’s psychiatry bills must be terrifying.

Canuck Nation

Then there are the Vancouver fans. For a franchise without a single Cup to its credit, with a team making its first Finals appearance in 17 years, they’re an unbelievably smug and arrogant lot. This is their right, their due and they’re not shy about it. I remember the riots after they lost to the Rangers in 1994, and I shudder to think what might happen this time around. They might even steal a page from Lakers fans and riot even if they win! This sense of entitlement is not something we’re used to from our polite Canadian friends, it’s so unseemly…

Even Canada Hates Them

We’re not alone either, it would seem. Their own country hates them, too. Not even Canada, the cradle of the Cup, wants to claim these guys. It’s been 18 years since a Canadian team has hoisted Lord Stanley’s trophy, but our neighbors to the north just can’t bite the bullet and root for Vancouver. Maybe it’s because they consider Vancouver to be too American, and therefore not Canadian enough. Maybe they’re still in a post-Olympic gold medal Molson and poutine haze. Maybe they just hate the people on this team and its fans that much. Whatever it is, it’s enough to make a Habs fan root for the Bruins, and that, my friends, is as clear a sign of the apocalypse as you’re going to get.

They Made Me Do It

Which brings me to my final, and perhaps most important point. Everybody hates Vancouver because they’re forcing us to root for the Boston Bruins. Nobody wants to root for Boston. In fact, it physically pains me to even type anything positive about them. At the start of this series, most fans, if given the choice, would have rooted for Vancouver…just to spite Boston.  However, the way the Canucks have played these finals has given us little choice. So, we root for Chara and Marchand and even Greg Campbell, and we try not to feel too dirty about it.

It would be like being forced to root for the Flyers…Ok, that would never happen, but if it did, I would hate the team that brought me to that. So, to sum up. There are plenty of reasons to hate Vancouver, and I’m sure they’ll give us a few more tonight. Maybe they’ll accidentally drop the Cup? Or reveal that the Sedins are really, truly the same person cloned. Or maybe they can kick Gary Bettman for no apparent reason. Actually, that last part would be ok. If they did that, I might suddenly realize I love them after all.

…p.s., the sad thing is, I think Vancouver will win tonight. And I’m going to cry a little inside as I watch Creepy #1 pass the Cup to Creepy #2….or Creepy #2 pass it to…you get the picture.

image courtesy of: http://www.nhlsnipers.com

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