Pictured above is former Canucks goaltender and current Sportsnet broadcaster John Garrett. This photo might have been taken during the 1984-85 season. That year Garrett earned the nickname “Lotto” because he finished the season with a goals against average of 6.49. To further refresh your memory, that season marked the last year the Canucks wore their flying V jerseys (possibly the ugliest jerseys of all-time), they started the year with Bill Laforge as their head coach and finished the year with a 25-46-9 record. It sucked to be a Canucks fan. Patrick Sundstrom was their leading scorer with a mighty 68 points (only 140 points behind the league leader, Wayne Gretzky). As bad as they were, they finished with the fourth worst record in the league and selected Jim Sandlak fourth overall in the draft that summer (yikes), so not exactly a great reward for finishing poorly.
Luckily I wasn’t old enough to follow hockey back then, but I’ve seen my share of bad times as a Canucks fan. I remember when they missed the playoffs in 1990 by 11 points. Sure, that was followed by a nice streak of playoff appearances, but other than the run to the finals in 1994 they didn’t last long in the postseason.
So they had a nice little bit of success for five years. But that all ended in 1996. Back in my high school days during the late 1990s, it was not cool to be a Canucks fan. They missed the playoffs in 1996-97, despite having the likes of Bure, Mogilny, Linden and others. Disappointing. The following year they signed Mark Messier (the picture above was on the front page of the Province the day after Messier signed, the press envisioned the Stanley Cup between his raised hands). They proceeded to fire Pat Quinn and hire Mike Keenan. You know the rest. They made the playoffs when I was in grade 8. Their next playoff visit was when I was in university.
But look at us now Canucks fans! We have the reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner. We have two players challenging for the scoring title this year. We have a Selke Trophy favourite. We have a Vezina candidate. We have the best record in the entire NHL, and it’s already February! We have a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup. And damn it, our jerseys aren’t bad looking either! We even have fans in visiting arenas! It’s cool to be a Canucks fan.
Of course, there’s no guarantees this year, and anything (see Naslund breaking his leg, Lidstrom’s goal on Cloutier, a 3-1 series lead meltdown or Bertuzzi getting a season ending suspension… those were in four straight years by the way) can happen and has happened. But no matter what happens, at least it’s not 1986.