Do you miss hockey? I mean, obviously you do. Do you miss hockey enough to read Laurence Gilman’s powerful words about how devastating it was for the Canucks to lose the 2011 Stanley Cup?
Over at The Guardian, Steve Simmons did an in-depth look at the 2011 Canucks, who he deems to be the best team ever to not win a Stanley Cup. He spoke to Rick Bowness, an assistant coach at the time who’s now the head coach of the Dallas Stars, and Laurence Gilman, the Canucks’ former assistant general manager, who now works for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Both spoke about how losing that decisive Game 7 and having the opportunity slip between the cracks haunts them to this day. Gilman, in particular, had a powerful way of describing how difficult the loss was for the team and the city, as it seemed the Canucks were a team of destiny that year after so many years of being beaten down by the sporting gods.
“What I learned that year, and it’s stuck with me, is that the best team doesn’t always win,” said Gilman. “It’s the team playing the best at that time, that wins. And that wasn’t us.
“It haunts me to this day. It lives with me every day. It is without a doubt the most crushing defeat I’ve experienced in my professional career of some 25 years. It’s left a bad taste in my mouth.
“You can think things should have been different. You can think about all that, but what sticks with me is this profound feeling of sadness. It should have happened for our organization, for our players, for our city.
“I worked in Vancouver for a long period of time. There is a part of the psyche of the sports fan there that the gods are always conspiring against them and things don’t work out. The mentality goes back to the first days of the franchise, losing the first pick to Buffalo of the draft (Gilbert Perreault went to the Sabres, the Canucks ended up with Dale Tallon).
“I hope to win the Cup one day,” said Gilman, “but whether I win one or two or how many, there will always be tremendous regret that we didn’t win it in Vancouver. How many chances like that do you get in a lifetime?”
How many chances like that do you get in a lifetime really rings through here. The Canucks were insanely good that season. They finished with the most goals in the league, the fewest goals against in the league, the best power-play, one of the best penalty kills, and they had everything a roster could possibly need, including talent that was complemented by grit and energy and an offensive flair that was anchored by a rugged blueline.
When Simmons says they’re the best team to never win, he might actually be right.