Photo credit: This is not my photo but the 'stache is undeniable.
"They got a name for the winners in the world. I want a name when I lose."
-Steely Dan, Deacon Blues
All weekend, my Instagram was flooded with photos of Mark Messier hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1994 for the New York Rangers. This moment is also known as the bitter ending to the first Stanley Cup Playoffs that I became aware of, sparking on one hand a lifelong love for the game of hockey, and on another hand, a personal fandom of a franchise filled with nothing but some memorable and lovable players with "great character" and a couple of embarrassing riots. And a distinct lack of hardware. Sigh. To boot, I write this on the day in 2011 that the Bruins of Boston once again dogged our hopes of finally drinking frometh thy cup of Lord Stanley.
I still love the Vancouver Canucks. This could be our year. No, really. Seriously. WE MIGHT JUST DO IT!!! Somebody stop me before I hurt myself.
On the heels of stacking up the characters from the legendary Chicago Bulls dynasty that claimed 6 titles with wines that seemingly matched their personalities, I felt compelled to honour this week in history by doing the same with some key characters from my personal favourite moment in sporting nostalgia: The 1994 Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup Run.
1. Kirk McLean
What. A. Tender. Perhaps one of the last notable goalies to play in the "stand-up" style, it has been brought to my attention that Captain Kirk might have actually been unconscious during this playoff run. No disrespect, but he may have truly been playing out of his mind, and potentially, at a level that he never saw before and may have never reached after. Everyone knows you need a hot goaltender to win in the playoffs. And who could ever forget "The Save"? I always knew it as "The Save of the Century". Overtime. Sliding across and stacking the pads in the nick of time to stop Robert Reichel from burying the Game 7 series winner (after the Flames were up 3-1 in the series) in an otherwise open net. I get chills just thinking about it. How can we describe the clutch moments of Kirk's performance throughout the playoffs in oenological terms? Captain Kirk had been working his career up to that one perfect moment, which was sadly fleeting for Canucks fans. For this reason, we're calling Kirk a freshly-opened bottle of 40 Year Old Tawny Port: Sublime in the right situation. Perfection at the perfect moment, under ideal circumstances. Stilton. Honey. Dried Figs. But if that bottle ain't polished off, it sure as hell ain't getting better sitting there half-empty in your liquor cabinet. I think I'm still reeling. Love you, Kirk. And for the record, from a physical standpoint, KM is aging beautifully. And what a golf swing.
2. Trevor Linden
The captain of all captains for Vancouver Canucks fans. The silent killer. The quiet general. The demeanour. The blood. He'll play, you know he'll play, he'll play on crutches. The famous words of Jim Robson. What is there to say about Trevor? He's stalwart. Fine Chianti Classico Riserva. Timeless, understated, age-worthy. A humble leader amongst the fruits & bounties of the table at which it is served.
3. Dave Babych
The 2nd overall pick at the 1980 NHL Draft. Once dubbed the Canucks' "secret weapon", Dave Babych is home to one of the most legendary moustaches of all-time. I'd put him in a class alone with Tom Selleck. There's Magnum P.I. And then there's Babych. Dave Babych. They really don't make hockey players like this anymore. At least, they don't make hockey players that look like this anymore. Like firemen. Like veteran mechanics. Like bikers. Like Dave Babych. Almost exclusively due to his moustache, Dave Babych can be nothing but Aglianico from a high-quality producer. Deep in colour. Rich in texture. Stiff tannins. Great in the cellar. A workhorse with a hefty meal at the table. And a little hair on its face.
4. Gino Odjick
One of my personal favourites. Congrats to Gino for being off the sauce for some time now, overcoming some health issues, and for becoming a mentor to younger players of Indigenous heritage like Micheal Ferland. Respect. Gino played tough. But he also had the hockey mind and skill to set up his best buddy, Pavel, with a few beauties. Gino reminds me of a solid Médoc from a good vintage. In Bordeaux, the big guys & girls have the budget to produce a great wine every year. In a dicey vintage, they can hire 500 grape pickers at the last minute if the rains are coming. But the little guy? He's got to rely on Mother Nature. But when she delivers, everyone gets great wine. And in the great vintages, even the bangers coming in at $20 are dynamite, and they punch way above their weight in terms of finesse. They can hang on Pavel's line. Cheers to you, Gino.
5. Greg Adams
Perhaps the greatest radio call in Vancouver sporting history. "Greg Adams! Greg Adams!" The pure elation in Jim Robson's voice. You can sense his love for the city, the team, and the game. These damn chills are coming back. The lean boy from the Okanagan has since migrated to sunnier skies in Arizona where he works in real-estate, specializing in re-locating snowbirds from his home & native land. This puts him in a unique situation, with roots in a globally burgeoning wine region in the Okanagan Valley, and new roots in a nationally burgeoning wine state in Arizona. Greg's sweet smile and chill demeanour remind me of enjoying a generous glass of Merlot from the South Okanagan Valley. Plush, generous, ripe. Pure fruit, drinkable all by itself. Not bogged down in the public opinion or fanaticism around some silly line from a movie. Good, honest, homegrown bottles like this have authored many memorable moments in local history, much like Greg did way back when in 1994.
6. Pavel Bure
The Russian Rocket. The most electrifying player of his generation, and I'll argue, the best player to ever put on that fantastic flying skate uniform, clad in yellow, red, orange, black, and white. Glorious. Unbelievable speed, skill, and adaptation to the North American game. And what a body. No joke. Google it. I'll proceed. Pavel was an absolute weapon on the ice. It's almost like he was built with the speed of today's game, only deployed back when everyone else, well, kinda looked like Dave Babych. His play left so many, including me, speechless. Nothing can top the versatility, depth, speed, attack, and literal explosiveness of Pavel Bure like fine Vintage Champagne. A 1996 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill comes to mind. Fitting, as "96" would become the second half of Pavel's numerical evolution in Vancouver. But we'll always remember him in the rafters as number 10.
Bonus Round: Pat Quinn
Grab a bottle of Jameson for the big, lovable Irishman. Rest easy, Pat. We love you.