Vancouver fans have had it pretty rough. Since entering the league in 1970, there hasn't been a lot of winning. In all that time the fans have experienced just three trips to the Stanley Cup Final, coming up empty each time. The city sadly has more Stanley Cup riots than rings to its name.
In fact, the Canucks are the only NHL franchise that has been to a Game 7 in a Cup Final and not won a Cup...and they've done it twice.
But through all of the losing and heartache, there's one villain we can never forgive. A nemesis that once broke the dreams of our 1994 Canucks, and then ruined our 1997-2000 teams as well. Yes, we direct all of our frustration and hate into Mark 'Moose' Messier.
We hated him for his dirty hit on our beloved Trevor Linden in '94, and for taking the captaincy from him a few years later. For dismantling the core along with his buddy Mike Keenan. We saw the opposite of leadership from the supposed 'best leader in sports'. He made a huge sum of money in exchange for mediocrity, and then had the gall to sue for more money a few years later! To top it off he even came on Vancouver sports radio and took credit for Vancouver's recent success!
We hate that the 'Mark Messier Leadership Award' award is presented by Mark Messier on behalf of Mark Messier. And how ridiculous it was that he initially presented it each month, only to lazily abandon that concept.
And with all the pain he caused our franchise we especially hate that he uses Vancouver to claim that he is one of three NHL players to have captained three different teams.
Now let's get into the nitty gritty about why Canuck fans absolutely hate Messier.
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15 He Ruined our Dream
It's sort of a rule as a sports fan; you have to hate the players that got in your team's way of winning a championship. Sure, you can respect their skills as a player, but you should never have to like them. This began before Messier even donned a Canucks jersey, as he played an instrumental role, as he scored what proved to be the Cup winner in Game 7. While Brian Leetch was the MVP that spring for the Rangers, it's easy for Canuck fans to point to Messier as a reason the Canucks came up short. Not to mention a despicable act he did in that series, which will come later in the countdown.
14 Under-performed as a Canuck
Through all of Messier's misdeeds with the Canucks and their fans, all could have been forgiven or somewhat redeemed if Messier actually produced in a Canucks uniform. After signing a five-year, $30 million deal, Messier often looked disinterested and nowhere near the legendary player hockey fans had known. In 207 games as a Canuck, Messier scored 162 points in 207 games, far below what he averaged throughout his career. The numbers behind his tenure in Vancouver don't tell the whole story though, as you'll see later on through this list.
13 He was our Consolation Prize after not signing Gretzky
This one isn't Messier's fault. The previous year saw the Canucks get oh so close to signing none other than no.99, only to clumsily botch the deal.
The story goes that Gretzky had agreed verbally with Pat Quinn to sign with the team the next morning. Great news right? Well that wasn't good enough for the bonehead Orca Bay CEO Stan McCammon, who demanded Quinn phone Gretzky back and get the deal in writing that night. The whole deal fell through and Gretzky went to the Rangers instead.
So with a gaping hole of disappointment and a wad of free-agent cash, the Canucks management went for the next best ex-Oiler center they could find. The dream scenario ended up a nightmare.
12 Rogers NHL Hockey Ambassador
After not being handed an NHL GM position, Messier has gone on to hawk hockey for the cable company Rogers. This means that Canuck fans have to see his face several times during each game broadcast on their network.
Did they not realize that we associate him with the worst hockey times of our lives? And although we may want to buy their NHL package, we couldn't bear give any more hockey-related money towards the Moose.
I know producing a regional specific ad will cost more money so we will accept a large black bar placed over Messier during each commercial.
11 Blaming Vancouver's Ice
To be the greatest leader in all of sport must mean you make plenty of excuses and deflect blame whenever possible, right? To explain his mediocre production, Messier went after a target that couldn't defend itself: the ice.
"We have the worst ice in the league," Messier said. "We've got guys that would excel on great ice. I don't think there's any excuse for it and it has to be addressed."
This comment further alienated him from the people of Vancouver and it was especially insulting the to the arena crew: Leadership 101 baby.
Strange that the opposing teams had no problem coming into Vancouver and winning on that same ice.
10 Mike Keenan
Not only did we have the captain of the nemesis Cup-winning Rangers on the team, but we got their coach as well! Keenan has racked up a huge amount of wins in his career but he's also known for his terrible relationships with players and staff. The legendary Brett Hull played for him in St. Louis and had this to say:
"Keenan was just, he was mean, he was mean spirited. He almost was doing it out of pleasure to belittle people...to make trades that were just asinine, little things like that.
...The only guy I've ever seen do this. After a morning skate he'd come in and tell the trainers to move guys from one area in the dressing room to another area in the dressing room....it's just...why? He didn't treat the trainers right, he didn't treat anyone well."
With captain Messier's full support, Keenan began his reign of terror on the Canucks and the next few seasons were dark times.
9 Playing GM and Control Issues
Once Mike Keenan was also awarded GM duties, Messier began influencing those decisions as well. Gino Odjick was a fan-favorite Canuck at the time and went to the Vancouver Province newspaper shortly after leaving the team to tell his side of the story.
"Messier was brought here to help lead us and put us over the top as a team and everybody was on board waiting to go along with him... But right from the start it was clear he wanted to have all the power and wanted his own people around him."
"He didn't break a sweat for the first 10 games and just waited for Tom Renney and Pat Quinn to get fired. He talks to ownership all the time and he's responsible for Keenan being here and he's part of most of the trades. He sits in for four hours with management every time there's a trade. He (Messier) just wants to destroy everything so he gets the power. Everyone is brought in to play for Mark."
Ex Canuck Coach and GM Pat Quinn told Toronto's Globe and Mail in 1998 that "Messier was consulted by ownership on personnel decisions. When that happens it's deadly"
And what was Messier saying while all this was going on?
"My allegiance has always been toward the players. I have nothing to do with player personnel on this team or who's going where."
8 Quoting Buddha
"I can't teach my students; I can only help them explore themselves"
Comparing yourself to Buddha? Well you skated about as fast as he would.
With all of this chaos and darkness surrounding the team, he must have been knee deep in Buddhist teachings to cope with it all. When he wasn't deflecting the blame to other players or inanimate objects like arena ice, he was dropping spiritual knowledge like this.
Don't make us hate Buddha too!
7 no. 11
We knew you won five Cups wearing no.11 in Edmonton, but that was your tradition, not ours. In Vancouver, no.11 was unofficially retired for Wayne Maki, and will always belong to him.
Maki was claimed in the 1970 Expansion Draft and was one of the team's first ever stars. His promising career was cut short when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He would die two years later at the young age of 29. The number had never been worn again out of respect.
Rationally speaking, most of the blame lies with the franchise. Don't 'unofficially' retire a number, actually do it! I've already written about Messier's tight relationship with the ownership and management, without anything in place to stop him, of course he was going to wear his number.
Wherever the blame should lie, it's yet another black mark left on the franchise.
6 The Mark Messier Leadership Award
Very few NHL players have awards named after them. Considering how Bobby Orr (Norris) and Wayne Gretzky (Art Ross, Hart) are no brainers for this honor yet it hasn't happened is a testament to the legacy of the NHL. But then along came this Leadership Award.
It's not even measurable! To make it worse it was handed out every month by Messier instead of just at the end of the season. But that ended up being too much work and the 'tradition' was dropped after just one season.
If you want to add a new award, how about "Best Defensive Defenseman"? That way legitimately great defenders can win one without having to score the most points.
5 He is Incredibly Overrated as a Leader
But he guaranteed a playoff win against the Devils in 1994?
Predicting the President's Trophy winning team would win a playoff game was hardly a miracle. That Rangers team was stacked with Brian Leetch (Conn Smythe winner), Tony Amonte, Mike Gartner, Adam Graves, Alex Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Mike Richter and more. The Edmonton teams before were even better.
And what did he do after?
Messier's Rangers were bounced in the second round, the next two seasons. The only long run in New York after 1994 was in 1996-97, and that was when he was reunited with Gretzky!
He then went to Vancouver and missed the playoffs every year he was there.
After returning to New York in 2000, Messier made another guarantee that they would make the playoffs, and they instead missed four straight years.
This was another Rangers team full of talent and yet Messier's leadership couldn't get them to perform.
4 Taking Credit for the Canucks post-Messier Success
In the Canucks' last season before signing Messier they won 35 games and had an avg attendance of 17,796. With Messier they would win 25, 23, and 30 games over three years, also seeing the attendance drop each year.
The first season without him they won 36 games and attendance shot back up, yet Messier had the gall to come onto Vancouver sports radio and take credit for the team's success. Saying that he helped paved the way for things to get better. It's nothing short of delusional.
That's like me saying I made your ice cream taste better by forcing you to eat moose crap first. Instead it was Canuck fans watching a moose crap all over the ice.
3 Taking the Captaincy from Trevor Linden
Trevor Linden is one of, if not the most beloved Canuck of all time. He led the team through some tough years and willed the team to their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1994. When the team signed Messier in 1997, despite being the Canucks' captain since he was 21 years old, Linden gave him the captaincy out of respect. Messier then proceeded to tear apart the locker room and Linden came to regret the move.
Instead of getting rid of the cancer that was Messier, the team traded the beloved Linden to the Islanders late in the 1997-98 season. The way Linden was treated in the Keenan/Messier era was despicable and Canucks fans have never forgotten how their true leader was treated.
2 Suing the Canucks for even more Money
Messier had signed a five-year contract worth $30 million in 1997. He played for three seasons before the team paid him $2 million to get out of the deal.
But a clause in the contract stated that if the Canuck franchise increased in value over the life of his contract he would see a portion of the profit.
First off, this is a ridiculous clause, that doesn't seem to take into account inflation, the Canadian dollar or the value of the league itself. Secondly, the team saw ticket sales decrease every season he was there and increase immediately after he left. So essentially he got paid for his departure raising the value. Smart negotiation indeed.
1 His Dirtiest of Dirty Hits on Linden in Game 6
In Game 6 of the 1994 Cup Final, the Canucks needed a win to stave off elimination and force a Game 7. Trevor Linden provided two goals in the 4-1 Canuck win.
As the final minute ticked down, Vancouver's legendary commentary Jim Robson gave the call.
Linden has been chopped down. He's crawling towards the bench, Lindens been injured. Now he's hit again by Messier, going to the bench. Messier hit Linden when he was down, on his knees
Hitting an already injured, defenseless player while they are crawling on their knees back to the bench is what most older Canuck fans associate Messier with. A despicable act.
The silver lining is that Robson delivered his most iconic call in response to the dirty play.
But there is gonna be that seventh game, we'll hope they can patch Linden up, and get him in that one. He will play. You know he'll play. He'll play on crutches!
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