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Canucks try to close the deal after missing in 1982 and 1994

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TSN.ca Staff
5/25/2011 12:54:38 PM
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Robson Street in Vancouver was buzzing on Tuesday night as thousands of fans hit the roads and sidewalks honking car horns and chanting, "We want the Cup!"

But is there enough from the hometown Canucks to bring about one more night like that?

After exorcizing their demons against the Chicago Blackhawks, putting away the Nashville Predators and eliminating the San Jose Sharks, the city of Vancouver is off to its third Stanley Cup Final in their 40-year history.

And needless to say, Canuck fans are hoping the third time's a charm.

The Canucks made the Cup final in 1982 and 1994, losing both times. But unlike their previous two Cup runs, this year's team will enter the last showdown arguably as the favourite by virtue of winning the President's Trophy and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

In 1982, the Canucks snuck into the playoffs following a mediocre season and - led by Stan Smyl, Thomas Gradin and Richard Brodeur - went on an 11-2 run in the postseason to reach the final.

It was a run that may be most remembered for head coach Roger Nielson's inspiring 'Towel Power' a Canucks tradition that has grown throughout the game and other major sports leagues.

Nielson, upset at referee Bob Myers for calling too many penalties against his team, during a conference final game against the Chicago Blackhawks, placed a white towel on the end of a hockey stick and waved it in the air, mocking surrender. Several Canucks players joined in with their coach and at the next game, Canucks fans waved white towels to cheer on their team.

"The white towel, waved by Roger, is representative of a united front and a tradition that is unique to Canucks fans," said Canucks GM Mike Gillis at the unveiling of a statue for Neilson this spring. "Today it is emulated throughout sport worldwide. Having Roger and the celebration of the white towel recognized is a fitting way to not only usher us into the playoffs but to act as a permanent reminder of how our past has shaped who we are today."

Once in the final however, Vancouver was swept by the defending champion New York Islanders - their third of four straight Stanley Cups.

"Would we have won in the end?" Smyl asked in an interview with The Hockey News last month. "I'm not sure, but I think it would have given us a bit more confidence as a group that we could beat them."

Twelve years went by and other Canadian teams took turns on the road to the Cup. The Edmonton Oilers won five championships in seven seasons beginning in 1984, with the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames going on their own runs as well.
 
But in 1994, the Canucks were back.

Vancouver opened their championship run with a comeback series win over the Calgary Flames in the first round - capped by Pavel Bure's dramatic series-winning goal in the second overtime of Game 7. With Pat Quinn behind the bench, they made short work of the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the final against the New York Rangers.

"Pat Quinn was inspirational to the younger players and put us in situations that we'd be accountable to each other," former Canuck Cliff Ronning said in a 2008 interview with the Canucks' official website.
 
And while the Canucks weren't swept this time around, the result was just as devastating - if not more - to fans of the team, as Vancouver lost in seven games to the Mark Messier-led Rangers.

The Canucks' run was led on several fronts, highlighted by goaltender Kirk McLean and captain Trevor Linden. McLean turned in some spectacular performances throughout the playoffs, few more memorable than 'The Save.' A memorable moment for all Canuck fans, it was a stacked-pads stop that prevented elimination against their rivals from Calgary.

Up front, Linden was the inspirational leader for the team. One of his best performances came in Game 7 loss to New York, when he scored two goals - one shorthanded - while playing with cracked ribs.

"Linden was big in that Game 7 and the whole series," Quinn told the Canucks' official website in a 2008 tribute to the captain. "There's no possible way to give more than he did. He led by example and was a monster in the final game. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but Vancouver should have won that series. We were better in four of the seven games."
 
Now in their 40th season, the Canucks will have a third chance to capture that elusive first Cup title. And as they await their opponent from the East, there must be some sense of relief that neither team resides in New York.



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