Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Rematch

If not for "the incident", tonight's game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche would have been just another game between bitter divisional rivals. The Canucks ended the Avs nine-year reign atop the Northwest Division last season and tonight's game would have simply been billed as the first game of the season between the two teams. But as fate would have it, tonight's game is not simply that, it is also their meeting since "the incident", and when the NHL released its regular season schedule in the summer, it instantly became one of the most anticipated games of the season.

When the Canucks, and especially Todd Bertuzzi, skates onto the ice tonight, the entire hockey world will be watching. But will the game live up to its hype?

Both teams have undergone roster changes since "the incident". No fewer than a dozen players who played on March 8, 2004 are with neither the Canucks nor the Avs; one has switched sides. Gone From Colorado are Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Darby Hendrickson, Riku Hahl, Peter Worrell, Adam Foote and Derek Morris; Brent Sopel, Mike Keane, Sean Pronger and Johan Hedberg are no longer with the Canucks. Of course, the victim himself, Steve Moore, isn't back with the Avs either. One of the guys he's suing, ex-Canucks GM Brian Burke is now with the Ducks.

Also since "the incident", Todd Bertuzzi has skated side-by-side with prominent Avalanche players like Joe Sakic, Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay. During Team Canada's orientation camp in August, Tanguay said:

I wish he could be playing in Colorado with me. He has such a big presence. He can hold onto the puck and slow down the game to his pace. With his size and strength he can play a little bit different game than anybody else. It's fun to play with a guy like that. It gives you more time to get open and more time to do your thing.
Even Brad May, one of Bertuzzi's best friends and a co-defendant in Moore's lawsuit now also plays for the Avs.

It certainly seems that almost everyone directly involved has moved past "the incident". Or at least trying to. When approached by the media, Bertuzzi has regularly brushed off questions regarding it. Before the Canucks game against Phoenix on Thursday, Terry Frei from Denver attempted to ask Bertuzzi about tonight's game, after which Bertuzzi responded:

I've got Phoenix (on Thursday night), and I think that's disrespecting Wayne (Gretzky) and the Coyotes, and I won't do that to them.
His teammates are equally reserved in their responses to similar questions:

Everything else surrounding the game is pretty much put on by the media. We, as well as the Colorado players, feel it's a dead issue. It's something that happened. We've moved on and they've moved on. We're different teams.
Colorado captain Joe Sakic agrees:

The Vancouver thing, you guys are blowing it out of proportion. Everything is in the past. We're moving on. We just want to win games.
It's true. It's just another game. Or at least it woud have been anyway.

Postscript: My brother obviously didn't check the NHL calendar when he decided to get married today. As such, I will regretfully miss the game at GM Place and will instead be watching the game via the CBC broadcast. Also, I will most likely post the post-game review later on Sunday as there is a good chance I will be hungover on Sunday morning. Cheers!
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:38 AM


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