More than 11 years later, losing the 2011 Stanley Cup Final still stings for Vancouver Canucks fans.
How could it not?
The Canucks are still searching for their first championship in franchise history and haven’t come close since losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the Boston Bruins in 2011.
The Canucks-Bruins series was filled with bad blood, so much so that it even carried over into a fight-filled regular season game in 2012 — commonly referred to as “Game 8.”
Now retired, former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revisited the heated series in an interview with Julian Edelman and Sam Morril on the Games with Names podcast.
And let’s just say he had some scathing allegations concerning the 2011 Canucks.
Among them was a claim that Canucks players began practising how they would celebrate winning the Stanley Cup, after winning the first two games in Vancouver. The Canucks were blown out of the next two games, losing by a combined score of 12-1.
The Canucks went on to win Game 5 in Vancouver 1-0, before losing Game 6 in Boston 5-2, and Game 7 at home by a score of 4-0.
“After losing two games in Vancouver, we saw players from Vancouver coming on the ice in the Garden, and they were actually practising how they would be lifting the Cup and handing off the Cup to each other,” Chara said. “And we found out about these things and we were like ‘fuck this, we are not going to allow this to happen.’ It just fuelled us.”
The Canucks f**ked up 😳 pic.twitter.com/PCvxADTYUG
— Games With Names (@gameswithnames) December 7, 2022
But wait, there’s more.
“We heard about a few things. There were some rumours that they called the league and they were asking, I believe it was after… I don’t know what game it was… they were calling the league and asking how many people or family members they can take on the ice after they win the championship,” Chara added. “We found out about these things… For us that was a huge huge motivation.”
It’s unclear who actually saw Canucks players pretending to hand the Cup to each other, as Chara initially said “we saw” it, before later saying “we found out about” it. Practices are open to the media, and there were no reports of such acts happening at the time.
Though, to be fair, that talk was prevalent among fans and media at the time.
Chara called his second claim a “rumour” and also couldn’t remember after which game the question was asked. It would have been a reasonable ask by the Canucks after Game 5, and if true, you have to wonder who leaked the information.
Openly pretending to lift the Stanley Cup would be highly unusual behaviour for notoriously superstitious hockey players, even for a team up 3-0 in a series — never mind the situation the Canucks found themselves in, only up 2-0.
What’s undeniable about the Canucks-Bruins rivalry was how much each side hated the other. Chara stopped short of calling Vancouver players “cocky,” but he clearly wasn’t fond of them.
Asked if the Canucks were a “dirty” team, Chara struggled to find the right words.
“I wouldn’t say dirty, they were just like maybe a little bit too, how should I say, maybe cocky is not the right word, but they were having a chip on their shoulders,” said Chara. “They had some players that had some reputation of being role players and agitators, and not really backing up the way they played. But they were good players, it was like they did some stuff that really really fuelled us.”
Ryan Kesler spoke candidly about the 2011 loss in a Sportsnet 650 interview three years ago, during his final NHL season. He, like many others, took the loss hard.
“After that 2011 year, it affects you mentally, it affects you personally. I remember coming to the rink the next year and walking into [Rogers Arena] and all the memories just come back to you. It was hard walking into that arena because every time you stepped in, I always get that Game 7 loss back into my head.”
“I took it really hard. It was something I’ll never forget.”