Its pretty clear at this point that the hockey markets of Boston and Vancouver despise each other. Its getting to the same levels of hatred that the Celtics and Lakers had for each other in the 1980s, and that the Yankees and Red Sox have harbored for each other since Babe Ruth was more than a candy bar.
A full four days after the Stanley Cup Finals rematch went down on the Garden ice, the arrows are still being winged from both camps about who started what.
It has played out more like a messy Hollywood divorce than a hockey rivalry.
The verbal joust on "Sticks and Stones" between Shawn Thornton and Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher is the perfect example of the differing mentalities employed by the two hockey havens. There couldnt be two more alternate views of the honest way to approach the game of hockey.
After last week, its clear that the Canucks believe in playing things out through the media and league offices rather than battling it out on the ice.
Dale Weise all 6-foot-2, 210-pounds of him proved the perfect embodiment of this mindset. After backing out of a fight with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Thornton, Weise looked like a less-than-honorable figure after hed given all the telltale signs he was ready for a round of fisticuffs. Never mind that Weise has engaged in six NHL fights this season versus Thorntons 10, and that it appeared both players were properly matched up in the same weight class. Weise became the picture of exactly what the Boston hockey fan abhors most: cowardice and lack of accountability.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have been defined by their long history of the "Big Bad Bs." It's telling that Boston fans never truly embraced the laid-back persona of a bona fide superstar like Joe Thornton. Instead they worship at the alter of physical players that push the edge like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. As long as Cam Neely is the organizations president, their style isnt likely to change.
The city of Boston wouldnt have it any other way.
In Vancouver, they seem to favor other qualities over toughness. Apparently, their philosophy seems to center around backing away from conflicts. In terms of fight or flight instincts, the Canucks usually choose "flight" without the bat of an eyelash.
Gallagher openly wondered why the Canucks are so hated when they don't act like bullies.
"Here's what I don't understand. I don't understand how a team can be so hated I understand they have a couple of vexing guys like Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre. They're agitators and just about every team has a couple of them. But they have no toughness. Normally, teams that are hated have a horde of tough guys that just maraud and punch other teams into oblivion. How can you be hated when you have no toughness?"
Perhaps in some NHL quarters (ahem, Montreal) there are heads nodding in unison as Gallagher launched into the woe is Vancouver soliloquy.
But in most corners of the hockey world toughness is worn like a proud badge.
Players are "honest" when they respect their opponents, answer the bell when its expected. Most refuse to feign injury just because it will net their team a delayed penalty call.
Sometimes honest players and teams stumble -- as Marchand did when he clearly sought out a cheap shot on Sami Salo last weekend. But he's paying the price with a five-game suspension.
The Canucks are also paying the price for the cost of doing business their way: they're hated.
Nobody will ever respect a team that uses cunning and blinding arrogance to light their path toward Presidents Trophies. Some might have said after watching Game One of last years Stanley Cup Finals that the Canucks were unfit to raise the Cup after Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, and the hockey gods seemed to agree as the Bruins celebrated on Vancouver ice last spring.
The Bruins are the bear with overpowering strength and quick-trigger temper that sometimes gets them in trouble. The Canucks are the weasel, constantly avoiding accountability with mealy-mouthed excuses and dirty tricks.
The difference between the two teams is more than punching or marauding. Its about how nearly everyone in the Vancouver organization carries themselves.
Maybe someday people like Gallagher will get why the Canucks are such a reviled organization, but somehow I doubt it.