The Vancouver Canucks have returned to the Stanley Cup finals. Over the next few weeks, CanCulture‘s Gianluca Nesci will be blogging about everything from the games to Vancouverites themselves. Today, Nesci examines why the Canucks have become the Miami Heat of the NHL.

Not many things have the capability to unite Canadians the same way that hockey can.

It has become an annual tradition in this country to band together and support the last remaining Canadian team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, regardless of what city they call home.

So why is it different this time around with the Vancouver Canucks? Why are people outside of British Columbia cheering half-heartedly, and clapping with only one hand for every Roberto Luongo save?

The Canucks have become the Miami Heat of the NHL. Nobody can deny the talent on display, but many prefer to see things come crumbling down at the end of the day.

The feeling is much the same amongst NHL players.

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney was recently quoted by Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub as saying: “This team is so easy to hate it is unbelievable . . . I’d say that 90 per cent of the guys in the league want noything to do with seeing them win.”

But why is there such a powerful dislike for the Sedin twins and company?

Here are some of the possibilities:

1. The bite heard ‘round the world – Alex Burrows’ now infamous bite on Patrice Bergeron gave many people just another reason to dislike the Canucks forward, who has also been accused of embellishing things on more than one occasion. The fact that he was not suspended, and came back to score the overtime winner in Game 2 did not help his cause.

2. Ryan Kesler – The gritty forward drew the ire of Canadians everywhere after saying he ‘hated’ the Canadian national team in an interview during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His propensity for trash-talking on the ice has not endeared him to fans outside of British Columbia either.

3. Eastern Conference Bias – Many hockey fans throughout the nation are ready to climb into bed before the Canucks even take the ice during the regular season. The chance of building a connection with a team you have rarely seen in action is slim at best.

4. Confidence or Arrogance – With everything from Roberto Luongo mocking Tim Thomas’ style of goaltending after Game 5, to Aaron Rome defending his vicious hit on Bruins forward Nathan Horton, the comments coming out of the Vancouver dressing room are perceived by many as being conceited.

5. Cheering for the ‘underdog’ – could it be the Canucks label as “favourites” that has caused many Canadians to support the Boston Bruins?

The sporting community has a well documented love-affair with the ‘Cinderella’ story. After all, not many people want to see Goliath crush David.

That was on full display in 2004, when the unheralded Calgary Flames adopted the role of flag bearer for this nation’s Stanley Cup hopes. With every Flames win, the Red Mile continued to gain support across the country.  Only two years later, the scenario was much the same with the Edmonton Oilers.

6. Green with Envy – Maybe it comes down to simple jealousy. Vancouver is; and has been, Canada’s best team by some distance for a number of years now. Is this our way of lashing out for the failures of the Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Oilers and Flames?

Whether the country is behind them or not, the players themselves do not seem to care.

“We’ve done a good job of playing for ourselves, for our fans,” Manny Malhotra told CTV. “Whoever wants to jump on board can come along for the ride.”

If the Canucks do manage to lift Lord Stanley’s mug, you can bet that true fans of the team will not be worried about the size of the bandwagon. In fact, they will be more than happy to simply wave at those who refused to hop on.

— Photo by Stephen Dyrgas