Movie Review: Black Mass

Johnny Depp is unrecognizable as James 'Whitey' Bulger in Black Mass.
Johnny Depp is unrecognizable as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in Black Mass.

DISCLAIMER: Okay, I know I’m late in reviewing a lot of movies, including this one. I’m hoping to do some catching up in this time. So please bear with me.

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is a man of infamy. Black Mass is a movie that attempts to reveal what type of person Bulger was and how he was able to get away with what he did all this time.

It’s 1975. The streets of South Boston are ruled by James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and his Irish-American Winter Hill Gang with Stephen Flemmi as his right-hand man, Kevin Weeks as his rising rookie and Johnny Martorano as his merciless hitman. However it’s rivaled by the Angiullo brothers who have ties to the New England Mafia family.

In the middle of this, former FBI Agent John Connolly returns to Boston in hopes of stopping the Angiullo brothers and does the tricky task of trying to get Whitey’s help to do so. Besides Whitey and brother Billy Bulger, who’s the president of the Massachusetts State Senate, are childhood friends. At first, Whitey is reluctant to be an informant but agrees after one of his Winter Hill Gang members is gunned down.

No kidding having Whitey as an informant for an FBI agent is touchy stuff and it even causes suspicion from Connolly’s boss. However it becomes a case where Bulger is the one pulling Connolly’s strings as he uses Connolly’s ‘protection’ for covering his crimes. Whitey becomes more violent after his six year-old son dies of an allergic reaction to aspirin. He even gains more success in achieving FBI control in terms of trying to down the Angiullos. Connolly however becomes more attached to Whitey which interferes with his marriage.

However the bond between Bulger and Connolly reach a turning point as Whitey orders one of his men to kill two men associated with a scheme Whitey was to profit over. One man in whitey’s ring, Brian Halloran, comes across as untrustworthy and senses him to be a possible rat. Fearing for his life, Halloran goes to the FBI for help but to no avail. Connolly informs Whitey of Halloran’s sayings and Halloran is killed.

Bulger’s lust for blood and his own menacing behavior only grow over time and it leads to a downfall in his relationship with Connolly. Over time a new district attorney, Fred Wyshak, is hired in Boston. Despite Connolly’s attempt to befriend the ‘bulldog’ attorney, Wyshak refuses and attempts to have Bulger arrested. Eventually the secrets are unraveled thanks to the help of the Boston Globe which leads to the arrests of Connolly and Bulger’s three other men. Bulger however is successful in avoiding arrest of his own however he would be arrested in 2011 after 16 years ‘on the run.’

I’m sure what most people would be interested in seeing when they watch this film is yet another character played by Johnny Depp. The weird thing is about how unrecognizable he comes across with his balding hair and blue eyes. However I’m sure he was chosen because of how he could embody the character of Whitey with his criminal mentality and his personal demons both on the street and within himself. Mind you Whitey was quite the character in real life to give himself his own exile before ultimately being brought to justice only as he was in his 80’s. Some may find Johnny’s hair and make-up rather distracting but it doesn’t take away from the story.

This is a story of intrigue. Those who know the story of Whitey Bulger, or even those who only know the name but not the whole story, will take an interest in why Whitey carried this all out and why an FBI agent was willing to assist. No doubt the story is mainly about Whitey. However the story is about Connolly too. It makes one wonder why a childhood friend would be so loyal to the point he’d be willing to go against his job in order to help him out despite the fact he’s carrying out such hideous crimes. No doubt the theme of loyalty is very present in the film as it is a common fact that loyalty to family and friends is something valued greatly in Boston. The theme of loyalty comes to the point where we see a scene of Bulger on the run but not before thanking Billy just before he and the other men are sentenced.

The make-up of Depp as Bulger may get a lot of attention but the highlight of the film was his performance of a man who is smart but troubled and very easy to infuriate. Depp also did a good job of conveying Bulger’s growing anger and personal motives in his carrying out in the crime activities but he also did a good job in showcasing Whitey’s mind in why Bulger felt it was right in doing all these hideous crimes and why he needed his men to carry it out and an FBI to be ahead of the game. Even showing how the accidental death of his son would be the turning point in Bulger and his lust for control and vengeance adds to the story and the character. The film rested predominantly on the story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger but it was Depp’s ability to show Whitey the person that made the story work at its best.

Sure, Johnny Depp carried the film but the film did feature other good supporting performances as well like that of Joel Edgerton as Connolly whose loyalty is questioned, Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy. The performances of the wives caught in the middle–Erica McDermott as Mary Bulger and Julianne Nicholson as Marianne Connolly– added to the human element of the story and kept it from being your typical hard-story crime drama.

This actually Scott Cooper’s third film as a director. The former actor’s best film making feat up to now has been Crazy Heart about a faded country star on a comeback. I don’t know if it’s as good as Crazy Heart but this is a very good film done by Cooper and is definitely his commercial breakthrough. Writers Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk did a good job of keeping it from being your typical mob-leader story.

Black Mass isn’t simply about an infamous crime leader. It’s also about the codes of loyalty some people would do for their friends, even if it meant violating their duties as an FBI. Very insightful and full of intense moments.

Len Bias Remembered

Len Bias was drafted by the Celtics during the 1986 NBA Draft. He was expected to be one of the greats. But all promise ended in tragedy two days later.
22 year-old Len Bias was drafted by the Celtics during the 1986 NBA Draft. He was expected to be one of the greats. He was even compared to Michael Jordan. But all promise ended in tragedy two days later.

Today is the birthday of basketball player Len Bias. He’d be 50 years old today. It’s one thing for a life to be cut short early but it’s another to see how much has happened since.

Bias was born in Landover, Maryland and grew up there attending high school in Hyattsville. His nickname since childhood was ‘Frosty.’ He then attended the University of Maryland upon graduation. His freshman year didn’t start well and most coaches saw him as raw and undisciplined. The 6’8″ Bias would develop into an All-American player in the latter years. His junior year proved impressive as he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and was named the ACC’s Player Of The Year. His senior season was highlighted by a performance against top-ranked North Carolina where he scored 35 points including 7 in the last 3 minutes of regulation and 4 in overtime. At the end of that season, Bias collected his second ACC Player Of The Year award and was named to two All America teams.

Right in his senior year, basketball fans were very impressed with Len Bias. His most impressive traits were his amazing jumping ability, his physical stature and his ability to create plays and was considered one of the most impressive players in the United States. NBA scouts in 1986 already had seen him as the most complete forward of the Class of 1986. Even Boston Celtics scout Ed Badger said of him:  “He’s maybe the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time. I’m not saying he’s as good as Michael Jordan, but he’s an explosive and exciting kind of player like that.”

On June 17, 1986, the 1986 NBA Draft took place at Madison Square Gardens. Bias was the second overall pick and he was picked for the Boston Celtics. He admitted that he always wanted to play for the Celtics: “and my dream’s come true.” He and his family returned back to his home in suburban Maryland later that day. The following day, Bias and his father flew to Boston for an NBA club draft acceptance and a product endorsement signing ceremony with the Celtics coaches and management. Bias was also in talks with Reebok for a five-year endorsement package worth $1.6 million. It seemed like it was all uphill from there.

After returning home to Washington, Bias retrieved his newly leased sports car and drove back to his dorm room at the University of Maryland campus. He left campus at around 2am on June 19 and drove to an off-campus gathering, which he attended briefly before returning to his dorm in Washington Hall at 3am. It was at that time Bias and his friends used cocaine. According to friends accounts, Bias felt pains in his chest, had a seizure and collapsed around 6:30am that morning while talking to teammate Terry Long. At 6:32am while friend Brian Tribble made the 911 call, Bias was unconscious and not breathing. That was echoed in Tribble’s haunting 911 message: “This is Len Bias. You have to get him back to life. There’s no way he can die. Seriously sir. Please come quick.” All attempts at resuscitation from paramedics in the ambulance were unsuccessful. Additional attempts to revive Bias were made upon his arrival at Leland Memorial Hospital in the Emergency Room but it was all to no avail. At 8:55 on the morning of June 19, 1986, Leonard Kevin Bias was pronounced dead. He was only 22.

Len’s death was a shocking blow to those who knew him and those who followed basketball. Four days after his death, more than 11,000 people packed the Cole Field House at the University of Maryland for a memorial service. Speaking at the service was Celtics manager Red Auerbach, who said he had planned to draft Bias with the Celtics for three years. Michael Jordan sent the Bias family their first set of flowers: peonies, Larry Bird sent the second set of flowers, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy sent sympathy cards as well as other heads of state, athletes called the Bias house. The popularity of Len Bias surprised his mother. The Celtics honored Bias with their own memorial service on June 30th that year. At that service, Len’s mother Lonise was given his never-used Boston Celtics jersey with his Celtics number 30 on it.

The reason why I’m focusing on Len’s death has a lot to do about the year he was born: 1963. 1963 was also the year a lot of legendary NBA greats were born: Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Spud Webb, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, and most notably Michael Jordan. The era in which they played in from the late-80’s to the 90’s would be an era that would change the NBA forever.

Without a doubt, Michael Jordan was king. He was not only famous for his playing style and his NBA record breaking but for his immense endorsement marketability. Everything Jordan touches, everything Jordan wore, everything Jordan ate saw sales reach impressive totals. He was Madison Avenue’s dream. Even his shoe endorsed by Nike, the Air Jordan, sold large enough to make the company the top athletic wear company. Hey, I don’t call the Air Jordan “the shoe that changed the world” for nothing. The shoe was originally meant to be an athletic shoe but Michael’s popularity eventually turned it into a staple of streetwear. I remember the popularity of Air Jordans too well. I wanted to be different and wore L.A. Gears with snazzy-colored triple laces hoping to make Air Jordans wearers envious. It didn’t work because it wasn’t how cool your shoes looked; it’s whether they were Air Jordans or not.

Michael Jordan may have been king during that time but it also worked magic for the whole NBA too. In the few years just before Jordanmania, the NBA was already doing well with the star power of Larry Bird, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Julius ‘Dr. J.’ Erving and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. However it was Jordan who created the revolution with a superstardom that even surpassed the best baseball players and football players at the time. His popularity catapulted the NBA from simply being a third major sports league to even rivaling the popularity of baseball and football. Seven new NBA franchises have since started up since his popularity. Sportswear and athletic uniforms, especially basketball jerseys and anything with Chicago Bulls, were a men’s wear phenomenon. Other basketball teams also sold a lot of sportswear like the San Antonio Spurs, L.A. Lakers and the Charlotte Hornets. I remember I did the Phoenix Suns because I was tired of all this Chicago Bulls stuff and also because I liked Charles Barkley.

Also Jordan may have been the Babe Ruth of his time but his megastar status helped promote other basketball stars like David Robinson, Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Isaiah Thomas and Shaquille O’Neal to superstar status. Yeah, basketball players sure got the rock star treatment back then. We should also not forget the Dream Team. That was the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team whose twelve team members consisted of eleven NBA greats. That was when NBA professionals were allowed for the time to compete in the Olympic Games. Since Jordan’s retirement, the NBA still thrives well but still lacks the glory days of the late 80’s and 90’s. Even today’s top NBA star Lebron James isn’t able to fill Jordan’s shoes.

Okay, now that I’ve talked of all this, you may wonder what does that have to do with Len Bias? As I mentioned, Bias was born the same year as a lot of NBA greats including Jordan. Ever since I saw the 30 For 30 documentary Without Bias, directed by Kirk Fraser, it left me wondering what would have happened to Bias had he not taken that fatal dose? It’s not just how well Bias could’ve excelled in the NBA that had me thinking. Sometimes I think it could’ve been the Celtics who could have most rivaled the Lakers and the Bulls for major NBA championships during that time. The Celtics could have had the power duo of ‘Bird and Bias.’ When I think of all those sneakers that were advertised during that period of time, I wonder what type of Reebok posters Len would’ve had? Even in thinking of the Dream Team of 1992, I wonder would Len have been part of the Dream Team? Those are questions no one will ever know the answer to.

A tragedy like that is always a sad occasion leaving me and others asking ‘why’ and ‘what if?’ You wonder would any good come out of it? Good did come out of it. One thing we should remember is Bias’ overdose came while cocaine was the biggest problem in the War On Drugs at the time. The basic powdered cocaine was already an epidemic and crack was already starting to create its own problems. Tribble was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Bias’ University of Maryland teammates Terry Long and David Gregg were charged with possession of cocaine and were dropped from the team. Tribble would later be convicted of drug dealing and be sentenced to ten years in prison. The University of Maryland came under huge fire including cover-ups in Bias’ cocaine possession to Bias’ academic status. Bias’ father called for investigation of the University of Maryland and the NCAA responded. Athletics director Dick Dull resigned soon after.

In 1988 U.S. Congress passed a stricter anti-drug law known as the ‘Len Bias law.’ Even the NBA got involved with having its stars promote anti-drug messages. In fact one person said Len Bias never tested positive for drugs but had he done so, it wouldn’t have affected his NBA recruitment back then. The NBA was that lax about it back then. Len’s death changed all that. Another thing that came to light over Bias’ death was that he was credits shy of graduating college and even failed courses in his last year knowing he was about to be signed to the NBA. Back in Bias’ day an athlete could be signed on to a sports league without graduating via a letter-of-intent. The NCAA system of athletes had to be revamped and reformed with stricter minimums for college entry and regulations for graduation.Nowadays no athlete is signed to a letter-of-intent without a review by the office of admission.

The Bias family would once again experience tragedy in December 1990 when their youngest son James Bias III was shot to death in his car in a shopping mall parking lot. The Bias parents, James and Lonise, have become involved in causes involving their sons’ deaths. Lonise became an anti-drug spokes person visiting schools, telling the story of Len and giving the message “Peer pressure destroys, peer pressure kills if you don’t know who you are.” James has lobbied for stricter handgun control. Another footnote: Seven years later the Celtics would lose one of their own, Reggie Lewis, to a heart attack caused by cocaine use.

Some of you may think that it was the 30 For 30 documentary that inspired me to write this on this day. True, just like it inspired me to write the 9.79 articles of the big run and the aftermath. It’s one thing to be reminded of a moment in sports like this while watching a 30 For 30 documentary. It’s another to hear the moment and even learn of who Len Bias was from the people that knew him best. Len Bias didn’t come across as your typical cocaine abuser. Actually in watching Without Bias, you’d think that Len was a sweet kid. He loved his parents terribly. He was close to his family. He even had a friendship with his church pastor Rev. Gregory Edmond. Even hearing of Len’s excited reaction on the day he was out promoting sneakers made me think he must have been a sweet kid. That doesn’t sound like your typical cocaine abuser. Just as shocking was how it was top-of-the-line cocaine he tried. It’s like one said, how social cocaine users could get cocaine that pure and that potent is unheard of. Normally it’s bought by people higher up the social ladder. Hearing it all just makes me want to shake my head.

27 years have passed since that tragic day. The NBA has seen its fair share of talents own the spotlight for many years. For the Bias family, they’re left with memories of a son and the heartbreak of missing him. For the University of Maryland, they’re left with regret over letting such an incident go overlooked until it was too late. For the Boston Celtics at that time and even the NBA, they’re left with the wonder of what Bias would have been like. We’ll never know. Watching Without Bias really made me think. Seeing his mother receive the Celtics jersey at the memorial service was a gripping moment. Even hearing the quotes from people who remember him really make me think: “He had the purest jump shot I’ve ever seen… and it was a work of art.” “Both Jordan and Bias played with a rage. A controlled rage.” “Len Bias as a player as I remember him was a consummate  inside/outside force. A truly exciting player.”  Makes you wonder.

Happy 50th Birthday, Len ‘Frosty’ Bias. You’re gone but still remembered by many. It’s unfortunate you’re best known for your untimely death but many remember you as a great player. That’s as it should be.

Stanley Cup Finals Game Seven: All Or Nothing

This is it. On Wednesday June 15th at Rogers Arena, the Stanley Cup will be decided in a single game. The two finalists–the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins–both have won three games apiece. Both have shown their strengths and both have shown their weaknesses. Both have some key players out, either by penalty or injury. Both have also been the subject of negative opinion and positive opinion. Whatever the situation, tomorrow decides it all. But who will win? Instead of predicting the winner for tomorrow, I decided to sum the two all up and break them all down:

VANCOUVER-Three wins on home ice. All of their wins have been very close: 1-0, 3-2 overtime and 1-0. One thing about the wins is that they may not have been big or spectacular but the Canucks knew how to play smart at home in order to make the wins happen. Yes, the wins were mostly conservative but their conservative play would pay off at home. Their losses to Boston have been a lot bigger: 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. Part of the reason for their losses in Boston have to be with the lack of confidence many would display. It would be noticeable as they would miss many important plays. Also during the Boston games, there was a noticeable weakness in Roberto Luongo as he let in a total of fifteen goals. Whenever he was replaced by Cory Schneider, the Canucks would soon get their confidence back and start playing better hockey. Already two top players: Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond are out.

BOSTON-Also three wins on home ice. All three of their wins against the Canucks have been decisive: 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. The Bruins definitely know how to go all out on them while at home but during the away games, they’re lacking. All three of their losses have been tight games. They’re not as good at scoring in Vancouver and despite having a lot of puck control, they don’t materialize it at Rogers Arena as well as they could. One thing about their big wins is that they’re hoping to use it to intimidate the Canucks en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The big wins didn’t intimidate the Canucks enough as they would win 1-0 on Game 5. Tim Thomas has been an excellent goalie conceding only eight goals in the final. However this would prove to be a weakness as there would be two Canuck wins of 1-0. Plus Boston’s big wins in Game 3 and 4 didn’t succeed in intimidating the Canucks as they would win Game 5 1-0, putting the embarrassments of Game 3 and 4 behind them.

Now there’s the overall play. The media are already calling this the ugliest Stanley Cup finals in recent years. It all started in Game 1 with the Burrows Bite. Then in Game 3 came the check from Canuck Aaron Rome to Bruin Nathan Horton. That left Horton hospitalized and out of Finals play. For Rome’s part, he was slapped with a four-game suspension also leaving him out of Finals play. Then came the ‘pumping his tires’ reference from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to Roberto Luongo that has been well-published. Already the Canucks were labels the most hated team of the Finals by many. Then things took a worse for Boston. Game 6 saw a check to Canuck Mason Raymond which left him hospitalized with a fractured vertebrae. Also many on the web have suspected the Boston ice to be too soft and the Boston referees too ignorant to the Bruins own penalty-worthy misdoings. Already the Finals are memorable for a lot of wrong reasons.

With Game 7 just more than a day away, people are already giving out their predictions. There has even been some numerology and trivia bits floating about to hint who will win. Now I’m not one who completely believes in numerology or trivia odds and ends but I have been hearing some interesting facts that may lead to tomorrow’s fates. I heard that a Canadian host city of an Olympic Games would win the Stanley Cup the following year: Montreal hosted in 1976 and won in 1977; Calgary hosted in 1988 and won in 1989: Vancouver hosted last year and it’s just so close. Also in favor of Vancouver, there’s the fact that of the fifteen previous Game 7’s of the finals, all but two have been one in the Game 7 host city. However there’s also one going against Vancouver which I learned of during Game 5’s telecast. Of the previous fifteen Cup Finals that lead to a Game 7, all but four winners of Game 5 would not win the Cup.

Whatever the odds and ends, whatever play happened in the previous six Finals games, only tomorrow will decide the 2011 Stanley Cup Winner.. Will Vancouver’s conservative style of playing and winning at home pay off? Or will it take its toll in Game 7? Will Boston’s big wins succeed in intimidating the Canucks for Game 7? Or will it be like in Game 5 in which the Canucks were able to bounce back from humiliation and show the Bruins they weren’t so intimidated? It will all be decided when the puck drops in Rogers Arena tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15 at 5pm Pacific time. May the best team win!

Me with the Stanley Cup. Which team will hoist it tomorrow?

My Stanley Cup Experience

So some of you may have already got my first taste of Canucks talk. Well guess what’s happened since? I was at the very first Stanley Cup Finals Game at Rogers Arena! Don’t ask me how much my tickets were. The most I’ll say was they were over $500. I will say that I was glad to be in the arena for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Looking back, I can say I was there when it all started.

Tickets for the Finals games didn’t go on sale until 10am on Tuesday, May 31st,, only the morning before Game 1. They were originally intended to go on sale Monday at noon but they were delayed 22 hours for inexplicable reasons. I took an early lunch break at that time to buy a fair-priced ticket for Game 1 from Ticketmaster. By the time I got on, they were either impossible to buy or completely sold out. I know that before ticket-buying I promised myself that $500 was the most I’d attempt to spend on a Stanley Cup ticket, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I called ShowTimeTickets to place an order because I had trouble logging in to their website. Luckily, I was able to buy one ticket for Game 1, for up on the balcony. Unluckily, I broke my promise to myself. I mean it is history in the making, right?

Okay, Game Day. On Wednesday June 1st, I was finally done my job at 4:30. I was told by ShowTime to wait until 3 at the latest to get the best seats in the house for my order.  Once my work was done, I took my Canon Rebel camera and bag out of my backpack to make my trek to the ShowTime office. Luckily I get my ticket just a minute as soon as I arrive. Amen! My order was for a balcony seat and I ended up with Section 329, Row 13, Seat 107. Original ticket price, $150. Luv-lee! I immediately head to the nearest path to get to Rogers Arena. I get to one entrance and security demands that they check my camera bag and  backpack and removed all my empty liquid bottles. Real fun.  Then my ticket was taken and scanned. Easiest part of getting in.

First thing’s first, I find my seat. Okay, first thing’s not first. I go to get a medium soda and huge pretzel. Yes, my favorite game snack is the huge pretzel! I get my goodies and then head to my seat. I find there’s no finals towel there. Which means either arena personnel forgot to put one on or the guys in the seats above me stole it as an extra thing to hock on Ebay.

I set my bags underneath my chair and have my camera around my neck. Nice SLR camera I bought for the Olympics for the sake of taking some good action shots. Now ready for another set of action shots. Before the game began, there was a rap from rapper Kyprios—whom I personally don’t care for—who rapped “How The West Was One”. Game begins with the Bruins and the Canucks on the ice. The national anthems are sung. Meanwhile Luongo is warming up the whole time. Anyways the game starts off on an exciting note. During the first two minutes, the Canucks produced four shots on goal. Boston would respond strongly. First penalty of the game would go to Daniel Sedin and that landed him 4 minutes in the box. Despite more shots on goal, Boston failed to score. The second half of the first period saw more Canucks dominance with a powerplay and six shots on goal compared to Boston’s four. After the twenty minutes were up, the period was scoreless. One thing I have to say is that being so far up in my seat made it hard to notice the Burrows Bite at the very end. It looked like a typical hockey squabble from where I was sitting and I wouldn’t know until tomorrow’s news what exactly happened.

During intermission, I left my seat and learned some yahoo spilled beer on my backpack. As annoyed as I was, I should have expected it. Anyways I made a full circle around the lobby to check out the shops, concessions, exhibits and fandemonioum. During the break, I bought another pretzel, this time salted. I took photos of the exhibits and some of the more colorful fans: both Canucks and even a Bruin or two. I hope those Boston fans inside know that Vancouver has a store that sells all sorts of ‘different’ meats, including bear meat! I bought some souvenirs in time for Father’s Day. Oh yeah, Supertramp and Michael J. Fox were spectators that night and Don Cherry was there too.

Before I get into my talk about second period, I have to say that being up there in my seat was not an easy thing. I wanted to watch the game and take pictures at the same time. It was not an easy thing to do being from my seat and sometimes using my camera as binoculars for the game. Sometimes I’d forget to take pictures of some of the highlights. I must admit that watching is easier without the camera.

I arrive back into my seat minutes after second period began. By the time I arrived, Boston had four more shots on goal and the Canucks had a power play. I returned around the time an injured Dan Hamhuis delivered one of the more entertaining tackles by flipping Bruin Milan Lucic. After that, there was some boring play for a while and then came the penalties- three in a minute. Thanks to a Bruin getting a penalty, I get my first look at the green men. Vancouver loves them but I bet every other team hates them! Vancouver soon came on strong and then Boston had more goal attempts. Nevertheless, the period ended with the game still scoreless. I didn’t want to deal with a soaked bag again so I remained in my seat during intermission.

Third period came with the Canucks coming on stronger but Boston continuing to challenge. There was music mixing from DJs Marlon J English and Jay Swing and the Canucks band played in our area. The last half of the third period saw the Canucks come out of their shell and start making more of a serious attempt to score. However in the final minute, most of us were groaning about a possible overtime after a scoreless game. Then the miracle happened. With 18.5 seconds to go, Raffi Torres delivered the goal, much to the euphoria of the full venue. It was there and then we knew the Canucks did it! Even though Boston called a time-out, we knew there was no hope for them. The game was ours and the Canucks began their quest for the Cup with a Win and Torres was the savior of the night. The final mark of the win was Fin waving the Canucks flag on top of his hockey stick.

After the win, it was a party as people were leaving the Rogers Arena and into the streets of Vancouver. As I exited arena with my backpack soaked in beer, the streets were loaded with fans. I met one guy who came from Winnipeg to see this. For three blocks until I hit the Central Library, it was like a complete parade of fans. Even after I left the library ½ hour later, it was still active with fans. Already the quest for the Cup began with a good start.

Hard to believe it was five days ago. Hard to believe Game 3, Boston’s first Finals game as host happened tonight. We had a second game on Saturday where the Canucks started good but Boston pulled a second period surprise. I was with friends in a church hall at the time. I kept on telling them ‘It’s not over.’ In the third period was the game-tyer. However with an event taking place upstairs, the church was under a strict regulation to end telecast of the game at regulation, overtime or no overtime. When we made it to the chapel, we were reassured that the Canucks won: 11 seconds into overtime by Burrows.

All I can say this last while is fan euphoria like no other. There have even been fan videos from Youtube. My favorite is of a Victoria comedian imitating a Bruins fan with Boston accent, attitude, foul mouth and all. I think he could rival the green men.

Just now, Vancouverites are recovering from an 8-1 loss to Boston. I was working when it all happened but I heard a lot and saw enough from replays on Youtube. Canuck Aaron Rome has gotten the biggest heck for that check to Nathan Horton that left Horton carried off on a stretcher. Boston sure came back with a vengeance, although many Canuck fans are complaining about bad reffing. Bad reffing or not, the Bruins won the game. Personally I had a bad feeling that Boston would win today but not by that much. I knew that both Canucks wins came from very tight games. Game One was won by a goal in the last minute. Game 2 was won by an overtime goal after just eleven seconds. Before Game 3, Boston was able to show the Canucks that they can be a formidable rival, even though they lost both games. Boston knows the Canucks are a tough team but they also have a vulnerable side and they really exploited that tonight. Many Canuck fans are claiming they appeared tired after the second and that’s where it all went Boston’s way. Now the Canucks know they will have to play harder smarter games if they don’t want to give anything else up. I believe the next Boston game will be another nail biter for both teams. Nevertheless Vancouver can take comfort that they still lead the finals two games to one. It ain’t over yet.

I don’t think I’ll ever see another Stanley Cup Finals game ever again. Not that I doubt the Canucks in the future but I believe the next Stanley Cup Finals tickets will be way more expensive the next time. It’s even possible that in the near future, $1000 won’t even be enough. All I can say is I was glad to be there when it all started. Now I have something to tell my grandkids!

Me With The Stanley Cup During The 2010 Paralympics
Me With The Stanley Cup During The 2010 Paralympics

Confessions Of A Canucklehead

Okay. Now’s when I take a break from my journalistic ambitions and I write about something on my mind.
 
Normally during most of the year, I don’t pay attention to hockey that often until playoff time. Then, like most Vancouverites, it’s my focus on how far they make it through the playoffs to the Cup. This year was a landmark year for the Vancouver Canucks. For years, Vancouverites have been hoping they’d win the Stanley Cup and this looks like the first year they might do it. They’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals before–in 1982 and 1994–but they’d lose both times. The latter was especially famous for the rioting that happened for days. Since then, Vancouver has had a reputation of being the unofficial riot capital of North America.
 
Since the 1994 Stanley Cup, Vancouverites have been hoping their Canucks would have another shot at the Cup. The time since the 1994 Stanley Cup to the 2004 NHL Lockout were not the best of times for the Canucks. Despite a new arena with the GM Place, now called Rogers Arena, it had some difficulties including four years in a row failing to make the playoffs. Whenever it did qualify, they would only get as far as a Conference Quarterfinals of Semifinals. After the 2004 Lockout, the Canucks have had a change for the better. Upon returning to NHL play, they didn’t qualify for the 2006 or 2008 playoffs. 2007, 2009 and 2010 would see them win the Northwest Division but only make it as far as the Conference Semifinals. one bright note was that Roberto Luongo was named Goalie Of The Year by the NHL for two years straight.
 
The 2010-2011 was a different year for the Canucks. After the usual trades and free agent deals, the Canucks were ready to start their new year, which was also their 40th Annivarsary, with a bang. After losing their first game against the Los Angeles Kings 2-1, the rest of the season was complete magic.With 54 wins and 19 losses, including scoring 262 total goals and conceding only 185, the Canucks were the top team of the NHL in regular season. Upon having the top standings in regular season, they were awarded the President’s Trophy.
 
When the playoffs began, their first round pairing was against none other than the defending Stanley Cup champions the Chicago Black Hawks. The first three games were wins against the Hawks and appeared to have a comfortable lead over them. Things sure changed once the fourth game began. The Hawks showed that even though they entered the playoffs the last of the Western Conference teams to qualify, they were not going to give up their Stanley Cup chances easily, and boy did they pour it on once the fourth game started. The Hawks came back with 7-2, 5-0 and 4-3 overtime wins. That left the seventh and last game a nailbiter. Played at Rogers Arena on Tuesday April 26, the Canucks appeared poised to win with 1-0 until Hawk Jonathan Toews scored the game-tier with 2 minutes to go. This left fans nervous as the game went into overtime. It took a goal from Alexandre Burrows at 5:22 to win it for the Canucks and move them to the next round. It’s a good thing too because the previous two Presidents Trophy winners lost in the Conference quarterfinals. If the Canucks did the same, three-in-a-row would make the Presidents Trophy a curse!

After the Conference quarterfinals, things were easier for the Canucks although they still had to put in a good fight. The conference semis against the Nashville Predators was also a tight competition but the Canucks prevailed four games to two. The Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks were possibly the easiest of the bunch. The Canucks won four games to one and the Canucks wins were in spectacular fashion. They’re the first Canadian NHL team in four years to qualify for the Stanley Cup finals. For the record, the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993. Will the Canucks break Canada’s 18-year drought?
 
Now the Finals. The Western Conference winning Canucks will be up against the Eastern Conference winning Boston Bruins. How well do they stack up?:
 
CANUCKS-What haven’t I talked about already. A team loaded with talent, but all coming down to how they play as a team unit, and under the pressure of the Stanley Cup. They showed they could lead well but almost give it up, as they did against Chicago. They also showed they can come on strong as they did against the Sharks. It all depends how they play against the Bruins. One thing about the Presidents Trophy winner is that those winners that qualify for the Stanley Cup final have the odds with them. Of the nine previous Presidents Trophy winners that made it to the Cup Finals, seven won. Will the Canucks be the eighth to do so or the third to lose?
 
BRUINS-They finished third in the Eastern Conference and won the Northeast Division. Like the Canucks, they had a tough fight in their Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens and qualified for the semis on a seventh game overtime goal. Their Semis against the Philadelphia Flyers were magic as they won four straight games en route to their Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Their Conference Finals against the Lightning  was a tougher affair as Tampa Bay proved to be a tough opponent. In the end, the Bruins won their seventh and final game with a single goal by Nathan Horton with 7 1/2 minutes to go in the third period. That’s all it takes! One important fact: In their one regular season game against the Canucks, they won 3-1. Even the Canucks will admit that they are a good rival. The Bruins had one of the highest goals-per-game averages in regular season this year. The defence of the Bruins is so good, even Luongo will admit it’s their strongest asset. However in playoffs, their scoring magic has taken a backseat. They’ll have to pour it on against the Canucks featuring Luongo if they want to win their sixth Stanley Cup.

Anyways on with the show. Hopefully the Canucks will win their first ever Stanley Cup. What’s especially noteworthy is that I promised my Admin team at work that if we win the Cup, I will buy them all a cake! I’ve already bought cupcakes for them when we won the Conference quarterfinals. Make it a yummy win guys!