Royalty is coming to Powell River. The presence of an old hockey player might not match the level of pomp and circumstance that follows British royals on their travels, but former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Richard Brodeur can hold his own with any sports icon, celebrity, or royal family member, in this part of the world at least.
For hockey fans in BC, “King Richard” is a living legend. He was one member, albeit the most important, of a rag-tag squad of players who transformed themselves from a mediocre regular season team over the 1981/1982 NHL regular season to a Stanley Cup finalist over the period of a few inspiring weeks.
Goaltenders are sometimes revered, and oftentimes vilified. Despite losing in a four-game sweep to the New York Islanders in the final, series wins over Calgary, Los Angeles and Chicago were enough to put members of that team on a pedestal, with Brodeur sitting at the top.
“Captain” Kirk McLean backstopped the Canucks to the seventh and deciding game of the 1994 Stanley Cup final and is remembered as a hero by most who witnessed that improbable run by a team that finished seventh in the Western Conference. Again, the goaltender receives most of the accolades, but members of that team also benefited from not being expected to go anywhere, and then going somewhere.
Contrast that with the Canucks of 2011, who posted the league’s best record during the regular season, scored the most goals and gave up the fewest. Even though that team also won its way to the final, those players, especially goaltender Roberto Luongo, are not celebrated for almost winning, but largely vilified for not bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Everyone loves an underdog, which the 1982 team was in every series. Hard workers, a brilliant coach, and a “King” in goal came close to an improbable championship.
People also grow fond of overachievers, which is how most fans view the 1994 Canucks. In fact, the 1994 team underachieved all year and managed to right the ship at the perfect time. A team with a couple of superstars and strong supporting cast came even closer to an improbable championship.
Hockey fans are not as kind to the 2011 team, which was loaded with star power, expected to win, and ultimately experienced the same fate as their predecessors: a loss.
It seems Luongo and his teammates will always be criticized for their failure, but when Brodeur makes an appearance at the Powell River Kings “Fit for a King” banquet on June 1, he will likely receive a hero’s welcome.
Long live the King.
Shane Carlson is a Powell River resident and editor at Powell River Peak.