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  • Thursday, October 14, 1999

    Happy days back again

    By JIM TAYLOR -- Calgary Sun
      VANCOUVER -- If you thought military intelligence was an oxymoron, try this one: First-place Vancouver Canucks.
     They're still there, despite losing their first in four starts, 4-3 in overtime to the Flames and the Other Bure. And despite the fact the streak is over, the local air is still awash with an unfamiliar optimism.
     Truly, it is a staggering concept. In the city where a sign in the crowd once read "It's Minor Hockey Week. Take a Canuck to Lunch", people are strolling cockily up the street trying to look blase about a team that is now four games into the new season and nobody's screaming for anyone's head.
     In pubs and cocktail lounges, office buildings and truck stops, Canuckleheads who've spent years despairing that things would ever get better are happily shouting "Hey. how do you spell 'juggernaut.' "
     OK, so nobody answers. But it's the principle of the thing. This town has waited so long, had its heart crushed so often since the Cup run of '94, endured coaching and management kookiness that would make St. Francis of Assisi run out and mug a robin.
     And just when they get a team that shows some early spunk, they read stories and hear radio shows suggesting the team might get the billionaire bounce from John McCaw in Seattle to Paul Allen in Portland.
     Never mind. The Canucks are 3-1 and on top of the entire flipping division. Anybody doesn't like it, eat it.
     They're not being silly about it. Nearly three decades of semi-futility tend to bleed away the naivete. They know that over an 82-game season, rebuilding juggernauts tend to turn to jugger-nots. Nobody has to tell them the odds against them getting to the Cup final without buying tickets.
     But a funny thing is happening. After all those years of spelling oxymoron with a hyphen -- oxy as in "Oxygen! I can't take it any more!", moron as in "pick a player", people who follow this team are dredging up an old, almost forgotten pronoun.
     "We".
     As in "We've got three good lines this year."
     As in "We're gonna get a big year out of Messier, Mogilny's come out of hibernation, and when Ohlund comes back we're gonna have one of the best set of defencemen in the N-bloody-HL."
     As in "Anaheim's got North Kariya, but we got South."
     As in "Whadya mean, we're not on television?"
     It is not yet blind adoration. Only 12,692 people showed up last night to watch the 'Nucks face the winless Calgary Flames.
     Nobody has to tell them that their first dozen games do not constitute a schedule calculated to strike fear in the hearts of a Cup contender, or that it's a tad early to be breaking out the white towels.
     If they needed a reminder of the narrowness of the space between L and W, they got it last night.
     The Flames are off to a rocky start, but they've got the old man between the pipes, and there are going to be nights when Der Fuhrer says "Oh, no you don't," as he did so often to them when he was second only to Gretzky in voodoo doll sales.
     Last night was one of them. Because it was, and because the thus-far-misnamed Young Guns hustled their stocks off, they went the extra five minutes and for the second time in two years, Vancouver got screwed by a Bure.
     Downtown will be a little quieter this morning. The coffee won't taste as good, the boss will be a bigger pain in the butt, and the talk will centre around lost chances and that freaking Fuhr.
     But no one will stop saying "We". As in "We got a point." Midnight may come, but the party ain't over yet.

    VANCOUVER CANUCKS



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