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Former fan favourites could have Canucks fans cheering for rivals

Are Canucks fans still willing to cheer on the likes of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev if they're playing for Pacific Division Rivals?
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Alex Edler and Jacob Markstrom may not be on the Vancouver Canucks anymore, but will that keep Canucks fans from cheering them on in the playoffs?

There’s a saying in sports that athletes play for the logo on the front of their jersey and not the name on the back. Fans, however, may start by cheering for the logo on the front of the jersey but that naturally leads to cheering for the name on the back. 

Fans develop strong connections to their favourite players, particularly when those players are with their favourite team for a long time. When those players move on, as long as they didn’t burn any bridges on their way out of town, it’s natural to wish them success wherever they end up.

In the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, that’s slightly problematic for Vancouver Canucks fans. Some beloved former Canucks are competing in the playoffs right now, only they’re playing for a couple of not-so-beloved teams.

Two Pacific Division rivals boast some fan-favourite former Canucks. 

The Los Angeles Kings have Alex Edler, the Canucks’ franchise record holder for most goals, assists, points, and games played by a defenceman, as well as local hero Troy “Troy from Richmond” Stecher.

The softspoken Edler and gregarious Stecher still have plenty of supporters in the Canucks fanbase, with both likely to bring the Stanley Cup back to Vancouver if they happened to win it. Is that enough, however, to make Canucks fans cheer for a rival like the Kings?

Perhaps. The rivalry with the Kings has only rarely grown heated, with the Canucks only playing the Kings twice in the playoffs in the last 29 years, with the last meeting a decade ago in 2012. Canucks fans may not be fans of Drew Doughty or Dustin Brown, but it would still be nice to see Edler and Stecher hoisting the Cup, even in the wrong jersey.

Then there’s the Calgary Flames.

The Flames have been a long-time rival for the Canucks, with their rivalry hitting its peak in the early 90’s when the two teams would routinely battle for top spot in the Smythe Division. The rivalry was rekindled in the early 2000’s with a hotly contested first round meeting in the 2004 playoffs.

The rivalry was fueled by three first-round playoff series that went to seven games, with each series decided in overtime. To top it off, the winner of each of those three series went on to play in the Stanley Cup Final, giving the rivalry some serious stakes.

In recent years, however, the rivalry has gone from a roiling boil to a slow simmer, if it hasn’t cooled off entirely. The Canucks have faced the Flames in the playoffs just once in the last 18 years. In the Canucks’ best years surrounding their two Presidents’ Trophy wins, the Flames were not even a playoff team. After a 2015 meeting in the playoffs, the Canucks miss the playoffs in the next six of seven seasons.

It’s hard to hang on to a rivalry when only one of the two teams is in the playoffs. 

Perhaps that makes it easier to cheer for the former Canucks on the Flames, particularly Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom, but also Tyler Toffoli and Erik Gudbranson. Tanev and Markstrom are still well-loved in Vancouver and both won fan votes — as best defenceman and MVP — when they were still with the Canucks.

Would the desire to see Tanev and Markstrom win the Cup overcome the distaste for seeing them in Flames red and yellow?

Maybe that’s a bridge too far. Which comes first — the love for a former Canuck or the hatred for a Canucks rival? Are you willing to cheer for the Kings or Flames if that means seeing a long-time Canuck lift the Stanley Cup?

There's also one more. The New York Rangers haven't been a rival of the Canucks for a while but 1994 still hurts for many long-time Canucks fans. But now they have Tyler Motte, even if he hasn't played any games for them in the playoffs while recovering from injury. Motte played parts of five seasons with the Canucks, even earning the fan vote as the team's unsung hero in 2021.

The Rangers, however, are in serious trouble, down 3-1 in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In Game 4, the Rangers got torn apart 7-2. At this point, Motte and the Rangers might not be worth the investment for Canucks fans. 

Right now, both the Kings and Flames are deadlocked 2-2 in their respective series against the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars. Depending on how the next few games go, whether Canucks fans will cheer for them could be a moot point.