THE VANCOUVER SUN
200 Canuck sellouts and counting: Team's home-sellout streak shows staying power after more than five years
Brad Ziemer said tonight’s 200th consecutive sell-out at GM Place is not underappreciated by many Vancouver Canucks.
“When the Vancouver Canucks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 back on Nov. 14, 2002, it was their third straight victory of what would quickly become a franchise-record 10-game winning streak,” said Ziemer.
“It was also the beginning of a much longer streak that reaches something of a milestone tonight when the Canucks meet the Dallas Stars at General Motors Place.”
“That 2002 game marked the start of a home-ice sellout streak that reaches 200 tonight when, once again, public address man John Ashbridge will announce another capacity crowd of 18,630.”
“While late arrivals to the Canuck bandwagon might think the team has always played to sell-out crowds, Trevor Linden and a couple of other players know otherwise,” said Ziemer.
“In Linden's rookie season of 1988-89, the Canucks averaged 13,000 and change to their games at the Pacific Coliseum.”
“And even when the team moved to General Motors Place in 1995, there were frequently three, four or five thousand empty seats. As recently as the 1999-2000 season, the team was averaging fewer than 15,000 fans a game.”
“Linden, who was traded away in 1998 to the New York Islanders, sensed something had changed when he returned to the team early in the 2001-02 season,” said Ziemer.
"I really noticed it when I came back," Linden said. "We weren't selling out every night, but I definitely noticed the difference in interest and the following we had as a team between when I left and when I came back."
“Linden insists Canuck management, starting with former general manager Brian Burke, deserves considerable credit for the team's boffo box-office success,” said Ziemer.
"I think it says a lot about the fans and their passion for the game and this team," he said. "But I also think it says a lot about the way the team has been run with the management here, whether it be Brian and certainly [current GM] Dave [Nonis], bringing in a quality guys like Roberto [Luongo] and Willie Mitchell. That says a lot as well."
“The Minnesota Wild own the NHL's longest current sellout streak. The Wild have sold out every game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul since entering the league in 2000,” said Ziemer.
“That streak currently sits at 301 games -- 270 regular-season games, 21 pre-season contests and 10 playoff games. The Canuck streak counts only regular-season and playoff games.”
“The Colorado Avalanche hold the NHL's modern-day sellout record. The Avs sold out 487 straight games between Nov. 9, 1995 and Oct. 14, 2006.”
“The Canucks plan a very brief pre-game ceremony tonight to mark the occasion of 200 straight full houses.”
“Like Linden, defenceman Mattias Ohlund also remembers a time when all the seats weren't full on game nights. Ohlund's rookie season was 1997-98,” said Ziemer.
"My first year was when [Mark] Messier first came to Vancouver and the crowds weren't bad that year," Ohlund said after Monday's late-afternoon practice.
"It was my second year when we really struggled and we had crowds of 10- or 12,000 a few times."
“Ohlund and Linden both stressed it means a great deal to the players to know that they are going to play in front of a full house every night at home,” said Ziemer.
"To be honest, when you play 82 games, not every night do you have that energy that you need," Ohlund said. "You do get a big boost when instead of playing in front of 7,000 people you are playing in front of nearly 19,000 very passionate fans. That makes a big difference."
“Linden said the team's fan support means players have to be accountable,” said Ziemer.
"As a player I know it means a lot to the team, because you are never let off the hook for anything and that's a good thing," Linden said. "I think any player would want that. You want to be held accountable, you want to be in a position where losing sucks and losing is not accepted. I think that is the case here. The pressure that is put on us to perform well and certainly to perform well at home is great and that's good."
Biggest game' of Sanford's career: With so few starts, he has to treat each one like a Stanley Cup final
Gordon McIntyre said Curtis Sanford will get his second home start of the year, tonight against the Dallas Stars.
"It's a big start," Sanford said. "I think we kind of coasted a little bit into the all-star break. It's hard to pinpoint anything, the jump just wasn't there at the start of games. "That's something we're going to have to get back, starting [tonight]."
“Sanford is well aware of the pressure of playing in front of the ticket-buying public and was so-so behind a subpar Canucks squad in his last start, a loss to Phoenix on Jan. 11 a night following a Luongo start at San Jose (also an uninspired loss),” said McIntyre.
“This will be the ninth start of the season for Sanford (4-3-1), who has a respectable .905 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.80, which is pretty well his career average in the NHL.”
"I have to approach every game like it's the biggest game of my career," he said. "I'm definitely going to do that [tonight] and hopefully give the team a boost back there."
“For his teammates, they're mostly trying to take a business-as-usual approach into the Luongo-less game, as long as that usual business includes playing tight defensively in front of the understudy,” said McIntyre.
"Obviously Louie is our key guy, but Curtis has played well for us every time he plays, and I'm sure it's going to be no different [tonight]," defenceman Mattias Ohlund said.
“Drew MacIntyre of the Manitoba Moose was due to fly into town today to back up Sanford after playing a period in Monday night's American Hockey League all-star game at Binghamton, N.Y. ,” said McIntyre.
Shutdown guy shuts down: Blueliner's back woes will keep him out indefinitely
Jim Jamieson said Willie Mitchell is out indefinitely with back problems.
“If the play of Vancouver Canucks blueliner Willie Mitchell slipped a little since the end of December, it's likely due to the lingering back problems that have plagued him over that span,” said Jamieson.
“Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault revealed on Monday after the team's first workout following the all-star break that his top shutdown defenceman played through pain for nine games prior to being forced to come out of the lineup three games ago.”
“Although Mitchell skated on his own earlier Monday, Vigneault said the D-man won't play tonight against the visiting Dallas Stars and wouldn't accompany the team on the upcoming four-game road trip that begins Thursday in Tampa Bay,” said Jamieson.
"He's got back issues, but with his high pain threshold I don't expect it to be much longer," said Vigneault. "He played through those back issues for nine games. He played through probably tougher things last year in playoffs. We're just letting this settle down."
“Vigneault said he didn't know the details of Mitchell's back injury, but said he wouldn't start the trip because the best treatment situation for him is in Vancouver,” said Jamieson.
"He might not start with us, but because of who he is and his ability to play through pain and that he knows we need him I don't expect this to be much longer," the coach added.
“Mitchell has been perhaps the Canucks' most consistent defenceman this season and was at his best during Vancouver's 15-4-4 run through November and late December. Although there are other factors at play, his sore back coincided with the Canucks' swoon over the last month,” said Jamieson.
“With a number of different defence partners, Mitchell goes head to head against the other team's top line. In 47 games this season he's a plus-seven.”
“The coach acknowledged that playing without Mitchell for a few more game will continue to be a challenge. The club has also missed the services of top-four D-men Kevin Bieksa
, Sami Salo
and Mattias Ohlund for significant periods this season. And with Lukas Krajicek out with a shoulder sprain, minor-leaguer Nathan McIver will draw into lineup,” said Jamieson.
Pyatt goes to visor after one too many close calls, AHL reinforcements and much more
The Province said that Taylor Pyatt will play without the full-shield cage tonight.
“Taylor Pyatt will graduate to a shield tonight, replacing the wire cage he's been wearing since getting an Eric Brewer clearing shot in the mouth at St. Louis on Jan. 13,” said the Province.
“Depending on how comfortable he is with it, it may become a permanent fixture on the Thunder Bay, Ont., native's helmet for the first time since he graduated from Sudbury of the OHL.”
"I'll try wearing it the next few games and see how it goes," said Pyatt, who needed 25 stitches and significant surgery to get his teeth back in place after the Brewer shot.
"I've had four or five incidents with my face this year, so I think maybe it's time to protect it a little better."
“All told, Pyatt's season has included a stick to his left eye at Carolina, a stick between the eyes that required four stitches, then another stick in the exact same place and five stitches after taking a stick to the middle of his upper lip where, you guessed it, the Brewer puck hit dead centre,” said the Province.
THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Moose an all-star wall: No. 1 Manitoba netminder sharp in game, shootout at AHL showcase
Tim Campbell said Drew MacIntyre’s first All-Star experience was an overall positive experience for the AHL netminder.
“The Manitoba Moose's No. 1 goalie was the sharpest netminder of all in Monday night's annual showcase game before a sellout of 4,710 in Binghamton, N.Y., stopping 15 of 16 shots in the third period and then four of five in the shootout as he sparked Team Canada to a come-from-behind 9-8 victory over Team Planet/USA,” said Campbell.
“MacIntyre entered the game with his team down 7-5 through 40 minutes and gave up just one goal, that to Portland's Brian Salcido.”
“In the shootout, he allowed an initial goal by Springfield's Rob Schremp but then stopped three in a row, and finished it off with a clever pokecheck of Syracuse's Joakim Lindstrom. That save spared Team Canada from having to take another shot, as it was already ahead 2-1 in the penalty-shot contest,” said Campbell.
"I had a lot of fun," the all-star game's winning goalie said via phone from Binghamton on Monday. "To be out there and go through one of these events, that's all pretty cool."
“MacIntyre had a 4 a.m. wakeup call today, the start of his long journey to Vancouver, where he is recalled to the NHL's Canucks for tonight's game against the Dallas Stars. He'll likely serve as backup for the Canucks' Curtis Sanford,” said Campbell.