Thursday, October 6, 2011

History not on the Canucks' side

The Vancouver Canucks open their 41st season on Oct. 6 at home in Rogers Arena, where their 40th season came to an abrupt and disappointing halt on June 15 with a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. I don’t have to remind Vancouverites about the ugliness of that night.

The Canucks still don’t have a Stanley Cup despite three attempts. They do have President’s Trophy and Western Conference championship banners from 2010-2011. Nice to have, but a tough consolation prize. Canadians grow up dreaming of the Stanley Cup, not the other silverware.

Another President's Trophy banner may be the best that Canucks’ fans can hope for at the end of the 2011-2012 campaign. The team's jersey can hang beside that of the Vancouver Millionaires, but the 1915 Millionaires will remain the only Vancouver-based Stanley Cup champion for the time being.

Being the Cup loser one year and winner the next has been done before, but it is exceedingly difficult and, dare I say, won't happen for the Canucks. The Boston Bruins have a better chance of returning to the final than the Canucks do of even getting there next June.

Only seven times since 1943 has a loser climbed the mountain again the next season and claimed the Cup. Five of those involved Original Six teams.

More importantly and more relevant to the 1970-established Canucks is this: Only two of those seven teams triumphed in the post-1968 expansion era. The Canucks cannot be compared with the 1984 Edmonton Oilers, one of the greatest rosters in the sport's history. The 2009 Penguins were led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Here is a rundown of the runners-up who became winners with the Cup the next year.

The 1942 Detroit Red Wings lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, then won 1943’s final over the Boston Bruins in a four-game sweep. The Red Wings were losers in 1949 to Toronto in four games, then winners over the New York Rangers in 1950 in seven.

The Montreal Canadiens were swept in 1952, but beat the Bruins in five games in 1953. In 1955, the Habs were seven-game losers to Detroit under coach Dick Irvin, but got revenge in five games in 1956 to begin a five-year Cup-winning streak under coach Toe Blake. They beat the Bruins twice and Leafs twice.

The Leafs beat the Habs in six games in 1967. The Habs responded in 1968, the first year of the expansion era, by sweeping the St. Louis Blues. The Habs did the same thing in 1969. The Blues lost again in 1970 to the Bruins in, yes, another sweep.

The New York Islanders won their fourth consecutive Cup in 1983 with a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers got revenge in five games in 1984.

Detroit beat the Penguins for the 2008 Cup in six games. The Pens fired coach Michel Therrien during the next season and replaced him with Dan Bylsma, who propelled the team back to the Stanley Cup where it achieved revenge against the Red Wings in seven games.

The moral of the story? It's easier to win one year and return the next to win or lose the Cup you're holding than it is to transform from a loser one year to a winner the next.

Being a Cup loser means more than having no trophy to enjoy. Your calendar summer is shorter than all other teams except one. It is also the longest because of the emotional let-down of being a chump instead of champ.

Your team either undergoes too much change or too little change. If the coach is the same, other teams know what style to expect because it was on display for all to observe and analyze during the spring's playoffs. The coach simply has too little time to reinvent himself for the next season. Teams that advance to the final also tend to go without season-ending injuries to their most important stars. Those stars are one year older and the wear and tear accumulates.

Good luck, Canucks. You're going to need every molecule of good fortune to go beyond the Western Conference championship series in 2012.

(My pledge. I just know that I will be flamed by the diehards of Canuckistan, so I offer this pledge: If the Canucks prove me wrong and win the Stanley Cup next June, I will literally eat my words. That is to say, I will print this blog post, cut it up and eat it with my breakfast in public before the victory parade.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Christy Clark's "Steve Jobs Plan"

Is Stephanie Cadieux the favourite among Premier Christy Clark's brood of 17 cabinet ministers?

One can only speculate, because Cadieux has two iPads and the rest of her British Columbia Liberal (er, B.C. Christy) cabinet colleagues have just one, according to a list published Oct. 4 after an unspecified political party's Freedom of Information request.

Pity the poor backbenchers, who weren't included in the shipment of 267 purchased by Shared Services B.C. Members of the Opposition NDP caucus are also among the have-nots.

The list does not show which iPad model was purchased, how much the government spent or whether the government took advantage of Apple's free engraving offer. iPads start at $519 each, according to Apple's online store. The pre-HST retail price for the entire shipment would have been at least $138,573.

Of course, the iPad is now an indispensable tool for communication and productivity. But who knows how many of these people are playing Angry Birds or annoying their co-workers with the vuvuzela app on the taxpayer's dime and time.

The list contains 31 entries for David Henry, the team lead, technology support in the Operational Support office of the Finance ministry. But a disclaimer says those tablets are not all his.

"The tablets allocated to David Henry are to be distributed to government sub‐committees under the control of the Legislative Precinct."

There may have been other purchases of iPads or other tablet computers elsewhere in government.

"This list will not include any devices acquired directly by other Ministries and provincial agencies. Each Ministry would have to be approached directly for a list of their tablet purchases."

Oddly, one of the recipients was Philip Steenkamp, a former veteran deputy minister now at Simon Fraser University.

British Columbia government gets into the iPad age

Monday, October 3, 2011

B.C. Place open, but not smoothly

The renovated B.C. Place Stadium is two-for-two in the category of opening the roof for events. In other categories, it's not so successful.

The fabric retracted for all to see before the Canadian Football League's streaking B.C. Lions beat the Edmonton Eskimos 33-24 on Sept. 30 and before the listless Vancouver Whitecaps fell 1-0 to their Major League Soccer expansion cousins, the Portland Timbers on Oct. 2. It was really quite spectacular and was much faster than advertised.

The Lions' 50,213 crowd was below the 54,500-seat capacity, but the attendance was the most for an open-air team field sport in British Columbia history. The only events bigger were the annual Molson Indy Vancouver auto races between 1990 and 2004.

Among those spotted at the reopening were billionaire Jim Pattison, ex-Premier Bill Bennett, ex-Canucks' coach Pat Quinn, Canuck Ryan Kesler, Sen. Larry Campbell, VANOC CEO John Furlong, ex-Conservative minister/now Telus director Stockwell Day and political campaigner/lobbyist Patrick Kinsella. Premier Christy Clark led the ribbon cutting and scanned the tickets of the first two fans.

The stadium reopened as B.C. Place, not the new corporate name. Telus is the telecommunications provider and its logo is on advertisements on heavy rotation throughout the stadium's network of LED and HD screens. Expect the naming rights deal with Telus to be announced before the Grey Cup, though likely sooner. The delay may have been for political reasons, but Telus is not complaining. It got a $1 billion, 10-year deal from the government to supply its services.

Many of the 50,213, however, missed large portions of the game because they were in lineups for tickets, food and beer. Food and beer were scarce and apparently not enough workers were on the job. Seeing as how there was no dress rehearsal, it should have been an all-hands-on-deck event. Why, in this economy, would newly hired or returning workers skip the chance to work, especially on reopening night? Will management be held accountable? Will any angry Lions' fans demand a refund or free tickets to a future game?

There were reports of toilets that didn't flush and taps that did not work.

At the Whitecaps' game, with an announced crowd of 21,000 the complaints of poor mobile phone service continued. It's evident that telecommunications provider Telus has not finished its installation. There were also season ticket holders seated in locations that were different from what they had been originally told and sold by the Whitecaps. Some tickets were designated for seats that did not exist. There were cases of two tickets assigned to the same seat.

All these problems point to what I predicted many months ago. That construction would be the be-all and end-all, causing customer service and operations to suffer. It was inevitable. B.C. Pavilion Corporation announced a Sept. 30 opening date, which was a full month sooner than anticipated. The installation of the steel and cables was behind schedule, delaying the February start of roof fabric installation. And so the domino effect began.

An open house was held July 31 while work was in progress, because a Sept. 25 pre-opening open house was nixed. The schedule was too tight. After doing a series of well-organized regular media tours to update construction progress, B.C. Place did no full-scale media preview in the week of the stadium opening. The B.C. Lions' Sept. 29 practice was the first and only opportunity and only offered access to field level. Even the much-ballyhooed stadium interior webcam was shut-off Sept. 20.

As if the rocky opening weekend of operations wasn't enough, B.C. Pavilion Corporation is girding for a possible strike by its B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union-represented workers. The strike vote is to be announced Oct. 3 and a source tells me turnout was both heavy and angry. Genesis Security and Panther Group contractors have taken over some of the jobs once performed by union members, who already know they're not getting a pay raise in the next contract.

Workers were especially peeved when they received a memo from stadium general manager Howard Crosley, which warns that it may harm the Grey Cup on Nov. 27. (See the full text below).

Are you a B.C. Place worker? Tell me about your experience. Email me at the link to the right, or enter comments below.

September 27, 2011

To all BC Place Employees,


Everyone has been working diligently to ensure the new Stadium is unveiled on Friday. As one of our team members, you are the key to delivering a brand new guest experience in our amazing new facility!

I know you share my enthusiasm for the many events in the weeks and months ahead from the BC Lions to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and leading up to Canada’s largest event, the Grey Cup!

Unfortunately, all those events could be in jeopardy. The union that represents employees in the stadium has announced that it is conducting a strike vote that might result in a strike disrupting these events.

As one of our 600+ employees, you are entitled to participate in that vote and cast your ballot.

I encourage you to do so, and voice your opinion on your needs at BC Place.

Further, I respectfully encourage you to vote against a strike that could disrupt the scheduled events, tarnish all of our reputations as providers of the best entertainment experience, and interfere with your income and your enjoyment of your employment at these events.

I also want you to know how important your vote may be in determining our future.
Before the union can call a strike, it needs to have a majority of those who cast ballots vote in favour of a strike. So, if only 10 employees vote, but 6 vote in favour of a strike, a legal strike may follow. There need be no further votes.

I have listed the voting locations and times below. Please take the time from your busy life to cast your ballot. Ensure we get off to a great start!

If you have any questions regarding this vote or your participation in it, please give me a call at 604-661-3445.

I will see you on Opening Day for our inaugural event. And I thank you for joining me in making this a brand new era for us all at the stadium!

The times and locations of the vote are as follows:

September 27, 28, 30, 2011 BCGEU Lower Mainland Area Office 4925 Canada Way, Burnaby 9:00 am – 5:00 pm


Thursday, September 29, 2011 The Hyatt Regency
655 Burrard Street, Vancouver “Kensington” Meeting Room 4th Floor 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Yours truly,
Howard Crosley
General Manager

Blog Archive