The Coldest Summer
A sportswriter, obviously stuck for questions, recently asked Roberto Luongo if, after moving here from Florida, he'd been able to get used to the rain in the Lower Mainland.
The Vezina Trophy candidate raised his eyebrow. "Yes," he said.
Yes, it's true-Vancouver has the mildest weather of any Canadian metropolis. The city receives some 112 centimeters of rain a year, and its average temperature through the winter is 6 degrees-about 10 degrees warmer, on average, than Calgary, and 13 warmer than Toronto.
British Columbians should count themselves lucky. A mild spring takes the sting out of a 2006-07 Canucks season that ended too early.
The team went out in five games to the Anaheim Ducks, and yes, it's conceivable that the hometown squad could have won a game or two more-perhaps even the second-round series-but, as the weather turns, the pain abates.
The air, after all, is redolent of cut grass, and the lengthening days promise golf, roller-hockey, beach football, and the crack and hiss of summer barbecues.
Assistant captain Trevor Linden knows the virtues of this part of the world, and he isn't going anywhere, he says.
"I'm a B.C. boy," Linden said Sunday while cleaning out his locker at GM Place. "I'll be around during the summer."
Linden's future with the team is less certain, however. His contract is up and the playoff points leader has summer to mull his plans over.
Received wisdom among Vancouver's wizened sportswriters is that Linden, who is 37, has earned another year in the NHL if he wants it.
Linden is mum about his plans for the next couple of months. No doubt, though, most Canucks fans would like to see Linden as they did on television in August 2004-on a boat, shirtless and relaxed, narrating a highlight package of Vancouver's improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell, who came to the Canucks last July as an unrestricted free agent, is looking forward to a full helping of West Coast recreation.
"I'm going to be going up to the island to do some fishing, hiking, biking, and camping," said Mitchell, who summers in his hometown of Port McNeill, on northern Vancouver Island. Mitchell and his wife Megan will be spending some time in Minnesota, too, with her family.
"I plan on letting the body recover, and then getting back to the training," said Mitchell, whose goal-line save (thanks, in no small part, to his overlength stick) preserved Game 2 against the Dallas Stars.
Despite missing 20 late-regular-season games to injuries (groin strain and concussion), Mitchell had an outstanding playoffs, and, as the team's go-to man for shutting down opponents' high-fliers, he has played his way into some of the highest praise that coach Alain Vigneault dishes out.
"Give Willie Mitchell a tough assignment and he'll treat it like life and death," Vigneault told reporters after a tough late-season battle with the Flames' Jarome Iginla. "We have seen his focus and tenacity increase with every game."
ALTERATIONS, MADE TO ORDER
Taylor, Taylor, Taylor-everyone's talking about Taylor Pyatt. Schoolgirls coo about the 25-year-old winger's "adorable" eyes; guys are ecstatic over his best-ever 23-goal output this year, his first with Vancouver after being plucked from Buffalo for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2007 Entry Draft.
Can you hear the breeze? Rumours are whirling around Pyatt like shingles in an East Florida trailer park. Many fans worry that Pyatt is this year's Anson Carter-a guy who has a career year playing with the Sedins, then outgrows Vancouver's payroll.
"I'll be sticking around Vancouver for a couple of weeks, then heading back to see my family in Thunder Bay," said Pyatt of his plans for the summer. Surely, he'll be keen to relive his biggest goal with his folks-an overtime snapshot winner from the left face-off circle in Game 3 against Dallas.
Some reports have Pyatt, who earned $700,000 in the 2006-07 campaign and is now an unrestricted free agent, looking for remuneration in the ballpark of $1.5 million a year. Those are little more than rumours and as former Canucks' GM Brian Burke was quick to point out, just because it's down in ink doesn't mean it's fact.
A BURR IN THE SIDE
Tenacious forward Alex Burrows, who logged 81 games in his first full NHL season, suffered enough bruising to put a rodeo clown to shame.
He'll be back next season, and no', he doesn't harbour any grudges against NHL goal judges who disallowed more of his scoring efforts than they thumbs-upped.
Burrows finished with 93 well earned penalty minutes and helped the Canucks climb to the top of the penalty-killing pile.
He'll spending some well-deserved time off in Montreal, though just as you would expect from one of the hardest-working Canucks, he'll work while he's there.
"I'm going to work out with Stephane Dube, the strength guy with the Pittsburgh Penguins," he says. "We have a pretty good group of guys that work out there [in Montreal]: JS Giguere, Ian Laperriere, Manny Fernandez, Patrice Brisebois, and Jose Theodore."
"I might play a bit of golf and see the family too. My plan is to mostly just relax and see my friends."