Canucks must start Stanley Cup quest anew
Ryan Kesler said it best in how the team must put last spring's disappointment in the past and start over in trying to bring the Cup to Vancouver.
They sat in their respective stalls like wounded men alone on their own planets.
Sweat dripped from their hair, down their foreheads, through their grizzled, hairy faces, all the way to the floor. Their equipment remained on, sucked to their bodies underneath their soaking sweaters.
No one said a word for almost 30 minutes. No one removed an article of clothing.
"It was emotional," Ryan Kesler told NHL.com, describing the scene inside the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room in the moments after they lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. "We were that close. With blood, sweat and tears, we did it all and yet we came up short. Nothing really needed to be said and nothing was said."
Until finally Raffi Torres broke the deafening, sad silence filling the room.
"It was a two-second thing," Kesler said. "Then we were all like, 'We have a lot to be proud of.' You know what, we did, but at the time it's tough to think that.
"In saying that now -- new season, new beginnings."
The memories of that scene will be burned into the brains of every player in the dressing room that night. The Canucks never will forget what it felt like to be so close to their dream, only to realize that just down the hallway, the Boston Bruins were parading the Stanley Cup around Vancouver's home ice.
They'll never forget what it felt like changing out of their uniforms and into their street clothes, only to learn they couldn't leave the building because it wasn't safe to go out onto the city streets.
But those same memories also will serve as the motivation the returning Canucks so desperately need as they prepare to start all over again from the beginning.
The internal -- and, to an extent, external -- expectation is for Vancouver to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, and this time, close it out as the champs. The challenge is that the Canucks have to play another 100 or so games to do it.
Talk about daunting.
"When you think about it like that, it is, but that's why you can't think about it," Daniel Sedin told NHL.com. "It's so tough just making it to the playoffs that if you start thinking ahead too much, you're in trouble. Last year we kept winning because we didn't look ahead. That's why we had so much success last year, and we're going to have success this year -- because we can do that."
"We're going to come back hungrier," Kesler added. "We have the group of guys that will."
Kesler, who likely will start the season on the sideline while recovering from offseason hip surgery, said the first few days after Game 7 were the worst for him.
"I was almost embarrassed to leave my house," he said. "I felt like I let my team down and I felt like I let my city down. My wife and my mom and dad had to do a good job of getting me out of the house to get my mind off of things."
Kesler returned home to Michigan about a week later and finally found peace.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin weren't so lucky. They returned to their offseason homes in Sweden with their families, but there they found a different set of fans that wanted to talk about the Final, about the Canucks coming oh-so-close before losing Game 7.
"All we can do is listen," Daniel said. "Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we agree.
"I lost a similar kind of game in Sweden, the last game of the season, in the finals, but this was a much bigger stage. I don't really know how to put it, but you're so empty. You've been so focused for a few months and all of a sudden it's gone."
But not forgotten.
"You want to get back to that same moment, being able to play a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final," Sedin said. "We've been through that now. We know what it takes."
"All we have to do is remember," Kesler added. "Remember how good it felt to win the Western Conference Finals and remember how bad it felt when we lost Game 7."