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Abbotsford Canucks

Abby Canucks Provide Inspiration and a Gift to 1st Year Fans

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The Abbotsford Canucks Johnny Canuck emblem.

The Canucks are headed to the playoffs after all, only they’re chasing a Calder Cup, not the one named after Lord Stanley. The Abbotsford Canucks qualified Sunday for the American Hockey League postseason.

By the way, the Calder Cup is named after Frank Calder, the first president of the National Hockey League from 1917 until his death in 1943. It’s been fought over since 1937. And yes, the Calder Trophy, given annually to the NHL rookie deemed most valuable, is also named after Frank.

The play isn’t at the level of the Stanley Cup playoffs naturally, but the fact that it’s “triple-A-talent”, combined with an almost comparable grind through the spring into summer, and hockey fans truly have the next best thing.

This year it’s getting even bigger. A team could actually win the Calder Cup after five rounds of playoffs. The Abbotsford Canucks will fit into that category.

Last August the American Hockey League announced that it was adding an additional round to it’s divisional match-ups. While top teams will get byes for the best-of-three, it allows more participants to the party, to “recognize the importance of playoff races and postseason experience on overall player development,” the AHL said at the time.

It appears the Canucks will be playing the Bakersfield Condors in the opening series, with the key remaining development over the final nine games of the regular season being which team earns home ice advantage. The Canucks stand at 32-21-5-and-1 after clinching a playoff nod with weekend victories over the visiting Laval Rocket and they would love to have the home cooking.

It’s remarkable that head coach Trent Cull and General Manager Ryan Johnson’s club will have this opportunity after overcoming a season full of injuries and Covid. The team was scrambling to fill its short bench with “double-A” ECHLers during parts of the season.

One of those injuries was to NHL blueline prospect Jack Rathbone, who had an impressive training camp and preseason with the big club. Rathbone, who played eight games for Vancouver last season and nine more early this one, was stretchered off the ice February 16th following a hit by Condors forward Colton Sceviour. He’s returned with a flourish, powering the Abby Canucks offence through the weekend.

The Canucks have just three more home games this regular season at the Abbotsford Centre including this Friday and Saturday night against the San Diego Gulls. Those are fan appreciation nights. They finish the home portion of their calendar with a match Tuesday, April 26th against Bakersfield.

The Vancouver Canucks have made NHL’ers Vasily Podkolzin and Nic Petan eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs, adding to the fire power and to the allure. Barring injury or the NHL Canucks making a shocking ascension to the Stanley Cup postseason, those two will be there.

Development combined with winning is the combination every NHL farm club seeks. In the meantime, it’s playoff hockey, plain and simple.

First year fans of the Canucks in the Fraser Valley will be getting the opportunity to experience it.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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