Here it is, the day we’ve all been waiting for, the New York Rangers are set to square off against the Vancouver Canucks. I am not going to go into the statistics and details of the game, simply the emotional side of it. This is the first regular season contest between the two teams, and the first time former Rangers head coach John Tortorella, now the bench boss of the Canucks will be playing against his former squad. And, as we all know, this is the first time former Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, now the bench boss in Vancouver, will be playing against HIS former squad. Can you say coach swap?
In his seven seasons with Vancouver, Vigneault brought his team to game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final which they eventually lost to the Boston Bruins. However, Vigneault did turn the Canucks into one of the league’s most elite squads, and arguably turned the Sedin twins into the players they are today. Loved by the fans in Vancouver, Vigneault received a standing ovation from the crowd when he returned to Rogers Arena during the preseason. However, I cannot speak for Canucks fans because I personally am not one of them.
Now, say what you will about John Tortorella, and I really disliked him near the end of his tenure in New York and I was EXTREMELY happy when he was relieved of his coaching duties. However, if we’re going to talk realistically, John Tortorella took the Rangers from a basement level team to a perennial playoff contender, and in 2012 brought the Rangers deeper into the playoffs than they had been since 1994. Before Tortorella the Rangers were the laughing stock of the NHL and he brought respectability back to New York hockey, Tortorella did what a whole lot of coaches couldn’t do and what current head coach Alain Vigneault can not seem to maintain now.
This game, arguably the most marked game of the season for the Rangers, the Canucks, and their respective fanbases, is chock full of emotion, and arguably some motivation for the Rangers (not that a group of highly paid adults should need motivation, but you get the idea).