- Associated Press - Thursday, June 16, 2011

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - The plywood sheets filling in for shattered windows on the historic Hudson’s Bay Co. department store Thursday were turned into a canvas for expressing a city’s embarrassment.

On a spectacularly sunny day after a dreary, disturbing night in Vancouver, hundreds inscribed messages and drew pictures on the wood. It was a form of group therapy for a city recovering from extensive rioting after the Canucks’ blowout loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Some messages were hockey-centric: “So Proud of Our Boys.” “Real Fans Don’t Riot.” “We’ll Get ‘Em Next Year.”

Others were pure apology: “On behalf of my team and my city, I’m sorry.”

Overturned cars, raging bonfires, hospitalized fans and hooliganism are likely to be the lingering memory of the Canucks’ agonizing failure on the precipice of their first Stanley Cup title.

And that’s a shame. Vancouver’s citywide pain after the Canucks' 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins already was heartbreaking enough without the ugliness that followed.

A year after Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, this gorgeous, cosmopolitan city on the Pacific coast was ever so close to a championship it desired perhaps even more than those gold medals won by the Canadian hockey team on the Canucks’ rink in February 2010.

Vancouver was eager to see the Stanley Cup in Stanley Park, the green-and-blue oasis just off downtown. Both are named after Lord Frederick Stanley, the former Governor General of Canada who donated the iconic trophy in 1892 _ and whose statue in Vancouver’s park wore a Canucks jersey and held a replica Cup and a hockey stick during the playoff run.

Not counting the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires, whose names are inscribed inside the bowl for winning the Stanley Cup before the NHL existed, a Vancouver team has never really won anything much bigger than the B.C. Lions’ five CFL Grey Cups.

Boston ended its 39-year Stanley Cup drought on Vancouver’s ice.

The Canucks are at 41 years without a championship after their Game 7 flop.

“I think it would probably mean even more than the Olympics,” said Dan Hamhuis, the Vancouver defenseman and British Columbia native who missed the series’ final six games with an injury. “I don’t know how you compare the two, but the Olympics are a two-week tournament. The Canucks are part of people’s everyday lives in B.C. and Vancouver. We’re proud to represent this part of the world.”

Vancouver was the NHL’s best regular season team by far, racking up a franchise-record 54 victories and 117 points while winning the Presidents’ Trophy. The Canucks led the league in goals scored (262), fewest goals allowed (185) and power-play efficiency (24.3 percent), and were second in penalty-killing success (85.6 percent).

Vancouver has the NHL’s past two scoring champions, supremely smooth Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who also are likely to win consecutive Hart trophies as the league’s MVPs next week. The Canucks also have the NHL’s winningest goalie, Olympic hero Roberto Luongo, behind the NHL’s deepest group of defensemen.

How could the Canucks lose?

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