The Stanley Cup semifinals shift to Canada Saturday night, with hockey fanciers hoping for a lessening of tension in Vancouver and an injection of excitement in Quebec.
The Canucks and Chicago Black Hawks, tied, 1-1, in their best-of-seven series, amassed 200 minutes in penalties Thursday night as the Hawks prevailed, 4-1, in Chicago. Coach Roger Neilson, Tiger Williams and Gerry Minor, all of Vancouver, were ejected with 3:37 left when they stuck towels on the blades of hockey sticks and waved them at referee Bob Myers.
Neilson has been guiding the Canucks since Harry Neale received a 10-game suspension for fighting with fans here in Quebec March 20. Thursday's defeat was only the second for Neilson in 16 games since assuming command. He did so well in Neale's absence that Neale declined to interfere when he became eligible to return.
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders have won two straight from the Quebec Nordiques with such consummate ease that New York fans are yawning and the Islanders themselves are risking the wrath of both the Nordiques and their own coach, Al Arbour, by publicly acknowledging boredom.
"The intensity is not up there like it should be, not like it was in our first playoffs," said ex-Washington defenseman Gord Lane. "It doesn't even come close. The other series, even against the Rangers, there wasn't the emotion, either.
"Last year, I couldn't even sleep the day of a game. Now I sleep four hours. Up in the stands, the people seem kind of bored, too. We've experienced it two other times and now I guess it's expected. I think a lot of guys just figure, 'Oh, well, here we go again.'
"If we were playing Edmonton or Montreal, we'd probably be more excited. But we'd prefer to play the easier team. Winning is what counts, not how exciting you do it."
"It's part of the price you have to pay when you're good," said Mike Bossy. "It was that way with the Montreal Canadiens when I was growing up there. No one was ever satisfied with a win. It had to be a win with a capital W. We're going through the same thing.
"Two years ago, when we beat Boston and Buffalo and Philly, it was really exciting. We may never see more of that from our point of view. Last year was less exciting and this year is even less exciting, even against the Rangers. Everybody was looking for more, but I don't know what more we could have given them, except maybe brawls in the stands or on the ice.
"I think a lot of people are looking for an upset. That would make it more exciting for a lot of people. It's important for us not to get caught up in the feeling the game is less exciting, but just to go out and do the job we're capable of."
Defenseman Stefan Persson had a final word: "This is more exciting than losing."