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Last impressions of Vancouver sad ones for Hawks, writer

RoberLuongo Marcus Kruger

Roberto Luongo, Marcus Kruger

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The facts: 9, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: December 17, 2011 8:32AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The last time the Blackhawks were in Vancouver, the Canucks blasted music and celebrated so raucously in their locker room that they could be heard halfway down the hall and through closed doors.

Media members — probably about 100 of them — waited in a long line to enter the locker room after the Canucks eliminated the Hawks in a hard-fought, first-round Stanley Cup playoff series that went seven games last season.

I remember it being odd for the first round, regardless of how crazy the finish was and regardless of the history between the teams. In the streets, some fans set a Hawks jersey on fire and captured it on video for all to see on YouTube.

‘‘We said in this locker room that we knew we could be better than that and that going down 3-0 [in the series] wasn’t acceptable,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews recalled this month. ‘‘We found a way to make something out of that series. But it’s the past now, and [we’ve] learned from it.’’

It’s hard not to look back, though, as the Hawks visit British Columbia for the first time since April 26. The teams already have played this season, with the Canucks winning 6-2 last week at the United Center. But the game Wednesday at Rogers Arena undoubtedly will have a different feel to it.

A rioting affair

The last time I was in Vancouver, there were police cars on fire. I went to bed in my hotel room with a police helicopter roaring loudly overhead, its spotlight shining on the street. There were grenades exploding just a block away and officers in riot gear walking in a straight line from sidewalk to sidewalk.

It was an eerie view from the hotel, where moments earlier a reveler in a Canucks jersey had kicked in the lower window of a lobby door.

Hours before that, there was another long line — maybe 200 media members this time — to get into the Canucks’ locker room. This time, there was no music.

Inside, Henrik and Daniel Sedin stood strong, taking care of all the nagging ‘‘What happened?’’ questions from the media.

There was a sense of disbelief among everyone — the players, fans, coaches and media — that the room was even open. It was thought that getting past the Hawks after two failed attempts in the playoffs would be enough to propel the Canucks all the way.

The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, were celebrating the Stanley Cup championship and meeting the media on the Canucks’ home ice.

All this comes to mind as the Hawks descend on Vancouver to kick off their annual circus trip.

‘More than just hockey’

It was at Rogers Arena where defenseman Chris Campoli turned the puck over and the Hawks were eliminated last season. It was there where the Canucks partied. It was there where the Hawks nearly sent the city into pandemonium.

Some of the characters might change, but the resentful attitude between the Hawks and Canucks never has. It wasn’t a surprise that the Hawks’ new tough guys, Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers, added themselves to it by fighting in the first game between the teams this season. As they probably knew going in, Hawks-Canucks games can be riots themselves.

‘‘It seems like it builds every time we play Vancouver, where something new comes up and kind of adds to the mix,’’ Toews said. ‘‘It’s always two really good, really competitive teams going head-to-head. It’s more than just hockey out there. Guys get into it pretty good.’’

All the things that have happened in Vancouver since April 26 — the riot, someone leaving golf clubs at the door of Vancouver native Brent Seabrook, the burning Hawks jersey, the Canucks’ premature celebration and the Hawks’ elimination — are part of the rivalry now.

It’s the best rivalry in hockey, period.

‘‘It’s multiple things that kind of add to why it’s so competitive [and] why it’s so personal out there,’’ Toews said. ‘‘Little things happen, whether it’s hits or plays. Things you remember from previous series or previous games during the regular season that you want to get even with them for every time they took it to you.’’

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