thomas drance

Are the Canucks Even Marketable Anymore?

It’s 2003, the West Coast Express is riding the high after an epic season; Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi are 2nd and 4th in league scoring and the Canucks have never been hotter. The meteoric rise of popularity for the Canucks continued to reach new heights all the way to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks were a marketer’s dream; they could do no wrong and despite soaring face value prices and aftermarket prices for tickets, the Canucks were IT.

Fast forward a few years later to present day 2015 and we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Do you even know what channel they’re on?

There has been much talk about how the Canucks TV ratings have dropped substantially and this really isn’t surprising at all.

The train has been slowly coming off the tracks for some time now when the statistics are that blunt, there needs to be some serious thought put into efforts to get the once marketing wizards of the NHL back to it’s rightful throne. The NHL and Rogers are a new superpower in Canada and that is one reason the Canucks are feeling the sting.

Gone is the regional feel to a Canucks broadcast, where intermissions are now flanked with Mark Messier commercials, Duncan Keith featurettes and the Hockey Central hub. It doesn’t feel like an organic production anymore. Watching a game isn’t personal and the online presence is also to blame. I personally don’t subscribe to hockeystreams but know things like this and NHL Game Center live are the way of the future. Its not about the 60″ big screen anymore; people just want to see the game wherever they can.

But what are the Canucks doing, or rather NOT doing that has them grasping at straws to come up with an idea, any idea that fans can relate to and spend their money. The big sell for a segment of Canucks fans is the Throwback night in February when the Canucks will face the Leafs in their retro black 1994 skate jerseys. The team store has jersey and name/number tees but when they show you can only get a handful of players you know things are bad.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter. WOW! Amazing! THIS is what you want to market? If this was 2010 heck even a few years ago when they FIRST started to fall, you’d have anyone with a remote fan following on those tees. I’m not even kidding. There were times when such players as Victor Oreskovich, Aaron Rome and Jeff Cowan all were in the merch business. You could sell ice to….wait I better not go there, even Edmonton is facing backlash for their football team name, who knows where I fall in.

I worked the sports retail industry for 10 years and the amount of Canucks products that was made available was sickening and coming from me, that’s saying a lot. Does anyone even care anymore about the push to have Johnny Canuck as our logo? How in demand is the skate actually? I can’t remember the last time I purchased something Canucks related. Is this really what it’s come to?

Check out this Groupon ad (click HERE) This is a LIVE OFFER!!! Living in the lower mainland for the glory years, if that’s what we want to call them because they really didn’t win anything more than their division and a few Presidents trophys (congrats I guess), getting into Rogers Arena for less than $150 a duckett was considered a steal! Even if you were to go on a bus trip through a pub or knew a ticket broker, you still paid way more than you should have.

They’re pretty much giving it away now. Their integrity is going with it. We all want so bad to back guys like Ben Hutton (#HUTTONmania), Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and ya why not, Luca Sbisa. The old regime would have been all over these players to get them into the fold as the next ONES. Maybe I’m out of touch now that I live in the Okanagan but I doubt I’m too far off from the truth.

Management brought in the Ryan Millers, Radim Vrbatas…..that’s about it. Oh man are we in trouble. The homegrown talent thankfully is marketable and they can make a difference but they have to have the light focused on them. Make them matter. It’s two seasons in and we’re all rethinking Bo Horvat. Are we crazy? Start pumping this guys tires Trev! I want to care but they make it so hard to even start that feeling.

My kids need to have every conceivable reason why they have to be Canucks fans but aside from the losses, which are fine in the grand scheme of things, what are they cheering for outside of the game? Every good parent has their kids draped in their teams wears but is this current setup worth buying into?

There isn’t anything remotely marketable about this team. We all stick to the memories we have of the better times we once had but what is there to sell RIGHT NOW? They know there’s a Star Wars movie coming out right? Have you seen how many hockey teams have had a Star Wars themed night? At least TRY to show you’re interested in your fans.

Rogers Arena is 20 years old and to celebrate this amazing feat, ownership is celebrating 20 things that happened in that time. Nothing says Canucks hockey like the Grizzlies being honored…errr one Grizzly. We loved the West Coast Express, we really did so for approximately 5 minutes maybe…we honored them and then totally didn’t care anymore. Great idea.

But if you DID want to see Nazzy, Bert and Mo and you lived on Vancouver Island and had NHL Game Center? Well you missed it. Even Geeta’s Game Center didn’t get it.

Who honestly cares about this #20in20 ? Not me. The team isn’t trying very hard to hold onto their fans. It’s a building that nobody has won jack squat in and if you are celebrating some colossal failures and incidents we try to forget, maybe you should have waited until at least 25 years. Let’s do a quick recap: Grizzlies, no Grizzlies, two lockouts, March 9, 2004, the Bruins, the Kings, ugh the Flames and high ticket prices. We did have the Olympics, those went well and obviously every time Nickelback comes to town.

Other than that, save the 20.

The momentum lights the team added on the stanchions were a nice touch but it isn’t something to write home about. To a degree, some of these complaints are directed towards the conglomerate Rogers, but when you look at what the Canucks have done to combat their TV ratings for starters, they can’t really help.

The team on the ice right now is not exciting at all. The Sedins are the only thing worth watching and they don’t play every shift, even though Willie would do it if he could. The predictable back pass was tolerable when other things were happening but now its just dump and chase for 60 minutes, and lately its just dumping. A lot…of….dumping.

Are the Canucks stuck in a marketing limbo? It seems that way and there isn’t one specific way they can get out of it. The on ice product is the first piece of the puzzle and that will have to continue to build for things to get even a little bit better. The team has to start taking some gambles in all aspects of their business and it may pay off and it may not but Canuck nation isn’t used to a loser.
Its one thing to have a team  that loses and eventually rebounds back; right now it feels like most people are indifferent about what happens to the Canucks. A Canadian hockey team should never get to that point. The Leafs are even going as far as changing their jerseys and primary logo…THE LEAFS!!

You’ve shown us that spending ridiculous amounts of cash for things we don’t need or can afford is ok, so start doing that again. Get in touch with the fan base that got you to the pinnacle and start listening to them. This team had/has so much freaking potential but if they stay on this path, it’s going to take a long, long time before we see anything close to what we loved so much, again.

I hate to be such a Debbie Downer but honestly, being sold on this team is so tough and its not just this year. I want to know the Canucks are doing everything they can to be MY team and not just one of the 30 teams playing hockey in the NHL.

I’ve asked way too many questions that probably have answered themselves and I know I’ve done some CAPITAL letters; but at the end of the day it comes down to this:

Come on Canucks, you’re better than that.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

How Are These Canucks Different From Before?

Everyone’s doing a quarter season article so I figure what the hay? The Canucks have already shown us quite the roulette wheel of games; big wins, big losses, one goal games and a shootout for profiling purposes only. What do we know about them after 23 games? For starters, the sky isn’t falling. I’ve read the tweets and seen all the possible trade locations for anyone that is over 30 and has scored in the last week; this fan base has no chill. So after everything we’ve seen thus far, how are THESE Canucks any different from last season?


The Canucks position in the standings is basically the same, they just have less points. If you think about it, they’re accomplishing the same with less. That’s actually better I think?

A year ago, we were all excited to see Bo Horvat in the lineup and we watched his progression from the nine game audition to what many believed to be the 2nd line centre without a doubt. Radim Vrbata was already at 10G, 7A and he has struggled to find his groove this year. We’ve called for his head and just begged for him to score so we can trade him away. Now, he’s finally producing and it looks like he’s ready to take over.

Ryan Miller surprisingly looking back was 14-3 at this point last season and I’m pretty sure we felt the same way we do this year, well, we had Eddie Lack last season; it’s possible we didn’t like Miller as much. This season, we are seeing a bit of Miller’s age but he continues to impress. If Willie D can balance the goalie starts both Miller and Jacob Markstrom could actually get on a serious roll.

Another thing the Canucks didn’t have last year was an abundance of youth. This season, Vancouver has dressed rookies Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Ben Hutton, Hunter Shinkaruk, Alex Grenier and Brendan Gaunce and almost all at the same time. It has been a reeeeeeeally long time since there have been this many young stars playing for the Canucks.

The shift in mentality that youth works is slowly taking over. You can see the reluctance from coach Willie to entrust his rookies with the same responsibilities that the veterans are asked to shoulder and rightfully so, but Ben Hutton and Jared McCann most notably have forced WD’s hand. Ben Hutton is quite possibly the next Chris Tanev/Alex Edler hybrid and he’s 22!!! This guy looks like he’s been in the league for years and his presence on the back end is most welcome. It’s a shame he’s been injured because Hutton is already a staple on the blue line.

Jared McCann has given the Canucks depth at a position they haven’t had it for a few years. What’s better is that the pivots that occupy the middle of the ice are being molded under captain Henrik Sedin. The blend of veterans and rookies is a very happy medium in that players like Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler can help these newbies adjust to the pro game easier and they will help shape the future of this organization.

Not to drag this on forever but what about Jannik Hansen and the Sedins? Did anyone see this coming? BESIDES THOMAS DRANCE? If you look back and check out the stats, its one of the best possible fits the team has! Aside from Burrows making his run with the Twins, Jannik Hansen is a slam dunk on the wing. Hopefully this run of theirs keeps up and we can see the other three lines develop more regularly.

The Canucks have changed a lot since last season and they will continue to change as this season plays out. The difference though: it’s about to get better and it appears the Sedins will play until they’re 50. Gordie Howe and his sons might want to lace up again just to keep those records intact.

Seriously, the Sedins are playing for keeps again, this might get dangerous.

Follow my shenanigans on twitter: @always90four

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It Was Just Supposed To Be A Clothing Brand

The Canucks have taken far too much of my cranial time lately, trying to figure out the next blitzkrieg post to get readers interested and talking about the doom and gloom that is the new Canucks reality. Thankfully, the start of the summer has given me new life to just enjoy what’s right in front of me: my amazing family and the city you are surely jealous of.

With that, I thought, what is interesting enough to read that isn’t about the Canucks? Whether you care or not, Always90four was not supposed to be a blog. OK, lets make this a little more clear: it was supposed to be a clothing brand with a blog that accompanied it much like some of the famous streetwear brands that have taken over North America.

When I was still working sports retail  back in 2004, Von Dutch made its way emergence into the market. At first I thought, “Oh cool, Vin Diesel is wearing it”. It was vintage, it was original and it was….EXPENSIVE. $60 for a mesh hat? You have got to be kidding me? There had to be a better way. LIttle did I know later in life, Macklemore was right.

After seeing one of my co-workers make the plunge, I vowed I could do it just as good or better for a fraction of the price. I didn’t need Von Dutch to be cool, I was already cool. So my journey began.

Nice thought.

I bought a few mesh snapbacks, a few flexfits and constantly doodled in Paint on my laptop at home. Eventually, I turned those hats into a personal brand called Spank. I was excited to show off my wears and those who knew me closely understood what was up.

I didn’t really push it any further but I pretty much wore out those lids, now two of them accompany me to dodgeball. Spank was going to be cool, it was going to be personal and eventually I’d see my logo in stores and I could bid adieu to those high priced garments and offer something that really, all I wanted was to see out there and clog up my closet.

I had friends ask me if I was going to keep going with it and I basically shrugged it off that I didn’t have the artistic ability to take much further without a real artist beside me. And in 2006, Spank as a brand idea basically died when I moved to the Lower Mainland and made a trip to West 4th Ave in Vancouver.

Spank was ALREADY a women’s clothing store. My wife and I walked in and that decided it: it was over. It wasn’t though. A trip later in the fall back home to Kelowna had me laying in bed looking at the ceiling thinking “What would I call this thing, I needed to keep it alive somehow”.

1:00 am came and I swear to you the name just clicked: Always90four. Spelt exactly the way you see it. I was always talking about the Canucks and any time we as fans got debating, it always came back to that magical run in 1994. Sure, the Canucks never won the Cup that year but it was the lightning rod for nostalgia.

I spent 2 hours thinking about all the ideas I could put together and eventually I needed sleep. This was my next step, but how?

I knew I had to have it Canucks based and I wanted the events and street/sport culture of 1994 to be the basis of it. So much happened that year: OJ, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup, Mrs. Doubtfire and so on. I wanted to hold onto a bit of my childhood and give it a modern spin.

There is a clothing brand that I have followed since approx. 2004 called The Hundreds. They started from nothing and now are sold around the world; who knew a little streetwear brand with a cult following could get so big? There are two articles that Bobby Hundreds wrote on their blog that have helped keep my fire burning for what is now Always90four: ABE and Screen Resolution.

I highly suggest you read these two and see how something can come from nothing and how “No” is a state of mind.

My wife first and foremost badgered me to start blogging and get this thing going because quite frankly, no one is going to buy a t-shirt if they have NO IDEA what it’s about. So after a few half hearted attempts with some other blogs, I started this one.

Facebook and Twitter have really helped the blogosphere get the little, unknown blogs off the ground. Writing about the Canucks came natural for me as does humour and fantasy sports rants. I just typed, published and waited.

Tweeting my efforts across the Twitter world to any proven writer that would listen was my goal. Bob McKenzie, Dan Murphy, the Vancouver Canucks, Blake Price and other local talents were my targets…oh and Pass it To Bulis I think.

Then the day came. I got an email from a buddy saying I was going to be famous and blah blah blah. I had no idea what he was getting on about. He told me to check Pass it to Bulis (at the time a Vancouver Sun blog) and sure enough my blog was in the top 4 on their site, linked and everything.

I think i maxed out around 360 people that day and I knew I had to keep going. They had a Stink in Link feature twice a week that exposed blogs from around the land talking Canucks. It got pretty fun after that.

I had joined a few sites that came and went before going back on my own. I decided to just focus on me. A new season had began and Willie Desjardins was the new Canucks coach and somehow his phrase “real good” was getting blown out of proportion. So I typed a little ditty.

So, it went big. Reddit, Canucks Army and their leader, Thomas Drance (big wig blogger at the Sportsnet) noticed. Something around 1300 people read my ramblings that day. But no one knew who I was I thought. I think i peed a bit.

I now write the game day previews for CA and have gained a whole new audience, new friends and a new direction.

From clothing brand to habitual blogger, life’s weird. Oh, and the clothing brand?

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It's like Christmas morning

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Its been a pretty random year but it feels like it’s just beginning. Hopefully hats are the next surge and as for this little blog?

I could only imagine.