The Bieksa’s Buddies charity game was a massive success for two reasons: first, the event raised $200,000 for Canuck Place, the Canucks Autism Network, and the Canucks Family Education Centre — half of that from ticket sales, the other half when Michael Buble chose to match the total just before the cheque presentation and they had to scratch out the amount on the giant novelty cheque and double it.
The second reason the game was a success: it supplied a brief Canucks fix to the other victims — the poor, hapless fans that have long since forgotten how to spend their free time from October through April. Sure, it was fleeting and essentially meaningless. Bieksa’s Buddies only resembled the Canucks at times (like, say, when Cory Schneider was surrendering 3 goals on 9 shots because that’s what the Canucks’ starting goalie does in October), but it was just enough to scratch the itch. Count me among the scratched. I watched this charity game.
Bieksa’s Buddies 8 – 7 UBC Thunderbirds
We reported a handful of celebrity participants for tonight’s affair, but we regretfully inform you that all of them had to pull out for some reason or another. Michael Buble explained his late scratch thusly: “It’s a lower body… it’s actually most of my lower body and also my upper body which didn’t allow me to play.” What did he mean? Stage fright, the all-over ailment. “I wimped out,” he said. Think about this for a second: a man that sells out stadiums was intimidated by 5000 Canucks fans. Vancouver, your reputation precedes you.
“I think those UBC boys would have kicked my butt,” Buble added. Methinks he heard about their game plan to stab him in the throat. He needs his throat to sing. And also to breathe oxygen, thereby remaining alive.
The loss of Buble, Priestley, and Kitsch left the Canucks with just 13 skaters, which meant some creative deployment. Marty Bieksa moved up to play with the Sedins in his absence, and Aaron Volpatti played the game as a defenceman. That’s right: Aaron Volpatti on the back end. As soon as Volpatti hit the ice, I imagine Alain Vigneault sat up in bed. His wife asked him what was the matter. “I felt a great disturbance in the Force,” he said, “as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”
Alain Vigneault also probably felt chills when both Daniel and Henrik Sedin got attempts on the shootout after the game. But I’m sure he also felt validated when neither scored. On a UBC goaltender. That’s like James Bond forgetting his name. The name’s… ah… shoot. Something… Jim something?
Marty Bieksa also got an opportunity in the shootout, taking Kevin’s place. But you’d have thought he was his brother, because his move involved throwing a glove. I guess that runs in the family.
Aaron Volpatti was the final shooter of the shootout, and he had the tall task of attempting to break the tie against all three UBC goalies at once. It looked like a video-game glitch. Obviously, he didn’t succeed. But what do you expect? He’s a defenceman.
Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis scored the prettiest goal of the shootout, pulling the Forsbergian one-handed puck-drag move to perfection. It was an unexpected bit of flash-and-dashery, with Hamhuis pulling the goaltender right out of the blue paint. We wondered what had gotten into the community man, but when a lighting fixture fell from the ceiling into the crease and the goaltender went completely unharmed, Hamhuis just flashed him a knowing look.
Speaking of the Sedins and Marty Bieksa, they spent most of the game trying to set him up for a goal. They succeeded 1:30 into the third period as Cumberbirch served his dubious penalty for being handsome. It was a nice finish. Nice enough to lead one to wonder if Marty Bieksa was the better Bieksa. It would be in keeping with the Canucks tradition of employing lesser brothers, like Steve Kariya, Fedor Fedorov, and Daniel Sedin. But Kevin wasn’t pumping his brothers’ tires. After the game, he said playing with the Sedins is clearly harder than it looks, and Marty’s best quality was that “he’s coachable.”
Volpatti did a prettty decent Alex Burrows impression on the game-winning goal, launching one of those 150-foot lob passes to spring the Sedins on a 2-on-1. The Sedins made quick work of the Thunderbird goaltender, passing back and forth until he was completely out of the crease. Then Daniel held the puck for a good three seconds in the goalmouth, basking in the glow of his Wizardous Sedinerie, before tucking it in like a dress shirt.
Back to Volpatti, who, incredibly, wasn’t the least effective defender on Bieksa’s Buddies. He scored twice in the first period, and he also made a handful of decent defensive plays. I wish I could say the same for Jim Vandermeer, who was a free agent coming into this game and, if there were any scouts in the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, will remain a free agent indefinitely. I understand that he was playing out of the goodness of his heart; I assure you it was the only goodness associated with his play.
The referee for tonight’s affair: Al Bieksa, father of Marty and Kevin. We thought this might lead to a few chintzy calls against his boys, but instead, it was full-blown nepotism, like when he swallowed the whistle after a blatant Bieksa trip in the third. Bieksa explained it away as old-manitis. “He’s pretty slow, so I don’t think he was in the right position to make that call,” he said. But that doesn’t explain how Daniel Sedin called a penalty against goaltender Steven Stanford and the Bieksa patriarch let it stand. Nor does it explain how long-haired Thunderbirds’ player Ilan Cumberbirch was given “two minutes for looking so good”, like a young, balding Maurice Richard.
Manny Malhotra’s nameplate read “Maholtra” for the entire game. He didn’t know until Hosea Cheung informed him after the game, at which point he shouted, “Son of a nutcracker!” either because Christmas is coming up or because he is exceedingly lame.
Bieksa’s Buddies turned it on in the third, scoring 5 unanswered goals to eke out an 8-7 win. “Lockout or not, we’re a third period team,” said Bieksa after the game.
Chris Higgins scored Bieksa’s Buddies’ fifth goal, undressing the UBC defenders before making a beautiful shot of the crossbar and in. And speaking of Higgins undressing, he was among the members of Bieksa’s Buddies to give their game-worn jerseys away to children after the game. I was particularly interested in which lucky kid would get the “Maholtra” jersey, an instant collectible. But the crowd pop when Higgins name was called tells me most people were more interested in the fact that Chris Higgins + jersey off our back giveaways = torso porn.
Malhotra played most of the game with his brother-in-law Martin Nash, who set him up for a beautiful goal during the Bieksa’s Buddies third-period comeback. It was the first time they’ve ever played hockey together, but Malhotra was prepared for Nash’s skill, having heard “All his own glorious recollection of his triumphs as a 12-year-old hockey player.”
In the game’s dying seconds, with Bieksa’s Buddies up by one, they made the decision to pull Cory Schneider on a defensive zone draw and match UBC’s six-skater attack. Who was to blame for this horrible coaching decision? Paul McCallum, whose strategy all game long was to kick the puck through the goal? Ryan Kesler, who spent the majority of the game posing seductively at the bench? Alex Edler, who I’m pretty sure was asleep from puck drop? None of the above. Said Malhotra: “We made the executive decision. We needed six players just to make sure we were tough on the draw and got the puck out.” I feel like Alain Vigneault would be proud of the dedication to winning a defensive zone draw, however misplaced the execution.
Tanner Glass and Maxim Lapierre apparently didn’t get the memo that this was a mean-nothing game. They tried their hardest, skating full-bore on every shift, winning puck battles, and going right at defencemen. Glass even threw a hit, which earned him two minutes in the penalty box. We could fault them for being try-hards, but this is what got them to the NHL. It certainly wasn’t their mad snipes and wicked dangles… all that effort generated zero goals.
Cory Schneider also made a couple big saves in the dying moments to preserve the win. Good thing, too, because he was questionable at best through two, giving up 7 goals on 23 shots, earning a small smattering of boos from the crowd. We were asked how soon the knives will come out for Schneider if he is indeed the Canucks’ number one. The answer, as it turns out, is two periods of a charity game.
After a win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canucks are sitting in second in the Pacific and boast the division's best goal differential. That said, a big part of that goal differential comes from the Canucks' league-leading 10 empty net goals. […]