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Canucks captain Bo Horvat feels fans’ frustration amid messy, winless start

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Things are not going well for the Vancouver Canucks at the moment.

After finishing 40-30-12 last season, much of the fanbase was promised an improved performance in 2022-23, especially with head coach Bruce Boudreau at the helm for his first full campaign. But instead, the opposite has occurred thus far, with tempers boiling over this past weekend.

The Canucks, who opened this season with five straight road contests, returned to Rogers Arena on Saturday for their home-opener against the Buffalo Sabres. It was supposed to provide optimism for a team that had gone 0-3-2 out of the gate. Unfortunately, it was met with continued frustration instead.

Buffalo jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t look back, ultimately securing a 5-1 victory over Vancouver. In the later stages of the game, some fans voiced their displeasure by littering the ice with jerseys in protest of the team’s early efforts.

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Following another crushing defeat, captain Bo Horvat spoke to reporters and was asked about the home crowd throwing jerseys onto the ice. His comments, however, probably won’t ease the pain that fans are currently experiencing.

“My jersey got thrown on the ice last year and I’ll never forget that for as long as I play,” Horvat explained. “It’s something that hits home, and when you see it again happening this year, it definitely sucks. But I understand their frustration.

“We haven’t really given them much to cheer about. It’s been a lot of years in the rebuild stage and… at this point in the season, it just feels like it’s never going to happen, like we’re never going to win again.”

For a team that’s winless through six games, this damning response likely isn’t something you want coming from your dressing room. It is the opposite, actually.

But it’s tough to blame Horvat for being honest about feeling this way. After all, the Canucks became the first team in NHL history to lose four straight games after holding a multi-goal lead in each contest earlier this season, according to Sportsnet Stats.

Bo Horvat offered some bleak words after Canucks fans once again launched jerseys to the ice during a humiliating loss to the Sabres in their home opener. (Getty)
Bo Horvat offered some bleak words after Canucks fans once again launched jerseys to the ice during a humiliating loss to the Sabres in their home opener. (Getty)

J.T. Miller, who has been at the center of Vancouver’s struggles, shared his own thoughts on the fans’ choice to dispose of their well-earned team merchandise.

“If they want to throw their sh*t on the ice it’s up to them… If they want to come to the game, spend all that money and throw their gear on the ice that’s up to them,” Miller said.

And Horvat isn’t the only Canucks player feeling frustrated over the club’s miserable start. Teammate Curtis Lazar, who grew up rooting for this franchise, believes fans deserve better than the product they’ve witnessed this season.

“I feel like it’s warranted by the way we played, especially near the end of the game,” Lazar said. “Every game this year we’ve had our chance to win (in the third period) and our response hasn’t been there. That’s an area that we need to find that urgency and come together within this dressing room.

“The fans are passionate; that’s the great thing about playing here. They want to see a response, and we want to see a response ourselves. You can talk about those external things, the fans and what everyone’s probably saying about us, but it comes down to what we have in this dressing room. We do believe we have a good team — a lot better than we’ve been showing. But it’s what I said to you before: Words are one thing, actions are another.”

That sentiment runs strongly throughout the organization, particularly with Boudreau, who questioned his players’ professionalism during Saturday’s post-game press conference. The 67-year-old coach is demanding more of his players amid the club’s six-game losing skid.

No one could’ve imagined this terrible start for the Canucks, especially not after they finished 32-15-10 under Boudreau last season. If anything, most experts assumed they’d hit the ground running, not fall flat on it.

But with 76 games remaining, there is still plenty of time for Vancouver to turn this ship around, although that likely needs to occur sooner rather than later to avoid a third straight summer without playoff hockey.

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‘I knew this team could play better’: Canucks finally pulling together more complete game – Sportsnet.ca

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Croatia coach sends Canada a stern message ahead of World Cup showdown

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Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic sent Canada a message Saturday at the World Cup. And he didn’t need the F-word to deliver it.

Dalic offered up a stern statement when asked about John Herdman’s emotional words after Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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Asked in a pitchside interview what he had said to his team in a post-game huddle, the Canada coach replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

While Herdman delivered the last line with a smile, Dalic clearly did not see the humour.

When a Canadian reporter at Saturday’s pre-game news conference asked Dalic for his team’s response to Herdman’s heat, the Croatia coach lectured his opposition ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Khlalifa International Stadium.

Dalic used the word “respect” 12 times in his answer.

“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone … We respect everyone, equally so,” he said through an interpreter. “We expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worthy of their respect. The Canadians must also have respect for us. This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect. We are the (2018 World Cup runners-up), not Brazil, Spain or other countries.”

“I shall not focus or comment on any other people’s comments,” he added. “We will be prepared (Sunday), we will be fit and we will demonstrate respect for Canada … and for everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view”

Croatian forward Ivan Perisic then backed up his coach, saying simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Sunday may prove otherwise but it seems, motivationally speaking, Canada has taken a knife to a gunfight.

Both the 41st-ranked Canadians and No. 12 Croatia need to get points out of the match. Belgium tops Group F with three points while Croatia and Morocco both have one point after their scoreless draw.

Canada needs to secure at least a point if it hopes to have any chance of reaching the knockout round. A loss Sunday and the Canadians can finish with no more than three points while Croatia ups its total to four. And no matter what happens in Sunday’s match between No. 2 Belgium and No. 22 Morocco, one of those teams will have at least four points.

With only two teams advancing out of the group, that would render Canada’s final group game next Thursday with Morocco meaningless in terms of tournament progression.

“At the end of the day, both teams really have to win this game,” said Herdman.

Croatian reporters didn’t bother engaging Zlatko on Herdman’s inflammatory words. They had already done so, with tabloids back home having a field day.

In contrast, three of the first four questions in Herdman’s availability were about his post-game hot take. Another came later.

The Canada coach, who had already addressed the issue on Thursday, tried to laugh off the reaction he had sparked in the Croatia camp.

He insisted he was on task “and loving the experience.” And he rejected the assertion that his words were just another motivational tool.

“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. I’ve used all my motivation tactics in the 20-odd games it took to get here,” he said in self-deprecating fashion.

But he maintained his words to his players in the post-game huddle after Belgium were simply “to remind them that there’s another task ahead.”

And he was quick to compliment Croatia, calling it a “top top top top football team.”

“(A) hell of a test. Hell of a test for this team,” he added. “But we’re excited.”

Herdman called Sunday’s match a “defining moment for Canada in this World Cup. It’s one of those do-or-die games now that we have to perform in to stay at a World Cup.”

Dalic, meanwhile, called Canada “a tough team full of self-confidence.”

The two sides have never met before.

The Croatian roster features the likes of Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Perisic (Tottenham), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) and Mario Pasalic (Atalanta). Only six of its 26-man roster play at home in Croatia, with four of those at Dinamo Zagreb.

Despite that talent, Croatia had its hands full with No. 22 Morocco in its tournament opener, playing to a scoreless draw in a game that saw each team put just two shots on target.

Croatia goes into Sunday’s match riding a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) dating back to a 3-0 loss to Austria in June in UEFA Nations League play. Croatia avenged that defeat with a 3-1 decision over the Austrians in September.

Croatia has outscored the opposition 9-3 over that run, which includes a win and tie against No. 4 France.

“With all due respect to Croatia, they have a very very good team. It’s going to be tough for us,” said Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. “But it’s going to be tough for them as well.”

The Canadians, who blamed traffic for showing up 41 minutes late for their news conference before the Belgium game, arrived two minutes early Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

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