The Vancouver Canucks have some of the most exciting players in the NHL on their roster but you wouldn’t know that from their latest cringeworthy commercial.
Ostensibly intended to sell season tickets, the Canucks’ latest TV spot instead acts as an anti-hype video that utterly fails to highlight any reason for anyone to go to a Canucks game. It is hilariously bad to the point that it almost doesn’t seem real.
It’s a must-watch.
It’s clear what this commercial is trying to do. They’re trying to sell fans on the idea that things will be different next season because the team is changing its culture to one that emphasizes hard work, details, and playing the game the right way.
But at nearly every step of the way, the commercial undercuts its own message, if that message was even a good one to sell season tickets in the first place.
It starts with a series of sweaty faces at practice to really push that “hard work” message, then cuts to a Rick Tocchet press conference (featuring a “Pass it to Bulis” cameo) where Tocchet says, “Every day, we’re trying to become a team that we want to be.”
I just want to stop right there for a moment. That’s apparently the first thing the Canucks wanted you to hear in this commercial: “We’re trying to become a team that we want to be.” That’s the supposedly inspiring message that the Canucks think will make you want to go to hockey games: “We’re trying.”
I’m curious to know if there’s any market research that shows whether knowing your team tries really hard in practice makes a fan more likely to go to a game. Not the in-arena experience, not the fun and excitement of cheering for your favourite players, not a winning team, but trying hard.
We’re talking about practice. Not the game.
The first name mentioned when we actually get to in-game highlights is Brock Boeser, a player who may well get traded this off-season to clear cap space. The highlight itself is a goal by Anthony Beauvillier, notably a player the Canucks’ new management acquired in the Bo Horvat trade, but not exactly the type of player that is likely to sell tickets.
That’s followed up by a goal from Dakota Joshua, assisted by Nils Åman — I’m not sure anyone buys tickets to see Joshua and Åman play either, no offence meant to either of them.
The first notable highlight of Elias Pettersson, who finished top ten in NHL scoring with the first 100+ point season for the Canucks in over a decade, is him throwing a hit. The second highlight, shows Pettersson blocking an attempted clearance at the blue line. To be fair, they finally show one of his goals later but it’s overshadowed a bit by the baffling context they put it in.
Quinn Hughes broke his own franchise record for most points by a Canucks defenceman with 76 points in 78 games. While there’s a brief clip of him taking a shot, his most notable highlight is battling a bigger forward in front of the net.
If the point is that the Canucks’ stars will also be working hard, taking care of the details, and playing the right way, I guess the point was made. But does that excite fans more than seeing Pettersson breaking ankles with his silky stickhandling or Hughes leaving opponents scrambling with his smooth skating?
Then we get to the most cringe-inducing part of the video, as quotes from the players and, weirdly, general manager Patrik Allvin are spoken overtop of freeze-framed highlights as words flash behind them.
“Our group’s been working hard in practice dialing into the structure,” intones Boeser as the word “STRUCTURE” is laid in behind a net-front battle from Hughes.
That’s a bit of a weird choice, but okay. It makes some sort of sense that the Canucks would want to highlight the improved structure under Tocchet after the team’s lack of structure under Bruce Boudreau became such a big talking point.
What makes it painful is their attempts to follow the “rule of three” with two more freeze-framed moments.
“It’s not really about wins and losses at the end of the day right now,” says J.T. Miller. “It’s about enjoying the process of getting better as a group and having good habits and being accountable.”
Let’s talk about the quote, because it is mindblowing to me that a commercial released as part of the Canucks’ season-ticket sales push includes the phrase, “It’s not really about wins and losses.”
In context, Miller was talking about the end of this past season as the team looked to instill a new culture within the group and establish good habits for next season. Ripped out of that context and placed into a commercial that says, “Next season starts now,” makes it seem like the Canucks won’t care about wins and losses next season.
That’s not really a winning message!
Using that phrase in the commercial has to leave the view wondering what all the trying in practice is for if it’s not about wins and losses? What’s the point of the structure and details if it’s not about winning hockey games? It undercuts the entire message of the commercial.
To make it even more hilarious, the quote is matched with a freeze frame of Andrei Kuzmenko celebrating a goal with the word “HABITS” emblazoned behind him.
It’s an utterly incongruous combination, a bizarre juxtaposition that makes you wonder if the clips in the commercial were chosen entirely at random.
Finally, Allvin says, “If you’re going to play on the Vancouver Canucks, there is a certain standard that needs to be held here.”
To go with this quote, the commercial shows Pettersson scoring a goal on an assist by J.T. Miller, then stops on the two of them celebrating with the word “STANDARD” behind them.
I don’t even know where to start. How did they decide that “standard” was the word they wanted to highlight? Could they not use “standards” because that wasn’t a direct quote from Allvin? Were they aware that “standard” has another meaning — namely, “normal” or “average” — and when ripped out of the context of the quote, it kind of looks like the commercial is insulting Pettersson and Miller?
I can understand highlighting the word “structure.” I’m less enthused by “habits” but I get it. Going full-on fan-cam on the word “standard” is utterly befuddling.
"Next season starts now"
The commercial ends on the Canucks’ slogan for their season-ticket push, “Next season starts now.”
One could argue that it’s not the best choice for a slogan when the seasons for other teams — the ones that actually made the playoffs — are still going, particularly when the commercial is going to be shown on the same channel broadcasting their games. It also became a little more awkward after the Canucks were fined $50,000 for treating the off-season like it was the regular season and holding training sessions that violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Ultimately, this commercial just leaves me wondering who exactly is it for?
Most fans just want to see winning hockey and to be entertained by their favourite players. If the casual fan is the target audience, this commercial badly missed the mark.
If it’s the diehard fans who were encouraged by the team’s turnaround under Rick Tocchet, well, those fans are already well aware of the Canucks’ improved structure and renewed focus on good habits and, uh, “standard.”
Fans and media on Twitter couldn’t help but roast the Canucks for the tone-deaf commercial.
On the other hand, maybe the point was to make a commercial so bad that Canucks fans and members of the media couldn’t help but write about it, tweet about it, and spread the team’s message as far as possible.
If so, mission accomplished.