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Election 2009: the Canucks factor

For many British Columbians the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff drive remains a topic of greater interest than the election. But does history show a correlation between the Canucks’ playoff fortunes and turnout at the polls?

The franchise has shown a curious pattern of emerging as playoff material each election year since 1986, then bowing out before the election takes place, with the exception of 2005. This year could be different.

The Tyee took a quick look back at previous B.C. elections in search of hockey-related trends.

2005: The election was held on May 17, on the new set election date of the second Tuesday in May. That would have put the election sometime in the second round of the playoffs; would have, that is, if there was not a National Hockey League (NHL) lock out.

After a long labour disagreement, the NHL season was cancelled in February of 2005—leaving a hole in hockey fans’ lives wide enough to drive a Zamboni through. Voter turnout was 58.2 per cent, for a second straight B.C. Liberal government.

2001: The Canucks, entering the playoffs for the first time since 1996, were the eighth seed in the Western Conference facing the best team in the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Canucks were buried in four straight by eventual Stanley Cup champions the Colorado Avalanche, and collectively hit the golf course as early as April 19. The election, held on May 16 that year, saw voter turnout of 55.4 per cent.

As if trying to manifest a new destiny for the province’s favourite team, the electorate brought about one of the largest provincial shakeups in Canadian history, electing the B.C. Liberal party to a dominating 77-2 majority.

1996: A similar script to the one played out five years later. Second-seeded Colorado beat Vancouver in six games en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Vancouver was eliminated on April 27, a full month before the May 28 election. Voter turnout was 59.1 per cent, with results handing the NDP a second straight term in office.

1991: Another first-round loss for Vancouver was at the hands of the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings. The Canucks were sent packing on April 14 – a full half-year before the Oct. 17 election date. Voter turnout was 64.0 per cent, as Mike Harcourt’s NDP wrested power from the Social Credit party.

1986: The Edmonton Oilers swamped Vancouver in a best-of-five Smythe Division matchup, winning in three straight games while outscoring Vancouver 17-5. The Canucks were out by April 12, again a half-year before the Oct. 22 election. Voter turnout was 70.5 per cent, leading to the Social Credit party being re-elected to government.

This year’s Canucks appear poised to go deeper into the playoffs, but still have the opportunity to stay the historical course and be sent golfing before election day, should they lose the next two games.

Should the series go to a full seven games, the election will be sandwiched between game six of the series (scheduled for May 11) and game seven (scheduled for May 14).

Greg Amos reports for the Dawson Creek Daily News.

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