Vancouver Canucks Spark Championship Fever, Ichiro's Benching And More Weekend Wonderings

Weekend thoughts on the Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup Finals run, Ichiro's benching and a few items you may have missed this week here on SB Nation Seattle.

Vancouver Canucks fever has swept over Seattle as the city embraces its neighbors to the north with surprising fervor during their Stanley Cup Finals run. The bandwagon filled fast as it raced through Seattle like a bat out of hell, picking up steam with every win during the NHL playoffs and reaching its peak as the Canucks polished off the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to earn a Stanley Cup Finals berth. But I wondered why Seattle was so swept up in Canucks fever despite never having an NHL team of its own.

Has Seattle embraced the Canucks because it doesn't have a team? Are we just bad fans that hop from city-to-city, bandwagoning the nearest winner? Or is there something more at play?

Seattle has championship fever, and playoff season has only reinforced the notion. This year, the NBA and NHL playoffs had strong Northwest connections, be it Jason Terry with the Mavericks, rooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder or embracing the Canucks. This year, more than any I've seen in the past, Seattle has sprung to life and taken a significant interest in the playoffs.

And because Seattle is championship starved, it makes the Canucks run hit closer to home; fans want a piece of the action. The Canucks are a fun team to root for, and doing so is acceptable because Seattle doesn't have a hockey team, nor does it have any rooting interest in the league. And when you mix in success and the atmosphere that comes along with a deep playoff run, jumping aboard and riding til the wheels fall off is enticing.

I mean, look at this:

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That's the crowd gathered in downtown Vancouver for a public viewing of Game 5. The game was in Vancouver at Rogers Arena, yet a massive crowd swallowed the downtown streets to party and watch the Canucks down the Bruins in Game 5.

The entire city has rallied around the team, a wonderful side effect of a championship run. Remember Refuse to Lose? Or the Sonics rallies in 1996? Or the feeling that came along with the Seahawks run to Super Bowl XL? Remember rallies at Westlake Center and citizens coming to work clad in Seattle team colors on gamedays?

It's an unforgettable feeling, but it only comes as a team makes a legitimate championship run. A deep playoff run serves as a bonding moment for a city. Strangers high-five and chant, the city is painted in its team colors and fans live-and-die by each and every game. Nothing rivals the high-stakes that come along with a championship, but for most cities, the rarity of the situation makes it all the more special.

Seattle hasn't seen a major championship since June 1, 1979, when the Sonics downed the Washington Bullets in five games to win the NBA title. In fact, Seattle teams have rarely gotten close enough to taste a title -- the Mariners have never been to the World Series, the Seahawks made their first Super Bowl appearance in the 2005-06 season and the Sonics made three appearances (1978, 1979 and 1996) before being whisked away to Oklahoma City.

The Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Finals only reinforces how much I, and many others, long for a run of our own; a moment to grasp hold of with the rest of our city and state. And yet, we remain powerless to trigger such a run. That's the beauty of sports and the rare moments are the reason we keep coming back for more pain and disappointment with unbridled optimism that this is our year.

Ichiro was benched

On Friday, Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge gave Ichiro the day off. It's been a long time coming for the mainstay in the Mariners lineup -- Ichiro had played in 255 consecutive games until Friday's benching. It's no secret Ichiro is struggling and working through what may be the worst slump of his career.

In most situations, a player being benched for a game is a blip on the radar. But this is Ichiro, and his every move is scrutinized and analyzed in Seattle. Because he rarely speaks to the media, fans are left to infer and let their imaginations run wild. Ichiro is selfish, not a leader, doesn't take kindly to managerial direction and is treated differently than other players, if you were to believe the loudest of the masses. The only item of clarity is that Ichiro is as polarizing a figure as there is in Seattle sports.

Wedge stuck to his guns and kept Ichiro on the bench, allowing him to watch a game from the sidelines in an effort to get him back on track. There was no late-inning pinch hit and even as the Mariners clung to a one-run lead in the ninth inning with Carlos Peguero in right field, Ichiro remained on the bench.

Whether it helps remains to be seen, but sitting Ichiro for a game became necessary. But it's not as big a deal as you think. He'll be back on the field sooner rather than later and I have no doubt he's doing everything to break the slump he's in. But no matter what he does, Ichiro will still be a polarizing figure whose every move is put under a microscope.

Nate Robinson was arrested for urinating on or near a Barnes and Noble

Yep.

Jason Terry is Mr. Fourth Quarter.

Yes, he is awesome. And he lived up to the nickname in Game 5. You can't help but love his personality.

I'm looking forward to the Dave Niehaus statue, and you should be too

Here's a sneak peek.

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Things you may have missed, but shouldn't have

Kevin Cacabelos profiled the Ballpark Boys, a group of Seattle teens taking the trip of the lifetime and visiting every major league ballpark this summer. Fredy Montero is struggling, and Aaron Campeau examined the deeper issues at play. The Seattle Storm were blown out on Thursday, but before the game, Nate Parham took a look at the defense, and newcomer Katie Smith.

Each weekend, we'll put together a look back at the week and a look forward at the next. Each week, it will be something new, with random thoughts about the state of Seattle sports and some of the noteworthy items from the week that was. You can find it on Saturday mornings here on SB Nation Seattle.

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