VANCOUVER -- Perhaps more than anyone who will skate for the Canucks on Wednesday, Jeff Tambellini knows what a Stanley Cup would mean to this city -- especially to the 10-year-old boys watching at home with their parents, living and dying with every passing second.
Seventeen years ago, he was one of them.
Tambellini, who will play in Game 7 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) in place of the injured Mason Raymond, grew up around the Canucks of the 1990s. His father, current Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, worked for the organization as the Director of Public and Media Relations, serving in that capacity for the Canucks' run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.
"I was at my house with my mom, my dad was in New York, and it was heartbreaking," Tambellini said, recalling his memories of watching the Rangers beat Vancouver in Game 7 of the '94 Final. "It was hard to watch. I remember pulling my hair out. Hopefully we turn that around tonight."
Tambellini has fond memories of his days as the little guy around the Canucks. He was a favorite among players like Cliff Ronning, Trevor Linden and Gino Odjick.
"I was just a big fan," Tambellini said. "I always wanted to be around the room. I loved being next to the guys, feeling the atmosphere and trying to get as close as I could. It's something I was very fortunate to grow up in."
He used to skate on the ice at Pacific Coliseum and then Rogers Arena after practices.
"Dad would go work, practice would be over and I would just go twirl around out there," he said. "I remember Gino Odjick coming out there one morning and I couldn't believe how hard he shot the puck."
Ironically, Tambellini said he never would pretend he was in Game 7 of the Cup Final.
He is now, though, and it's a strange yet "outstanding" feeling.
"I always just enjoyed finding a way to be in the big games. I've always enjoyed the big games," said Tambellini, whose previous big-game experience includes the gold-medal game at the 2003 World Junior Championship. "They're what you live for, what you look back on. In your career you find four or five games that were really big games and this is going to be one of them. You have to find a way to make sure you're on the winning edge of it."
And if he is, Tambellini has a pretty good idea of how crazy this city will go.
"This city is so ready to win and so excited to win," he said. "I take so much pride in being a part of this group because I know so many people care and are passionate about this group. The amount of texts that come in and how crazy people are, just wanting this group to have success, I'm just looking forward to getting this thing going."
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