The thrilling Game 5 between the Kings and Canucks and the incredible series clinching snipe from Jarret Stoll will live with me for a while, but it was something that happened after the game had ended and after the handshakes had been completed that was fresh on my mind today.

The reaction of fans inside Rogers Arena.

Did you see what I’m talking about? Those fans cheered. They gave their team a loud ovation as a send off for their season.

On it’s own, this doesn’t sound like much. Teams salute the fans and fans salute the players right back almost every other night in the NHL. But this was so different.

Teams usually only get those post elimination “we’re proud of you” type of send-offs under certain circumstances. If the fans had no expectations or the team was expected to be a cellar dweller and somehow got to the playoffs (hello Senators), the fans will usually cheer them off the ice no matter what, even after a sweep. If a team takes the franchise to new heights (hello Predators) or gives the fans success they haven’t experienced in years (Blues), they’re rightfully saluted.

But the reaction to an early elimination when dealing with a team that is expected to win, or at the very least go deep, is usually quite the opposite. Fans either boo them off the ice if the loss and elimination is embarrassing enough, or bolt for the exits the second the overtime clincher is scored.

That’s what makes the reaction of Canucks fans in the arena so unique, and so fascinating to me. Here’s a team that came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup last season, a team that has finished first overall to win the President’s Trophy two seasons in a row, a team that a lot of fans placed “Cup or bust” expectations on. And here that team was, falling in five games to a No. 8 seed , becoming the first President’s Trophy winner to be eliminated in less than six games in the first round.

And the fans cheered.

Think about the teams, no matter the sport or league, that you are most passionate about. Imagine coming as close as the Canucks did last season. Imagine being the best team in the league two years in a row. Imagine the anticipation of thinking time and time again that this was finally your year. And imagine the disappointment, heartbreak, frustration and downright anger of an early exit in sudden death. Do you think you’d be able to turn around and applaud that team just minutes later?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I could.

I don’t know whether to call the fans in Vancouver on Sunday night classy, or to say they let an underachieving team get off too easy. Whatever the correct assessment, I just know it must have taken a lot for those fans to stand and cheer that team after all they’ve been through.

Now here are your morning links:

  • The Canucks are now headed into a summer of turmoil (ESPN). The most obvious question, of course, being whether or not Roberto Luongo has played his last game as a Canuck.
  • Canucks fans wave the crying towel (The Province).
  • What the Canucks’ elimination means for downtown Vancouver businesses (CNKW News Talk 980).
  • Daniel Alfredsson is likely to suit up for the Senators’ potential series clinching Game 6 vs. the Rangers tonight (Ottawa Citizen). The captain says he is “hopeful.”
  • Chris Neil is reportedly safe from Brendan Shanahan for his hit on Brian Boyle (Puck Daddy). I know Tortorella compared the hit to Raffi Torres’ mugging of Marian Hossa, and I understand why his opinion might be slightly biased, but come on, this hit doesn’t even scratch the surface of the Torres head-shot.
  • Sidney Crosby reflects on the Penguins’ series loss to the Flyers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
  • Where it all went wrong for the Penguins (CBS Sports).
  • The Bruins/Capitals series is as even as a series can get (The Morning Call). It’s the first series in Stanley Cup Playoffs history to have six straight games decided by one goal.
  • Coyotes’ closing woes strike again (ESPN).
  • A writer asks an important question, what about the refs in the Torres hit? (Calgary Sun).
  • Some cross-sport debate now. What was worse, Raffi Torres’ brutal airborne hit on Marian Hossa, or Metta World Peace’s wound up elbow to the head of James Harden? (Newsradio 620). Keep in mind that both are repeat offenders in their respective leagues.
  • Mike Babcock hopes the Red Wings make a splash in free agency (