But then, you're not the Vancouver Canucks.
You haven't endured what soon will be 14 successive sub-.500 regular seasons, dressed in uniform colors reminsicent of a frontier bordello. You didn't raise fans' expectations by getting hot in the playoffs and making the Stanley Cup finals in 1982, and then failing to get past the first round for the rest of the decade.
If you were the Vancouver Canucks, and you were lying in front of the TV late at night eating Chee-tos, and a guy said he'd tell you how to make a fortune buying real estate with no money down, you'd dial the 800 number. You've been in the NHL for 20 years making minimum wage, successwise. You're desperate.
Even now, Canucks general manager Pat Quinn refuses to second-guess himself on the get-rich-quick gamble that sunk Vancouver's season. His Smythe Division team, which hosts the Flyers tonight, is in a last-ditch battle to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention, trailing fourth-place Los Angeles by 10 points with 14 games left.
A year ago, the Canucks seemed to be a team on the rise. They weren't perfect, but they had pluck and a strong defense, and they took eventual Stanley Cup champion Calgary to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, losing the seventh game in overtime.
All they seemed to need was a little more offense. So when the Soviet Union indicated it would allow several of its older national team stars to play in the NHL, Quinn whipped out the checkbook. He signed Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov, two-thirds of the famed KLM line (Sergei Makarov went to Calgary).
The move, and the Canucks' season, have been intertwined disasters.
"The city was wired up, based on our finish last year, and maybe didn't have a good enough look at us as a team, and predicted all kinds of great things for us," Quinn said yesterday as he clipped the end off a fungo-bat- sized cigar. "They'd waited a long time. Very frustrated hockey fans. They
somehow had it in their mind that because we gave Calgary (its toughest playoff test) that we were the next-best team to Calgary. Of course, it was a poor assessment."
Krutov, who will be 30 in June, reported with 212 pounds packed on his 5-9 frame and no idea of how to play the more physical, tighter-checking North American game. Larionov, also 29, a 5-9, 165-pound center, has been hampered by injuries and by his lack of size. He has been a respectable performer but not a savior, totaling 37 points in 50 games. Krutov, scratched from Monday's victory over Toronto, has been a flop, totaling 30 points in 49 games and seeming unwilling or unable to mix with his teammates.
At first, Quinn and coach Bob McCammon, both former Flyers coaches, talked of an adjustment period for the Soviets. Eventually, it became apparent that more was involved. Last season's sound defensive corps began to show signs of age. Trevor Linden, a 30-goal scorer as an 18-year-old rookie last season, was switched back and forth between center and right wing and slumped badly. The Canucks dropped to last in the league in penalty killing, and they stayed there. Their power play ranks next-to-last, as does their record.
"We tried to live with what they (the Soviets) were doing and play around it," McCammon said. "As a result, our tempo wasn't good, our style of play wasn't good."
The veteran Canucks, who had helped McCammon and Quinn instill a strong work ethic despite not seeing many rewards from their work, had to deal with Krutov and Larionov being the highest-paid players on the team, at $375,000 a year apiece.
"I'm sure that's a factor," McCammon said. "It shouldn't be. I don't think players have a problem with anybody making any amount of money, if they produce . . . The Soviets had a tough time adjusting, both socially and on the ice, and when they (the Canucks) saw they weren't going to lead us out of the wilderness, I'm sure there was some animosity. That's human nature. But I don't think it was to the degree it hurt the hockey team."
The Canucks have been a little better lately, buoyed by youngsters such as Linden, 21-year-old right wing Dave Capuano, and 20-year-old center-right wing Rob Murphy. Next fall's theme will be the youth movement.
It is unclear whether McCammon will be around that long. He finished second to Montreal's Pat Burns in the Coach of the Year balloting last season and was given a two-year contract extension. But now there are reports of discontented players.
Also, Quinn has the OK to coach the team now, after being banned from coaching by NHL president John Ziegler three years ago. The action was taken when Quinn tried to finish the 1986-87 season as the Kings' coach, despite having secretly signed on as the Canucks' GM, effective at the end of the season.
"In fairness to our coaching staff, they aren't alone, and shouldn't be pointed to as the reason this team's not doing well," Quinn said. " . . . It wouldn't, to me, have been the right answer to have made a change in our coaching. I don't think it would have made a significant difference, at this point in our growth, to change coaches."
That might not sound like an iron-clad endorsement, but McCammon takes it as such.
"If the team plays as well as it can play and there's no question in the management's mind, there should be no question in anybody else's mind," McCammon said.
Meanwhile, in the Canucks souvenir shop next door to the team offices at the Pacific Coliseum, the Krutov-Larionov T-shirt, with a silk-screened color photo of the two Soviets smiling during their first Vancouver press conference, no longer costs $21.98. It has been marked down to $9.95. "All sales final," the sign says.