On June 14th, 1994, I experienced a devastation that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
That fateful day, the Vancouver Canucks played against the New York Rangers in their second Stanley Cup Final since the club’s NHL expansion in 1970. Some thought my beloved ‘Nucks to be already doomed in the first period: the Rangers had an early two-goal lead. Nevertheless, the Canucks’ fearless leader, Trevor Linden, bearing the letter “C” and the number 16, scored a short-handed goal early in the second period, restoring my faith in the game and melodramatically, in humanity itself.
It wasn’t enough. The Rangers celebrated a 3-2 victory, and subsequent Stanley Cup win. The name “Mark Messier” became associated with a man I could never forgive.
Season after season, for the next seventeen years, I held my breath, watched, and waited patiently for redemption. When the Canucks’ 2010-2011 season broke club records, earned Division and Conference titles and the President’s Trophy, I truly believed the time had come. This was it!
Well, it wasn’t. The Canucks advanced to a seven game Stanley Cup Final to be manhandled by the Boston Bruins and shut out of a victory in the 4-0 deciding game. After the game, the streets of Vancouver were chaotic with rioters protesting the loss, and many simply embracing the opportunity for anarchic behavior. It was a disgrace, and no self-respecting sports fan would have advocated such behavior. As the loss threatened to drive us apart, the very next morning, thousands of Vancouverites volunteered to board up windows, clean up garbage, and work together to restore what once was, a mere 24 hours before.
The night of the game, I was in New York City, watching in anticipation at a West Village sports bar filled to the brim with Bostonians sporting only black and yellow. As they celebrated their victory and screamed profanities in the face of the sole Vancouverite there – me – I shed a single tear, picked myself up, and told myself the one thing every sports fan must, albeit begrudgingly, tell themselves to survive: “There’s always next year.”
As a diehard fan of the Vancouver Canucks, I know this might mean another seventeen years, but I will continue to watch year in and year out, in hopes that my patience is indeed, a virtue.
After what felt like an eternity, the NHL lockout is officially over. Today, that "next year," begins: It's the Vancouver Canucks' season home opener against the Anaheim Ducks. I couldn't be more excited.
image via canucks.com
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