January 19, 2013

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Hockey: Melodramatic Reflections and Looking Forward

I can’t complain about my childhood. My parents were always (and still are) encouraging and supportive. I love my older brother even though he has spent much of his life throwing his gross socks at me. I grew up in a suburb outside of Vancouver, the most beautiful city in Canada (maybe the world, but I'm biased), with a proverbial white picket fence and a view of the mountains and the water. But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems.

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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  1. As a fellow Vancouverite and Canuck fan. this post is amazing! haha

  2. I remember watching that game from Southern Utah on a picnic blanket in front of the tv in 1994. I wholly believe we were the only Vancouverites and die-hard Canuck fans in the state at that time!! And as I was in Vancouver for the next and downtown the next day... we might need a few years to calm down a little. Whatever, go Nucks go!

  3. I was living in Vancouver during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals... what an amazing atmosphere.... until that last night. It was so great to see the city pitch in to clean up. Vancouver is amazing and even though I love my home city (Halifax) Vancouver will always have a special place in my heart. I miss the seawall terribly! Love your blog!