Last time I wrote about the Canucks, I worried I might be going too far with my enthusiasm. As exciting as the Kings series was, and as scary-good as the team looked towards the end of it, it was after all just one series. I thought I was overdoing it, until City Hall decided to make me look meek and mild-mannered in comparison. In a decision made by Gregor Robertson to cash in on the team’s success while making the rest of us look like douchebags, overeager politicians declared Tuesday, April 23rd to be “Canucks Day” in Vancouver.
Robertson reasoned that “it’s never too early to have the Canucks flag at City Hall.” It’s also never too late. Instead of prematurely blowing your wad after one series, wouldn’t it be better to salute the team after their season is over? To thank them for diverting us from our troubles and taking us on a ride this year, however long that ride may last? I mean, what now. Where do you go from here? What do you do should they beat Chicago and advance to the Conference Final to face Detroit? What if they go all the way? It’s like the anti-limbo: how much higher can you raise the bar?
The internet had a field day with it, and rightfully so. It is embarrassing. Journalists of all stripes took sarcastic shots at the city and its fans, culminating in this ultimate trolling attempt: the proclamation that Vancouver has the worst fans in all of Canada — even including the Jets and Nordiques to make the title sting a bit more.
Yes, because some tween girls held signs to support their dreamboat, we are all in love with Todd Bertuzzi. Because some guy held a laser pointer, we all… Oh forget it. To try and dismantle that article piece by piece would be pointless. It would imply that it holds up on its own without my deconstruction. I’d hope that the sweeping generalities on display are obvious to anyone, but in regards to the “Luuuu” thing, I’ll say this: clearly the author is not a CFL fan. Luongo is the most hated goalie in the league? Yeah, I’m sure everyone east of the Rockies just can’t stand the guy for having the gall to win gold for this country after Brodeur faltered. Well, maybe one person. But enough of that.
I will admit, this city has its share of bad fans. Awful ones, even. There are those who hold Luongo to such a ridiculously high standard you’d think this team had a long history of Hall of Fame goaltenders, and not would-be “Goalies of the Future!” There are others who will never give the Dangerfield twins the respect they deserve, who can’t wait to harp on them after so much as one quiet period. There are others still who are so out of touch with the game they think Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya are still the best players in it. I have met and talked with these people, and they have annoyed me. I have also taken their money in office pools.
Several times I’ve considered giving up on talking about hockey with strangers in this city, as it’s not worth the risk of irritation. Yet every time I get close to that, I’ll meet someone who proves me wrong. Someone who can laugh with me about our inept history. Someone else who remembers the night Lee Goren scored a game-winning goal and was first star of the game (when not even NHL.com properly remembers this!), or who can wax nostalgic on the goaltending styles of one Martin Brochu. Maybe it’s an old-timer who still wags their head thinking about the time the team drafted J.J. Daigneault in the first round, and he hobbled to the podium on crutches. These people have been through a lot, and have supported their team through the worst of times. How else can you explain the sellout streak the club currently enjoys, when for the better part of Alain Vigneault’s tenure the team employed the most suffocatingly boring brand of hockey this side of New Jersey?
The truth is, every team has awful fans. All of them. And the more fans a team has, the higher number of awful fans there will be. That’s just basic probability. We all know an insufferable Leafs fan, or two, or twenty. You think the Habs don’t have terrible fans? This is a city that rioted in the streets after a game that they won! In the first round, no less! A team that was once my second favourite in the league, only to plummet down the list during the Summer of Sundin. For months on end we had to endure cries that Sundin would only go “to a contender”, a “sure thing”. We were told that the Kostitsyns were better than the Sedins, that Price would soon be better than Luongo, and other such follies. It made me want to hate the team to spite the fans, and I had to laugh when they were swept in the playoffs at the end of the year.
But this is foolishness. Les Canadiens are the same team no matter who cheers for them, and these playoffs have reminded me why I love them so much. Their fans are even more notoriously fickle than us west-coasters, but if they want to boo their own goalie, that’s their business. Go right ahead. The players are still the same players, and not every fan is like that.
Sometimes marketing people come up with terrible ideas. It happens. I haven’t met a single person in this city who thought “The 7th Man” ceremony was anything short of awful. I’d be wrong to assume that the people of Ottawa aren’t utterly ashamed of this, and equally wrong to hold it against them.
My point is that as bad as the fans in Montreal can look from the outside, my experience in that city was completely different. Slap a Latendresse shirt on my back and they were warm, friendly people who took me in with open arms. I could say the same for the fans in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and yes, even Vancouver. There are bad apples everywhere, so why let them spoil the bunch?
If City Hall wants to jump on the bandwagon while the team is still winning, that’s their prerogative. Just don’t think it reflects on me. I’ll be cheering this team just as loudly should they be eliminated as I am now that they’re in the thick of it, and there are plenty of others just like me. Knowledgeable, reasonable people who love their team like good Canadians should — for whom fandom is a 12-months-a-year gig. Each fanbase has a bit of stupid in it. We’ve all got egg on our face. It’s time to step off the high horse and realize that.