Plebeian Paradise

by Cono Spitale

I was in plebeian paradise Saturday watching the Vancouver Canucks rake Toronto Maple Leafs into a manageable pile of also-rans in waltzing to a 4-1 win at Rogers Arena.

My friend and I sat in the cheap seats – an LOL misnomer here- as they were $130 each, the premium you pay for watching a Canucks game in Vancouver and topping it up 30% when it’s a primo opponent like the Leafs.

Watching a game amongst the plebeians (and when did it become such a dirty word? it’s the “people” dudes!) offers a little different perspective than in the press box or the luxury boxes. Here, you get to actually hear what the real fans are saying from play to play and every ‘dead air’ moment in-between.

For example, when Canucks’ goalie Roberto Luongo was introduced as the first star and skated Nero-like, since we’re talking Roman empire imagery, on the ice the fans at home might have mistaken the “Looooos” from “booooos”. There were a few fans around me who were angry he was the first star as they felt he did little all night and then whiffed on a 40-foot unscreened shot from Leafs’ Mikhail Brabovski.

The people’s choice, at least in this corner of the barn, was winger Jannik Hansen, the Canucks Great Dane, who scored a goal and assist and looked like a confident modern-day Hamlet all night when he was on the ice.

As some may remember from the last post in this tiny corner of cyberland, at a  Leafs-Canucks game in Vancouver it is impossible to tell who the home team is. Well it was true again last night with nearly half the jersey-wearers in the crowd sporting Leafs’ ones. Throughout the game, where I was sitting and elsewhere, chants of “Go Leafs Go” would cascade through Rogers Arena. Seconds after, the Canuck ‘contingent’ would scream out “leafs Suck”.

On a continental cultural note here, it would be dangerous engaging in such courageous behaviour if one would cheer against the home team in say Philadelphia or Oakland. In case you’re wondering, New Yorkers are pretty cool in these matters and generally give props to the cheeree for having the jam to do it. In hockey circles in the southern United States – with the exception of Los Angeles, it’s not confusing at all as they mostly don’t know who the home team is and often don’t care.

Exiting the arena, walking side by side with “plebs”, you catch sound-bites from fans conversations of  various moments in the game. Often they are mental snap-shots of a moment in the contest when a player did something extraordinary that didn’t make it to the score sheet or game summary. One fan after the game was telling his friend about a move Leafs’ embattled forward Phil Kessel made in undressing a Canuck defenceman at the blue line and just missing the net with a laser-like wrist shot… “was that cool how he got by Hamhuis and rifled that shot at the net!”

Black Hawks’ owner Rocky Wirtz knows the value of sitting with the people. He’s made a custom of it at Chicago’s United Center since turning around the franchise by always getting first-hand unfiltered what the populi are ‘voxing’.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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