Being a Vancouver Canucks fan ain’t easy. But I made the decision early, and here is how I deal with it.
I made a mistake as an eight-year-old.
It wasn’t my last, but it may have been my worst.
I became a Vancouver Canucks fan.
This is obviously a hyperbole. But things fused to our egos are too easily exaggerated.
Every decade or so the Canucks charge towards the Stanley Cup, only to slide off a cliff at the last moment.
In 1982, I watched the Canucks unexpectedly reach the Stanley Cup Final. It was glorious. I fell in love with Captain Stan “Steamer” Smyl, Thomas Gradin and Dave “Tiger” Williams. And, of course, before there was the magnificent King Henrik there was the shorter, fatter and equally magnificent King Richard. In 1982, I watched what happens when an underdog meets a truly great team. It sucked. I was excited, heartbroken and inappropriately hopeful for next year.
During that Stanley Cup Final, I became a Vancouver Canucks fan.
Every decade or so the Canucks charge towards the Stanley Cup, only to slide off a cliff at the last moment, or crash into an insurmountable wall. Every time this happens, new fans pile on to our dreary vessel, confused by the temporary lights of success. As I settle comfortably into middle age, during the middle of this unremarkable Canucks season I’ve decided to create a guide for fans, new and old, who have chosen, or have been forced, to love the Vancouver Canucks.
Because I love lists – see Umberto Eco for a full explanation of our cultural fascination with list making – I will describe this guide in 5 steps.
1. Calm the *expletive* down.
We will win a Cup. And we will NOT riot.
Like life, being a Canucks fan is a marathon and not a sprint. Small victories lose their importance in the long shot of life’s action, and tragedies become comedies over time. Although I will always hear the ringing of the crossbar during the seventh game of the 1994 Cup Final, this wasn’t a stolen moment or an opportunity lost. This was a glorious run at a prize we’ve never earned.
The 1994 Canucks were not a great team, nor a team of destiny. They were a mirror of the place they represented. Like Vancouver, they were barely grown up, with delusions of grandeur. They were good in 1994, and they were good for many years after. Greatness has always eluded us. I promise we will get there.
We will win a Cup.
And when it happens, we will not riot. I repeat: We will NOT riot. But, it is going to take a little longer. Be patient. Relax. Calm the *expletive* down. (You’ll notice I didn’t bring up 2011. My focus on that memory is still too sharp. It isn’t comedy. It might be a tragic comedy. It’s still too soon).
2. The Present is not the whole story.
I once had a friend ask me in all seriousness whether Alexandre Burrows or Pavel Bure was the most exciting Canuck of all time. I thought I was being punked.
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Sure, biting can be fun. Who doesn’t enjoy a little slap, tickle and nibble, but “the most exciting Canuck”!?! He was a new fan. His whole history was months deep. This isn’t a slag. This isn’t a dismissal of all those younger and newer than me. This is a reminder that history matters and excitement must be tempered.
Go ahead and learn about Orland Kurtenbach and Roger Neilson. If you want to be a fan, learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of the thing you are cheering for. You should be delusional in your hopes and expectations, not about the facts of your affection. And, by the way, Bure is the most exciting Canuck of all time by miles and kilometres and leagues and fathoms and every other measurement of distance.
3. The Perfect Defencemen are large, hairy and immobile.
See: Harold Snepts and Dave Babych.
4. We suck at drafting.
I am not going to wallow in the Stajanov, Antoski, Herter past. We can focus on 2007 and 2010, which saw our draft picks play a grand total of zero NHL games. Even our current hopeful class of prospects will never live up to their costs.
Bo Horvat is a fine player. He will make an excellent two-way second line centre for many years. He is not worth a bona fide number one, NHL All-Star goaltender who is making a truly awful team in New Jersey somewhat relevant.
This is just something you need to accept. Janik Beichler could have added this to his list of reasons why tanking is a bad idea. We suck at drafting anyway.
5. Hockey is just a fun diversion from the fact we all grow old and die.
No. Seriously. That is the end game.
Enjoy the team for what it is. Currently, we are a mediocre team of limited possibilities. We might sneak into the playoffs. We could win a round. But mostly we wait.
We wait for the prospects to mature. We wait for Markstrom to become a number one, or Demko to be signed. We wait for Shinkaruk and Virtanen and Horvat. We wait. We hope.
And, we know the ebb and flow of life and death will catch up to us as it catches up to the twins’ hockey careers. All of life’s hopes and dreams play out in this silly little game we love too much.
Whether we are new fans or old, we are fans of the Vancouver Canucks. We will cheer. We will sigh. We will wait for the inevitable. I just hope the inevitable Cup win happens before the other inevitable event on my horizon.
How do you cope with being a Canucks fan? Let me know in the comments section below!