Vancouver Canucks: How to Get Fans to Buy In Again

Jan 25, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; General view of fans during the second period of the game between the Vancouver Canucks against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; General view of fans during the second period of the game between the Vancouver Canucks against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Vancouver Canucks fans aren’t fickle. We are confused and ashamed. And tired of trying to justify to ourselves and others why we continue to support a team that regularly makes us feel like that.

To move forward in a positive direction with the full support of their fans, Vancouver Canucks management would do well to reflect on where they went wrong and take immediate steps to remedy the situation. The past weeks have shown there is potential to repair the relationship between management and fans.

First, an in-depth look at where the Canucks’ management went wrong this past season in three big ways.

  1. Lack of a clear vision
  2. Lack of cohesive, consistent identity
  3. Lack of strong leadership

1. Lack of a Clear Vision

What was the Vancouver Canucks’ vision for the future this season? Everyone and their mother knew the vision going forward should be a rebuild! However, the vision communicated to fans was confusing, conflicting and lacking the consistency necessary for Canucks fans to buy in.

Management was scared to say rebuild because they thought fans wouldn’t pay to see the losing that often goes along with a rebuild. Ex-head coach Willie Desjardins didn’t say what his vision was but many of his decisions made us wonder if he even knew himself. He certainly wasn’t giving the young guys enough ice time to indicate a rebuild was in the works.

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Management is wrong; fans will eagerly pay to see a rebuild, even if the team loses a lot. The fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs seemed to be on board this season. It’s exciting to see new skill and raw talent of upcoming players. It’s exciting to see them make mistakes! No one gets excited about the Sedins anymore after 17 years.

We want to see hope for the future, we want to speculate what a team’s potential is. Instead, we watched other teams skate circles around Vancouver’s old guys and to have the new players get benched and stay benched indefinitely when they make mistakes.

Rebuilding is the only sensible course of action at this point and not committing or capitalizing on that is utter nonsense. Fans want to see where the team is going, not where it’s already been.

2. Lack of a Cohesive, Consistent Identity

In a sense, this is related to a team’s vision, which may explain why this past season, the Canucks had no identity other than ‘the team that is kind of weak but at least they are honourable?’ (thank you, Sedins?). That clearly wasn’t a winning identity. Maybe, just maybe, the Canucks’ identity was ‘the team that is wildly inconsistent and thus unpredictable’. In some sense, this occasionally worked to the team’s advantage because other teams didn’t know what to expect.

Other NHL teams had much stronger team identities and it seemed to work quite well for them.

  • Edmonton Oilers (playoff team) – ‘the team with the next Gretzky, the playmaker’
  • Toronto Maple Leafs (playoff team) – ‘the team with the fast, young, skilled guys’
  • Philadelphia Flyers (middle of the league) – ‘the team that is still the Broad Street Bullies’
  • Colorado Avalanche (very VERY bottom of the league with an untouchable 48 points) – ‘the team that is tanking so hard’

The Canuck Way editor Janik Beichler said it well in his piece outlining the lack of team identity among the Canucks’ team earlier this season:

"“There is one thing all successful sports teams have in common: they do their own thing, no matter what the opposition does. They act, they don’t react. When there is no clear identity, teams constantly change things up. Coaches realise things aren’t going well, so they react and make changes. An entire season can quickly become one of reactions and quick fixes. You aren’t going to win that way.”"

Sound familiar? Desjardins changed the lineups so many times I’m surprised he didn’t try splitting up the Sedin twins! How did the Canucks go through an entire season without figuring out the first line?!

As Beichler also stated, the Canucks have to choose and build an identity. This ‘transition period’ (aka rebuild) and change in coaching staff is the perfect opportunity to do so.

3. Lack of Strong Leadership

The leadership of the Canucks organization sucks. The following were supposed to be leaders of this organization in various capacities:

*no longer with the Canucks

Leaders must be on the same page in order for an organization to move steadfastly in the direction of the vision. Additionally, there should be one ultimate leader. I suspect that neither of these were happening with the Canucks. Perhaps this played into the decision to relieve Desjardins.

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However, the poor, at times highly confusing, past season likely can’t be attributed to one person; rather the blame should be put on a combination of all parties.

Theoretically, the leaders should be able to convincingly sell this vision to the levels below them. The actions and decisions of the leaders should be in line with this vision. They should be able to get everyone on the team to buy in. And when I say team, I mean every part of the team including the fans!

You can’t have leaders pulling the team in different directions – you’ll get nowhere. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll move very slowly but not before losing thousands of fans and consequently much-needed revenue. Therefore, someone in the leadership team (anyone, please!) needs to step up and lead us towards the only sensible vision – rebuild.

Moving Forward

Recent developments in the last week have shown a glimpse of an hopeful though far from certain future in which both management and fans are united to support a team they are proud of. Linden has finally acknowledged the divide that currently exists between fans and management.

Even the newly-hired head coach of the Canucks, Travis Green, hinted at the divisive sentiments among Canucks fans at the press conference announcing his hiring by stating:

"“If I could offer one message to the Canucks fans, it’s that we share the same goal: to have a winning team that’s exciting to watch, one that you’re proud of, one that you can call your team. It’s not an overnight process though, I know that. The work begins now and I’m committed to building the culture that’s going to provide a winning team.”"

Though some may question the decision to hire Green in the first place, the words uttered by Green and Linden are baby steps in the right direction for getting fans back on board. However, actions speak louder than words — and we will be watching.


Management must acknowledge that fans are part of the team! We buy the merchandise! We buy the tickets! We provide a large chunk of the revenue! We provide the atmosphere!

If your vision sucks or doesn’t make sense, we won’t buy in.

If the identity of the team is inconsistent or doesn’t make sense, we won’t buy in.

If the leaders of the team have conflicting visions or don’t act according to the vision or make decisions that don’t make sense, we won’t buy in.

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I am absolutely not saying ‘cater to the fans’; I’m saying stop trying to buy us… we don’t want your free beer, your free food or your fancy flashing beer glasses. We want a team with a strong vision, identity and leaders.

Give us hope and we will gladly hand over our money.