The Vancouver Canucks and the Fair-weather fan

I’ve been a hockey fan for as long as I can remember—and a Canucks fan for even longer (ignore the space-time continuum slip). With a Pavel Bure “Russian Rocket” poster strewn across my wall at the age of four I thought being good at the game took nothing more than speaking broken English.

All that changed when I hit the ice at eight. The ill-fitting pads, dull skates and untaped stick I sported couldn’t be overcome. No matter how many times I muttered “да” or told my parents “I hef too pleh baeter,” the game never came easy to me. Maybe my coaches weren’t great at tying my skates properly or, more likely, I wasn’t an oversized farm boy who grew up on protein and character buildin’.

So, as I watch this generation of ‘Nucks take to the ice and achieve modest success I revel in my concussion-free existence as a thought typer. Who needs that $800K a few weeks after high school grad anyway?

But enough lamenting about my narrowly missing that life. I’ll settle on EA Sports’ version of getting drafted first overall, recording 102 points in my first year and scoring the golden goal at the Olympics on home soil through my 52-inch screen in the basement.

The bottom line is: professional sports are astronomically tough to crack into and even harder to excel in. Especially in the modern NHL, where a salary cap bars teams from outspending their competition regardless of how many island-sized yachts their owner has. Personally, I’m a huge fan of parity in sport. Watching the same team easily win year after year gets predictable and I might as well watch basketball.

What? LeBron’s made an appearance in five-consecutive NBA Finals. Meanwhile, last year’s defending Stanley Cup Champions failed to qualify for the post-season. No disrespect to basketball, I’m 5’8 and love it.

Which is what brings me to this blog’s raison d’etre: the average Canucks fan.

If the Springs of ’94 and ’11 are any indication, we live in a city that’s filled with either the most passionate sports fan this side of soccer hooliganism or—more likely—many who don’t know enough about hockey to not LOSE THEIR SHIT after a blown call.

Whether the scapegoat be Luongo or the Sedins, ‘fans’ seem incapable of recognizing that anything short of a championship can be viewed as a successful season. This past April proved that realistic expectations do not compute with the common fan, as a six-game series loss to Calgary suggested to many that EVERYONE SHOULD BE FIRED AND TRADED AND CRUCIFIED after a 102-point season.

Shortly before that 7-4 loss, the city wore the team’s colours proudly in the midst of a winning streak. Radim Vrbata, Ryan Miller and Nick Bonino were considered flawless pickups. The Sedins proved they still got it. Eddie Lack was sport’s answer to Stephen Merchant. Then, when the going got tough, all that was forgotten and the fair-weather nature of ‘Nucks Nation took hold.

I get it, this city hasn’t iced a championship team since before time was invented (1915). And, I’ll admit the team’s half-assed attempt at rebuilding on the fly won’t produce the long-term results a proper rebuild would. But cities like Calgary don’t find themselves getting caught in a rut about a six-season playoff drought like we do. Is there an air of cynicism clouding this city or is it a cultural thing?

While I don’t see a Stanley Cup coming to this city for some time, I don’t understand the anger you see on the casual fan’s face whenever the team’s down a goal. Not to mention the curse-laden freak-outs that dominated the airwaves after last year’s playoff exit.

I guess the point is: it’s just a game. Sure, the ‘Nucks haven’t won a cup in their 45 year history and probably won’t for a few years to come. With the Ducks, Flames, Kings and Oilers looking to make the Pacific Division ridiculously difficult for years to come I don’t see another riot until at least 2024.

Sure, young guys like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Cole Cassels give reason to hope. But let’s all remember the Canucks play in a market where fans’ll show up no matter how competitive the team is. Trevor Linden can sweet talk the city all he wants but not even the presence of Vancouver’s official boyfriend can affect the power of the almighty dollar.

As for me, I’ll still follow each and every game with the passion Rose held for Jack in Titanic. But, like her, I won’t compromise my spot on that floating door for a team with little financial incentive to win. With a net worth of $300 million, let’s not spill our TV dinners over another botched Power Play.

(Submit equally witty and thought-provoking sign off here)

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