It’s true: I’m rooting for the Vancouver Canucks. Have been since day one of the playoffs. It’s got nothing to do with geography, and nothing to do with the fact they’re a Canadian team. By my count, there are only five Canadian hockey teams: the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Winnipeg Jets. The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators aren’t from Canada; they’re from hell. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve got no problems rooting for an American team. I did in 1994, when the New York Rangers won the Cup. After the Leafs were eliminated by the Canucks, of course. I cheered on the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, and the Anaheim Ducks, lord knows, in 2007.
On Twitter, I mostly follow Leafs fans. And a handful of Boston Bruins fans. They all, with intense passion, hate the Canucks. Everyone – from Krys Barch to Dave Bolland, who very creatively called them “sort of like a girl,” – hates Vancouver. And I’ll be honest: it’s that very hatred that makes it easier for me to root for Vancouver. It’s the contrarian in me. And, hey, I’ve got nothing against the west coast. I’ve visited Vancouver a couple of times, and love the city. The mountains: so pretty! The people I’ve met from Vancouver have been all class, and I’ve often toyed not-so-seriously with the notion of one day moving out there. I know, they hate Toronto. Who cares. Who doesn’t hate Toronto?
As for the Canucks, I actually do enjoy them. They’re my backup. Have been for years. The Sedins have a lot do with that. I love those two creepy bastards. I fell for the Swedish twins a long time ago, and still wonder what might have been had they become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2009. While my flirtation with the Canucks was certainly aided and abetted by Mats Sundin’s short fling with Vancouver, dominant Swedish players really do it for me. That’s just the way it is.
There’s also Ryan Kesler. I remember, years ago, when the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to an offer sheet, thinking, “The Flyers are out of their goddamned minds; Kesler can’t play goal.” Turns out, the Flyers were right. Kesler’s turned into a dominant player: a 40-goal scorer who can play, and play well, in any situation. Also: I wasn’t around last February, when Kesler pissed off our entire country as a member of Team USA, so he’s never actually given me, personally, a reason to hate him. The way I feel about Kesler is much like how I feel about one Pernell Karl Subban: I wish he was on my team.
I also happen to be a Roberto Luongo apologist. It’s the goalie in me. Even though I think it’s ridiculous that a goalie with a career .919 SV% in the regular season and the playoffs has apologists. All those years in Florida, making all those saves, while never getting a sniff of the postseason, endeared him to me. Finally, when he became a Canuck, and made the dance, his legacy was destroyed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Pulled in a pivotal game six match-up just a month ago, Luongo, the same goalie who came on in relief to get Canada to the World Cup final in 2004, and who backstopped Canada to Olympic Gold in 2010, in overtime, no less, apparently doesn’t have the mental fortitude to win hockey’s biggest prize. Right. Luongo’s endured. That’s what I love about him. He’s dealt with all the criticism and is now only two wins shy of winning the Stanley Cup. Luongo’s the goaltending equivalent of Mike Modano: no respect, until he wins it all. And perhaps that’s the way it should be.
Finally: Manny Malhotra. He’s of Indian descent. I’m of Indian descent. And there really isn’t much more to it than that. He’s representing for more than a billion of us, and that’s why he’s one of my favourite players in the game. I still can’t believe the centre-starved Maple Leafs threw $9-million over three years at Colby Armstrong, while Malhotra signed for three years and $7.5 million. An extra million and a half bucks for truculence, I suppose. Anyway, there’s nothing I want more than for “Malhotra,” as Indian a surname as you’ll find, to be etched on the Stanley Cup for all eternity.
This brings me to the second half of this post: Why your reasons for hating the Canucks are, well, a touch insane.
Look, if Jim Hughson’s a homer, what in the hell does that make Joe Bowen? I don’t care that Bowen wouldn’t be calling nationally televised Stanley Cup finals games on CBC, should the Leafs ever make it that far, which, let’s be honest, they probably won’t. That’s not the point. The point is: Hughson’s a B.C. boy, has been an award-winning hockey sportscaster for as long as I’ve been alive, and is about to watch the team he’s covered for the majority of his career perhaps win a Stanley Cup. You’d be yelling “Great. Save. Luongo!” at the top of your bloody lungs, too. Get over it.
Vancouver Canucks fans: they’re annoying. I get it. Really annoying; the worst. But they’re not the first and only team with “douchebag fans,” and “bandwagon fans,” and they won’t be the last. You know who was annoying last year? Montreal Canadiens fans. And they didn’t even reach the finals. Do you remember Ottawa Senators fans in the spring of 2007? Of course you do. Bottom line: no one, and I mean no one, will be more annoying than Leafs fans should Toronto ever make the
Stanley Cup finals playoffs. Parades all day, every day. Let them have theirs. We’ll certainly have ours.
That’s not to say that Canucks fans, and the Canucks themselves, haven’t brought the hate upon themselves. When Raffi Torres is out there headhunting Brent Seabrook, when Aaron Rome makes the dumbest decision of his hockey life in drilling Nathan Horton, and when Vancouver employs the likes of Max Lapierre, yes, I can see where the hatred stems from. But the narrative that the Canucks are the dirtiest team to ever grace the ice, and the only team to ever dive, whine, and, well, bite, is wrong. Period. I certainly understand that part of being a fan of any team, in any sport, is being a hypocrite. I’m the same Maple Leafs fan that cheered and adored Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker, Dave Manson, and, yes, even Bryan Marchment, when they wore the blue and white. Every team’s got ‘em. It just so happens that it’s all good when they’re wearing the sweater you’ve chosen as your favourite.
Both teams have long-suffering fan bases. At least one’s drought will end. And I’m all for long droughts ending.
Image credit: Geoff Penn Photography