Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

The Canucks
Clobber Samson

"I don't know about you, but if you're a fan of any other team in the NHL, you've probably always had a dislike for the Canucks. So why would you cheer for them now, unless you know someone on the team?"

Darryl G. Smart, the Tillsonburg News

Here we go again folks. Another year whereby a Canadian team has reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Hence, there has begun a religious Bible-punching fervor rising across the great white north cajoling one and all to cheer for 'Canada's Team'. To even consider any other alternative will be deemed close to being unpatriotic. If we had the equivalent of the US's 'Patriot Act' there would be a fine designated therein for any Canadian hockey fan found wearing a foreign team sweater, waving that foreign enemy team's flag, or, mercy and God forbid, yelling "Go (insert Boston or Tampa Bay here) Go" - that, my fellow Canadians, would be deemed 'treason'.

Mr. Smart is right on the money. Why on earth would anyone expect hockey fans from Calgary or Edmonton to suddenly become Canuck fans simply because of a shared geography called Canada? 

I recall receiving more than a bit of flak here in Lotusland when it was Calgary (2004) and then Edmonton (2006) going for the famous silver mug. Some long-suffering Canuckleheads here had grown up hating the Oilers and the Flames. Dart boards in basement rec rooms came replete with Flames or Oilers logos. The locals were therefore having none of my Reganesque 'win one for the gipper' rallying cry. 
Now that the skate is on the other foot, I will suffer no great disappointment should people in Calgary or Edmonton, or anywhere in Canada, not start waving white towels when the Canucks hit the Rogers Arena pond next Wednesday. You must earn support by other means, by other reasons than country of origin.

Let's face it, with or without a face mask, there will be many Canadians who will cheer for the other guys due to the Canadian content element. Although on that score all three teams remaining have an equal number of Canadian players. 
That said, it may be less about quantity. People love Marty St. Louis no matter what team they cheer for in the regular season. Add Lecavalier and Stamkos, Rolie the Goalie. Steve Yzerman as GM and I can understand why some Canadians, many of whom live at least part of the year in Florida, would cheer for the Bolts.
The Boston Bruins are an Original Six team which means they have fans in this country that go back generations. Moreover, one of their stars is Milan Lucic who is a Vancouverite; he once led the Vancouver Giants to the Memorial Cup. Mark Recchi is from BC; he's also 42 and this will likely be his last shot at another Cup. Lots of reasons for supporting the Bruins.
And, as I found out recently, it's hard to shake old Hab-its, even if you live in Vancouver!

My physiotherapist and I were chatting about the Canucks yesterday; she said however that since she'd only lived here "a little while" she hadn't quite stopped being a Habs fan, being from Montreal originally. 

"How long have you been here?" I asked. 

"1997."

I whisper to myself "that's 13 friggin' years."
 
Calmly I suggested "Er, I think it's time you gave up your allegiance to the Canadians. OUCH!" 

Alas, she was not quite ready for prime time Canucklehead turf, despite the fact that she will be cheering for the Canucks to win the Cup. 

To boot, there was a discussion on The Team radio station yesterday about why people in the rest of the country are seemingly not jumping in droves on the Canucks' bandwagon. The conventional wisdom was because people don't like Vancouver and Vancouverites due to our smugness re the weather and the scenery. It has little to do with the team or even hockey. We're kinda the Western version of Toronto. 

In the end, I could give a rat's ass if the Canucks fit the media's definition of "Canada's team". I suspect all the media hype etc around that idea is to create a movement, to stir ratings. I don't think there's any hockey code or rule written anywhere that just because an NHL team's from Canada, ya have to cheer for them if you're a Canadian. This is NOT the Olympic Games for heaven's sake.

Look at us Boomers! As kids many of us grew up cheering for the Blackhawks. Granted all the players were Canadian in those halcyon days but we were drawn as much or more to team logos, the mystique of certain players, i.e. something beyond the mere location of the team. If location mattered, there is always an appealing aspect of 'foreign lands'.  Chicago, that toddlin' town, had Al Capone, Eliot Ness, Muddy Waters and the Blues.  At that time, we held little stock in being 'Canadian'. We were attracted to the U.S.A, and moreover all things Americans, back then - not only in sport but in culture via Rock 'n 'Roll and Hollywood.  It was a time when we all wanted to be Yanks. As Canadians we saw ourselves, as reflected in our leaders and our TV shows, as stodgy and boring. Mickey Mantle and Mickey Mouse held sway over Maggie Muggins and Don Messer. As English-speaking Canadians we were more able to understand Donald and Daffy Duck than Quebec Social Credit leader Real Caouette. At night we lay in bed with the covers held over our heads, listening to the radio serials like "Boston Blackie," or did our homework to larger-than-life radio personalities like "Cousin Brucie" and "Wolfman Jack" and so on and so forth.

Well that may not account for the modern day possibility that some pre-pubescent mall rat in Dildo, NFL, may cheer for the Florida Panthers but there ya go.

As we have aged, both as individuals and as a country, as we've seen the game change, or simply as a matter of historical and cultural development, we HAVE become more 'nationalistic' with respect to the NHL.  With the powers-that-bean dominated by American owners and an American Commish, with league offices centralized in New York, it is not a bad thing to feel slighted and overlooked south of the border. We witness hockey mad fans - all 200 of them - coming out to 'save' the Thrashers in Atlanta, where hockey is failing a second time. We watch NBC dictate the TV schedule for the Finals. All that does, and should, get the national blood a-boiling. "Why I outta."
All that cross-breeds with our developing sense that hockey really is our national sport; that it is part of our cultural, if not biological, DNA. We literally do live and breathe hockey in this country.
In that regard, maybe we all do... or at least, should.. meet on the same holy hockey plains of Abraham, wanting, willing, fighting for the Cup "to come home". Let's show them damn Yankees 1812 was no fluke! "Why I outta.... "

Alas, I endorse genetic mutation and variety. I'm really okay with the possibility that many of the offspring of John A. MacDonald and those of our other cherished leader, Donald S. Cherry, might cheer for the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins. 

Maybe some day some kid from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan will be out on the backyard pond wearing a 'Mexico City Cartels' sweater. I'm good to go with that.

What is most important for me is that young kids, wherever they live, keep picking a team and heroes to cheer for and idolize, just like I did when I was a young spud.

There is no legacy, no legends created, if a young spud 50 years from now isn't interested enough in hockey to ask her grandmother where she was when the Canucks won the Cup in 2011.
I went to a regular season game here couple a years ago between the C's and the Sharks. A young kid, age 10-ish, sat in front of me. He was wearing not only a Sharks' jersey but it had the name "Pavelski" on the back. Well, Pavelski, better known as 'Little Joe', is an American. I suppose the kid could have been from Washington State but.....  well, we beat the Sharks that night. I don't recall Pavelski scoring. Too bad kid, I thought. I really did feel sorry for him. It might have been his only chance to see his hero play... and he left, disappointed.

In that regard, no matter whom one cheers for, or why, hearts will get broken. Heroes will lose. "Go home ya bum!" New legends will be made. The important thing is that the next day, kids will don their hockey jerseys and head out into the streets for another game of road hockey, already dreaming of next year.... pretending that the rubber ball they just shot past the family dog is the Game 7, Over-time, Stanley Cup winner. Does it matter where in the world some young burgeoning hockey star raises his stick in the air having scored the winning goal before the sun sets or they're called in for dinner cause fat old Aunt Harriet and grumpy old Uncle Stan are visiting?
In sport, in any case, we're more like City States, or separate 'countries'. We have our own flags and banners. Mike Reno of Loverboy even has created a Canucks' song/anthem. 
Our 'home' team may appeal to those living in the diaspora beyond our borders, be they exiles, emigrants, or, like those ancient Blackhawk fans of our youth, people simply drawn to the logo or the laundry, the Sedins, the mystique of the Orca, the myth of the West Coast and its laid-back life-style. "Get off the road ya tree-hugging bike thief!".. and so on.
I recognize that, as City States, the ties to the 'homeland' are strong, which is why my therapist, after 14 years here, can't quite give up her bond to the Habs.

For 8-9 months of the year we're 'Leaf Nation' vs "Sens' Nation' etc. It's a bit much to ask fans to drop their normal, and possibly lifelong, affiliation simply under the gathering cry of wanting the Cup back in Canada.... especially if that team is your mortal enemy. I jumped on all those historical bandwagons - OIlers, Flames, and Senators - and guess what Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa fans? Your teams let me down! Your hosers lost!
To conclude, I'm okay with the fact that we're NOT all Canucks. The Canucks don't have to be "Canada's Team."
If ya wanna join the parade, pick up that white towel, and start shouting "Go Canucks Go," be my guest. Welcome one and all to Canuck Nation. Let's bring the Cup home!

Clobber Samson is a highly opinionated sports commentator, especially when it comes to Vancouver "Canucks," of the National Hockey League. Expect no balance in his columns. This is good.

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