My loyalty to the Vancouver Canucks is similar to Homer Simpson’s approach to the Springfield Isotopes; like being Irish on St Patrick’s Day, it’s a passing thing. That was until I went to my first NHL game, ironically, on St Patrick’s Day.
Growing up, the theme from Hockey Night in Canada meant only one thing: I was missing The Love Boat. Every Saturday at 8 pm, ours was a house divided by the black and white TV–my five sisters and I on one side, my two older brothers on the other. The boys always won. I’ve hated hockey ever since.
The game has always epitomized the awkwardness and isolation I felt growing up. All my classmates, even my nelly best friend, played hockey. I, on the other hand, skated on my ankles, hated the cold, and was afraid of the puck. As for watching it on TV, I couldn’t bring myself to embrace a frosty slab of ice while the sparkling blue waters and celebrity hijinks of the Pacific Princess were expecting me just a channel or two up the dial.
In my teens hockey was all my family ever talked about, be it the NHL, OHL, or the leagues in which they themselves played. That I didn’t play hockey–couldn’t play hockey–relegated me to girl status. Sadly, girls didn’t want me. Once my nephew started playing hockey I might as well have just cut off my balls. When I left home, hockey and church were the first things to go.
Living in the United States, I learned the value of cheering for the home team by acting like a fan of the San Francisco Giants–I detested baseball even more than hockey. My American roommates taught me that the excitement of the game was secondary to the making of noise, cussing of players and the unwavering belief that, “We’re number one!”
Since moving back to Vancouver, I’ve found it difficult to get behind the home team. Not just because of the Bertuzzi thing, but because of the fans. Seriously, who riots to celebrate a win?
I once saw a man in a Canucks jersey grab the ass of a passing woman on a Vancouver street. For months after that, whenever I saw the Canucks logo, I associated it with the look of horror and humiliation on that woman’s face.
Call it playoff fever but it finally feels like I have something to root for again. At the game I picked up where I left off with the Giants–clapping, cussing and cheering for the Canucks–not because we have the best goalie or a shot at the Stanley Cup, but because in a city where there are so many forces dividing us, it’s nice to have something, however insignificant, that unites us.