I fell into hockey like most Barbie loving girls of my generation, I had a mad crush on a boy who ate, drank and slept hockey. I found that the only way to register on his radar at all was to casually drop a comment about last night’s hockey game. This was 1981, when I was in Grade 8 and those Vancouver Canucks skated in those electric-orange Halloween-inspired costumes. I used to study those games, shushing my little sisters so that I would be able to recite some of Jim Robson’s insightful colour commentary or mimic Tiger Williams’ post goal antics the next day in Industrial Ed. I learned to distinguish the referee from the linesmen, the Blue Line from the Face-off Circle, and Richard Brodeur from Harold Snepts. While seeming to appreciate the conversation, the boy never did ask me out, but I transferred my crush onto Marc Crawford and along the way became a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan. The twelve year old franchise’s first-ever playoff run beyond the first round took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982. Our beloved Canuckleheads surprised and pleased everyone, but much like new parents appreciating a toddler’s first steps, I don’t think anyone actually believed the Canucks were going to go all the way. And they didn’t.
Fast forward through high school and more heartbreaks on and off the ice. My sisters and I would watch the games, together if we were all home, alternating fervent prayer with pointing all 10 of our fingers at the screen to send the Canucks our energy when their plays seemed depleted. We developed mad crushes on a variety of hockey greats and argued over who was going to marry Trevor Linden.
In May 1994, I took a break from packing, having just finished grad school in London, Ontario to head to the Ceeps and watch a first round Game 7 between my Vancouver Canucks and their arch-rivals the Calgary Flames. I sat next to a classmate who was a diehard Calgary Flames fan. Just as my hockey knowledge had impressed the boys before him, I have to say it finally worked – we’ve been together ever since Calgary lost to Vancouver’s Bure/McLean that night. That magical playoff run also ended with an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. While the 1994 Canucks were a much more worthy team than the 1982 crew, the stronger New York Rangers were able to close out their 54 year Stanley Cup drought at our expense. Unfortunately, the fans expected more of our boys in blue this time and took out their Game 7 frustrations on the merchants of Robson Street. Carnage and mayhem ensued and beautiful Vancouver looked like sore losers.
You don’t need to know high level math to know that 2006 was supposed to be our year (1982/1994/2006) with 12 years between Cup Finals appearances. But we didn’t even make the playoffs that year. It was tough going for awhile for us diehard fans.
Add to that some Olympic sized karma – when Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976, their Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1977. Similarly, when Calgary hosted the Olympics in 1988, the Flames won the Cup in 1989. As we all know, Vancouver hosted a fabulous Olympics just last year in 2010, do we really have to wonder who’ll be drinking out of the Stanley Cup this June?
As a mother to 3 young boys now, my love for the Canucks has necessarily mellowed as I can no longer be shouting profanities at the ref through the TV or passing along my zany superstitions but this year, this team cannot be beaten. The 40 year-old franchise and it’s loyal fans want, deserve and need the Cup. We’re the best team Vancouver has ever had the privilege of cheering for – we’ve got the President’s Trophy, the Art Ross winners Daniel & Henrik, the Jennings trophy, the Green Men, and Olympic Gold meal winner Luongo all on our team. Not to add to the pressure already on your big broad shoulders (Bieksa), but if not now, then when?
I’ll be one of the lucky 18,900 fans there cheering you on tonight. I’ll be in my lucky shirt, drinking my lucky drink, screaming at the top of my lungs, “We are all Canucks! Go Canucks Go!”