See you next year

I’m a Canuck fan by marriage.

I’m a Canuck fan by marriage.

For the 31 seasons we have been together I have watched Darcy’s hopes rise every year only to be dashed to pieces in the end. “Oh well,” he says at the end of every hockey season. “Next year.” And sure enough, when the next season skates forward on its sharp silver blades there Darcy is ready to cheer for his beloved Canucks all over again.

Over the years I have become a bit of a fan myself. I can talk hockey and I even enjoy watching the odd game, but I still have a long way to go before I’m on the same level as Darcy. In game six when the Canucks gave up four goals in as many minutes I couldn’t stand to watch anymore. I got up and retreated to my garden. Darcy got up, went to the closet and put on his Canuck jersey. That’s the difference between a real fan and a bit of a fan. A real fan is there for the bitter and the sweet, the wins and the losses. And if you’re a real Canuck fan, you know all too well about losses.

I wanted Vancouver to win for Darcy and all the other lifelong fans. The fans on the couches and fans like our son who pooled resources to make the trek to Vancouver in hopes of being present when their team finally made history. The son who only once in his two dozen years said, “Why did you have to make me a Canuck fan?” Fans who have only seen their team hoist the Stanley Cup in their dreams. Not the fans who riot when their team loses, but the ones who cheer anyway and patiently wait for next year.

What a season it was. Winning the President’s trophy, making it to the Stanley Cup final and having the same guy between the pipes who brought the gold medal home to Canada in the very same building only a year before! No one can say that the Canucks didn’t play good this year. However, it seemed the last few games digressed from skilled puck handling and displays of athleticism to cheap shots, embellishments and outright goon tactics.

It’s thrilling to watch a player outskate another to dangle a puck into the net. It’s not so thrilling to watch someone sprawled out on the ice from a blind hit. But that’s just my opinion.

Speaking of my opinion, I hate the whole white towel thing. There, I said it. I don’t believe in towel power. There is no power in a towel, only surrender. Back in 1982 when Coach Roger Neilson draped a white towel over a hockey stick and held it up in mock surrender in response to some bad calls by the referees it was wonderful. He was tossed from the game for his comic genius, but it was still genius. Fans brought their own white towels to the next game and the Canucks went on to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in franchise history. And then they lost to the Islanders. They lost. As in they didn’t win. Still, the towels were looked upon as some sort of lucky charm. They waved them about in the Stanley cup final in 1994. They lost that one too.

Neilson meant it as a sign of surrender. He didn’t mean it as a harbinger for victory. Towels are for crying into. To me, sending out a kid at the start of every home game to wave a white towel on the end of his stick is like announcing our surrender before the game even begins. I respect the symbolism and the history but it still smacks of defeat and excuses. Boston has a statue of Bobby Orr caught in horizontal flight after scoring his legendary winning goal. Vancouver has a statue of Roger Neilson surrendering. I say the Canucks need to score that winning goal and forget about surrendering.

Of course it’s not the towels or the statues or the fans or even the individual players that win or lose the Stanley Cup. It’s the team. As Chara hoisted the cup for Boston and Vancouver fans gathered up their disappointment one fan summed the whole season up in eight simple words. Standing on the street corner he leaned his green and blue face into the microphone and explained to the television audience what had just happened. “We won all year and then we lost,” he said.

As for Darcy, he dropped his jersey into the hamper and said, “Next year.” Me? I went out to my garden.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can reach her for comment at contact@shannonmckinnon.com.

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