Canucks and Beyond

Canucks Fandom: Life as a Hockey Optimist

05/12/2009 at 5:08pm EDT

As the Blackhawks/Canucks series got under way almost two weeks ago, I settled my nerves down with this one thought: “May the best team win.”

And so they did.

Vancouver wilted in the face of everything Chicago had to offer, from the hockey staples of offense and defense, to the intangibles of simple willpower and grit. Unlike St. Louis who simply ran out of gas against the Canucks after a valiant few months of scratching and clawing their way into contention, Vancouver was just plain outmatched by a better team.

So it goes. So it always goes. So it goes endlessly and nauseatingly since 1970. I seriously wonder if there’s really any chance I’m going to live long enough to see this team make it to the promised land.

Prior to this series, I was plain in my assessment that Chicago scared the hell out of me, but I estimated that Vancouver would still beat that crew over 6 games. Perhaps unreasonably optimistic, but I saw no reason to doubt that assessment over the first three games. Games 1 and 2 were poor, but they got a split and I figured they’d play better as the series progressed. Game 3 certainly supported that, a great performance overall (albeit numbingly boring playoff hockey). But then Game 4 happened and I started getting that terrible, sickening feeling inside, the one that says, “If we can find a way to lose, oh yeah, we’re going for it!”

Everything Vancouver did, Chicago had an answer for it. Everything Chicago did, Vancouver started spinning around in confusion in their own end. (Somewhere out there, I started to imagine Dan Cloutier, gleefully giving the finger to the entire Canucks organization. And he would have been in good company, too… the Hockey Gods were suffering from their own fit of giggles this past week.)

Alas, we’re used to it. While Mike Gillis speaks about how history doesn’t matter, that he only looks forward and thinks that’s a good thing, I’m afraid I don’t share his philosophy. As a Canucks fan, I’m as equally mired in the past as I am with the present team, so—no matter how impressive the Canucks might be playing at any given moment—I’m 100% mindful that it could all fall apart at any time. History has proven that it always does. So far.

But is that entirely a bad thing? Well, yes, it sucks. But always being on the losing side has its own sense of fandom, and sometimes I wonder if I’d know what to do with myself anymore if we actually won the Stanley Cup.

I was watching a special on TV the other night where Michael J. Fox was talking about the power of optimism and positive thinking, and one of his bits was about the trials of the lowly Chicago Cubs fan, a deeply haunted animal that hasn’t experienced a winning season in a over a 100 years. But does this stop them from believing in the future? Never. They faithfully come and support their team with their unabashed hope worn proudly on their sleeves, and as fans, they share a unique experience. While cynicism comes easily, at their core they’re still always optimists. Despite history and all evidence to the contrary, they always believe that “One day… maybe.”

That’s exactly what it’s like being a Canucks fan. And if they did ever win the Cup—or the Cubs were to win the World Series—what next? Seriously… What. The. Hell. Would. We. Do. Next? Hope for another one?! Good God. Our arrogance would then just work it’s way into the stratosphere and the next thing you know, we’re imitation Red Wings fans! What a horrible way to go. :)

Sigh. But enough of that. I’m not in denial here—of course I’d much rather just win that bloody Cup once, then whatever hapens, happens. Which is why I’ll always have my dreams of winning, and yet always be prepared for the Hockey Gods to do their worst. They usually succeed, but I’m an optimist.

One day… maybe.

Onwards, I think that this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs has the best group of teams matching up that we’ve seen in years. In the west, I’d particularly enjoy a Blackhawks—Red Wings series, so that’s where my hopes lie now. And for the first time in my life, I’m going to be cheering the team that killed my dreams. I usually work up a massive hate of teams that take out my Canucks, but I really, really like Chicago—their team, their city, their story, their fans—and watching them battle through the next round will be a treat. Whoever wins, it’ll make for some great playoff hockey, and that’s the most important thing.

As the saying goes, “May the best team win.”

And one last time—till next September when I’m ready to wear my optimism proudly and foolishly once again—Go Canucks!

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