Canucks and Beyond

The Hockey Internet and the Death of Civility

06/08/2011 at 4:22pm EDT

The Canucks’ names on the Stanley Cup will only bring disgrace to the title, and tarnish the greatest trophy in sports.

They have blood on their hands and dirt on their reputations.

Win or lose, that will be the lasting legacy of these Vancouver Canucks.

And not even the Stanley Cup can wash that away.

—Barry Rozner at the Chicago Daily Herald

When journalists like Barry Rozner make statements like the one above, it seems a bit harsh, but it doesn’t really matter, either. It’s his opinion, just like it’s the opinion of plenty of other anti-Vancouver fans. A hockey opinion—even if it’s a generalization that I personally think is ridiculous given the storied history of the Cup and the many tales of infamy that are associated with winning it—is the right of any hockey editorialist or fan. He or she can skewer whatever fantasy scenario they want. Selective perspective in sports writing—whether it be mine or yours—is hardly a new thing.

But what I do find horribly disheartening is the trashing and viciousness of so many hockey fans towards each other in recent weeks.

Somewhere over the course of these playoffs, it somehow became acceptable to act hatefully towards each other in a massive way.

And I’m not talking Boston fans versus Vancouver fans so much. I’m well-aware plenty of Canucks and Bruins fans are acting like jackasses online and otherwise, and while I don’t feel great about that either, I suppose it’s not as big a surprise since each set of fans has the greatest emotional investment in this series.

But it seems like the meanest and rudest crap is being slung around by the internet’s Army of The Self-Righteous… the Anti-fans. Anti-Vancouver, that is. And it’s not their position against Vancouver that I have a problem with—like Rozner at the top, everyone is entitled to editorialize these games and players as they see fit. Rather, it’s their attacks on other hockey fans that I find objectionable. Some of us Canucks fans, probably most, have never set out to attack another team’s fans, ever, yet the vitriol headed our way is pretty extreme at times.

Look, I’m a big believer in the entertainment value of “hockey hate” You know, the teams you’ve hated over the years…. in my case, the Oilers and Avalanche frequently drive me nuts. But I’ve NEVER dreamed of attacking their fans. Why would I? They just love their team with their own rose-coloured glasses, the same way I love mine.

But so much of what I’m reading online, on Twitter, etc, is an outright attack on Canucks fans—and on the other side, from the Canucks fans there are plenty of attacks on you and your team’s fans as well.

When did it become acceptable to act like this? Isn’t hockey fandom supposed to be the entire point of having a favourite team? Why wouldn’t we respect the many other fans of our favourite game?

One thing about my 8+ years of hockey blogging, I’ve gotten to know (mostly online but also many in-person) hundreds and hundreds of hockey fans, who cheer for every team in the league. Some people have been jerks, but the vast majority have been great fun and have taught me a lot… about hockey itself as well as the great and kind natures of hockey fans.

But this playoff run is really shaking my faith in that positive nature.

Internet anonymity has always encouraged creeps to crawl out from under rocks; the distance and lack of real friendships online seems to allow a lot of people to give themselves permission to act like complete jerks to other people they barely know. I don’t understand it at all.

I realize that politeness, and attempting to understand there are two-sides to every story, are becoming rare in this world, but somehow it all seems much worse lately.

I swear, with all the gleeful ripping I saw yesterday from Vancouver’s anti-fans, and even journalists, I suspect some of them were actually happy at Nathan Horton’s terrible injury. Not because they have anything against Horton, of course, but because it suited their own perception of the Canucks… which then allowed them to feel even more superior to their fans.

It’s all left a bad taste in my mouth. So much viciousness and unpleasantness. I’m starting to feel like DREAMING about winning a Stanley Cup is a lot more fun than actually getting anywhere close to actually winning it. .

After 17 years my favourite team is finally in the Stanley Cup Finals—and after 40 years, they actually have a fighting chance of winning it—and somehow I’m enjoying hockey less right now than I ever have.

And for all their ups and downs, it has nothing to do with either of the teams on the ice.

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