How to Deal When You Love Hockey, But Your Team Majorly Sucked This Season

Obviously, if you’ve read any of this blog in the past two years, you can safely determine that I am a tiny bit of a hockey fan. So, recently, faced with a new “my-Canucks-sucked-so-bad-they-didn’t-make-the-NHL-playoffs-and-oh-my-God-the-team-is-going-to-blow-up” world, a thought occurred to me. What’s it like to be a hockey fan in the depths of summer, when you have no one to cheer for? I posed this question to a friend of mine, we’ll call him Junior, and asked him to write his take of life deep into the most exciting time of the year, with nothing at all to be excited about. Is it really about the world’s best and most beautiful sport? Or do allegiances taint the love?

Junior:

It’s Wednesday, May 14th and the eyes of the hockey fans around world (really, mostly North America) are focused on the TD Boston Garden where the Bruins are set to face the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their war of attrition 2nd round playoff series. As a Vancouver Canucks fan, you would think that I would be greatly anticipating the prospect of the Bruins’ season ending at home – to a Canadian hockey team no less.

The sad fact is: I just don’t really care either way. I guess it’s a symptom of watching your favourite team’s season end before the playoffs even begin. Without a vested interest in the NHL playoffs, you find yourself saying things like “that Marchand is a talented two way forward” and “Milan Lucic sure seems like a classy fellow.”  Yes – you can become a bandwagon fan for a few weeks and cheer for a feel good story – there’s nothing wrong with that. (Editor’s Note- There is, 100% absolutely something wrong with BOTH of these former statements, and I have supporting evidence to both, but I digress.) But if you have not spent an entire season following a team through its highs and lows (and being a Canucks fan, there have been plenty of crippling, deeply dark, lows lately), that emotional component that makes the road to the Stanley Cup so exhilarating is noticeably absent. In other words, I could give a duck. It’s impossible to feel good about hockey in general when you realize that in the span of about eight months, your team went from being a high-calibre, playoff ready squad, to having two rookies in net, lowest scoring totals in half a decade, and an injury list that could reach Los Angeles.

Playoff Hopes

 And this is how I have come to feel strangely indifferent about the NHL playoffs this spring without the Vancouver Canucks’ involvement. There were never any potential second or third round match ups to worry about. Never any lineup controversies to get into a heated argument discuss with co-workers. Never any ridiculous time pumping quotes to analyze. No, being a hockey fan come playoff time when your team does not even qualify for postseason play is an altogether dreary experience. It’s like knowing someone’s going to win the lottery, someone you know, maybe even like a little, and you’re not even getting a penny of it. Maybe admitting this fact makes me a sad excuse for a hockey fan, but it also makes me an honest hockey fan. I’m a one-team, and one-team only kind of guy.

 The rest of you can enjoy watching hockey well into June. I’ll be sitting by a swimming pool somewhere eagerly awaiting (and maybe dreading) October.

Hockey Heartbreak

I am writing this in advance of my team’s fourth (and potentially final) game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I am by no means admitting defeat, in any way shape or form, of my beloved Canucks to the San Jose Sharks.

Today, I am here to confess that I am a hockey instigator. In no way do I claim to know all about hockey, rather the opposite.  However, I am no slouch. I know teams, most relevant stats, player statuses and rumours inside and out. It is this knowledge that becomes my best friend and mortal enemy during playoff season.  You see, I am not what one would call a “silent spectator”. Sure, I watch games in relative silence, I enjoy the peace, for goodness sakes we all know I have to watch the first period of a regular season game on mute! Playoff hockey brings out the Jekyll in me. I am a raging, high-strung, stressed-out, heart-racing, clawing-at-my-jersey, monster. A monster. There, I said it.

This can best be exemplified by my actions last Friday evening. I was having a girls day out, ending of course in time for puck drop to go spend the evening with my boys. We watched Ottawa and Montreal play, Montreal winning 3-1, and I convinced the keeper of the remote to play the Vancouver-San Jose game immediately after. Down after 20 minutes, Ryan Kesler (Kes-lord to you plebes), strapped the Canucks on his back to score twice in the third, ensuring a Canucks win, with a minute left to play, right?  Wrong. Patrick Marleau, ever invisible, scored the game-tying-goal at 19:04 in the final frame.

Now, until this point, I was quiet. Occasionally looking skyward, praying to the hockey gods for a goal or four to break the opposing goalie’s Berlin Wall-esque demeanour. There were  a few groans on bad hockey plays, and a few instances of shouting at the TV while the boys looked on at me in disbelief. I only acutely resembled this guy, I swear!

At 19:04 of the third, everything changed. I made the quick decision to split, immediately.  Forcing myself to bust-my-butt to get home for the start of overtime (OT).  I explained to the boys that I did not want them to see me “that way”, and scurried out the door. You see, OT makes me freak out. The sit in a corner of my room, rock back and forth and repeat “come on boys” kind of freak out. I am a mess when it comes to sudden-death overtime, why? Because that’s it. That’s all she wrote. No re-dos, no play out the rest of the period, that’s it.  Your goose is effectively cooked, and being down 2-0 in a series is never, ever a good thing, even worse when your next two games of a seven game series are in the other team’s house. Last Friday, I made it home for OT. I loaded up a stream in time to hear iron ring and pray to God that puck hit the post a few inches inside the bar, and not out.  God did not answer those prayers. A minute later, the Sharks scored, the game was over and my team is headed for what many feel is a second consecutive ousting in the first round of the playoffs.

Losing did not sting as badly as it should have. Losing in OT, when your team out hustled, out hit and out shot the winners is the stinger.  This, friends, is hockey heartbreak, and this is why I am writing this today, ahead of game four, down 0-3 in the series with supposedly no hope left. Friday night was heartbreak night, Sunday was time to be enthused and hopeful for 40 minutes, and then watch your team implode night. I have hope. There will be a game 5, at least. There has to be, because if not, I have to hear it from my “friends”, the Leafs fans, in particular, who after 9 years of ridicule, shame, and constantly cheering for a team who fails to live up to expectations, they will seek their revenge.

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