I remember the moment as if it was yesterday.
There I was, stretched out on my parents’ family room floor, watching the dying seconds of the third period tick away as the Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
I buried my head into the pillow propped under my chin, trying in vain to keep from crying. My parents and grandparents tried to mask their own disappointment to comfort me and my devastated brothers, but it was no use – we were heartbroken.
Now, 17 long years later, the Canucks have another shot at hockey’s holy grail as they take on the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, the best-of-seven series tied 2-2, as of this writing.
For a lifelong Canucks fan, the excitement this final round has brought is intense, to say the least. But amid the ups and downs of the past few weeks is one sentiment that has reared its ugly little head and, to be blunt, ticked me off.
Reading columns and blog posts from across the country, I’m surprised at the number of commenters who refuse to recognize the Canucks as “Canada’s Team,” stating they’d rather cheer for the enemy than see a Stanley Cup in Vancouver.
The reasons have been varied – the fact that the majority of the Canucks’ top players aren’t Canadian (Roberto Luongo being the exception) or because Vancouver isn’t a true Canadian city, due to the fact that it rarely snows here (um, say what?).
But the one reason that keeps popping up is the notion that Vancouver fans are “arrogant.”
Perhaps I’ve been living on the West Coast too long, or maybe I’m blinded by all the jerseys, flags and banners I’ve seen plastered across the Lower Mainland, but I don’t understand where this accusation comes from.
Are we any more smug than Oilers fans were in 2006 or Calgarians were two years before that?
Sure, there are bad fans in every group – reports from both Boston and Vancouver indicate some have treated those in opposing jerseys in a less-than-respectful manner, which any true hockey-lover would agree is embarrassing and uncalled for.
But there has also been plenty of positivity surrounding the Canucks’ playoff run – thousands of Vancouver fans flying to California and Tennessee to cheer for the boys and celebration sites cropping up as far away as Chilliwack and Nanaimo.
And for once, admittedly, this province has something to talk about other than gang shootings, homelessness and the HST.
But since when does excitement and pride translate into egotism?
Even if our Canuck pride has bordered on conceit in the eyes of some anti-’nuckleheads, was there ever a season like this one?
We were the first-place team during the regular season, racking up more points than ever before in team history. The league’s top point-earner was our very own Daniel Sedin, whose season was only a tad better than his brother, Henrik’s.
Even Bobby-Lou – though perhaps not at his finest in Games 3 and 4 – was ranked among the top few regular-season goalies, earning himself a Vezina trophy nomination.
So if being excited about our team having a record-breaking season followed by a hard-fought, exciting and emotional playoff run makes us ‘cocky’ in the eyes of non-believers, then I guess we’re all arrogant.
To those across the country who have jumped on the bandwagon to cheer on the last of the Canadian teams in the hunt for the cup, welcome aboard – we’ll need your support more than ever for the next two or three games.
And to those who would “rather take a slapshot to the shinbone” than see the Canucks win – as one blogger so eloquently put it – we’ve come this far without you.
Melissa Smalley is a special features reporter at Peace Arch News.