Home Sweet Home (and comments on “Canada’s Team”)

Exceptional effort by both teams put out although Boston was the more resilient and forceful team for most of the game, as can be evidenced by the score.

Now the Bruins responded to what was a very physical and determined Vancouver team in Game 6 with a similar effort of their own in game 6. Although Vancouver had the jump early in Game 6 (as Boston did in Game 5) they didn’t finish on their chances whereas Boston finished on theirs. This has been a series dominated on home ice and all indications thus far is that Vancouver might win it all on Wednesday.

This is the time of year when lineups, matchups and the crowd are all intangibles in a very fine balance where the invisible hand of momentum (whatever that actually is) swings variably from team-to-team from play-to-play.

Now don’t get me wrong, if the Canucks win the Cup on Wednesday they will deserve it because they obviously earned it, and vice versa for the Bruins. But some of the reasons being offered up by fans and media make this long time hockey fan (who has read a lot of BS in his time) want to gag on the words I read and hear.

Sappy feel-good articles like this one are attributing a lot of credit to the Canucks for a Stanley Cup win they have not yet achieved. Carefully crafted to leave out the implied thesis (that the Canucks are good team that owes a lot of people to get to the Cup – which they haven’t won yet by the way), the Canadian Press article is written like a bad high school essay too afraid to state what they really want to say without jinxing what they believe they are owed – nay – what they feel they deserve. Why else would you want to read about the foundation laid for a good team? We could just as soon write about how the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the basement for many years before they had Crosby, Malkin and Staal but that story wouldn’t be as good because it wouldn’t have everybody’s favourite general manager – Brian Burke – in the story.

(And earth to Jim Morris because “dealed” is not a word. I believe the past tense is “dealt.” I’m sure it wouldn’t have had the same grammatical effect but I mean, sounding cliché is a small price to pay when you’re trying harder than a Shakespearean sonnet to strike a rhyme.)

Much has been made about how the Vancouver has one of the hardest if not the hardest schedule in the NHL based on their geographical location. Similar travel schedules belong to Edmonton, Calgary, and Minnesota.

Hold the phone everyone – those teams happen to be in the same division! That’s right – Vancouver played 24 games this season against Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado and Minnesota, teams that finished 30th, 17th, 29th and 21st overall – respectively. In fact, Vancouver was the only team in their division to make the playoffs.

Boston’s division? Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto and Ottawa – who finished 14th, 15th, 22nd and 26th overall – respectively.

Both relatively weak divisions although the Northwest was particularly atrocious (actually, the worst).

So let’s forget about the “difficult schedule” argument. Deserve it? Give me a break. That President’s Trophy might as well have been handed to them before the 82 game season.

Then some Canadian fans make the argument that the Canucks play some old time Canadian hockey. That’s as disgusting an argument as any I’ve ever heard. The tripping, biting, headhunting, diving and showmanship has been criticized of many a hockey player from Alexander Ovechkin to Sean Avery but when it’s the Canucks – it’s “Canadian.” Scotiabank seems to think so. The 18 years of waiting suddenly seems so much longer a wait than the 17 years or 16 years (should I keep counting?) since the Montreal Canadiens won it in 1993 that we have our own Alberta premier donning a Canucks jersey just recently.

Seriously – get a grip Canada.

Just because Vancouver is the only geographically Canadian team remaining doesn’t mean that we have to cheer for them. Fan loyalty has almost always been and should remain something that supercedes nationalism. The Stanley Cup is not a nationalistic Cup; not a patriotic Cup; not a partisan Cup; it is a Cup that represents the winner of the national hockey league’s post-season tournament and has nothing to do with citizenship or nationalist affiliation; to suggest otherwise is to file your sports enthusiasm along the same lines as the fascists and the communists – believing in something simply because it is the flag being flown by the powers-that-be and not because believe in what it stands for – which is the whole point of being a hockey fan in the first place.

Unless you’re a Vancouver fan first and a hockey fan second, which really just means you’ve hopped onto the bandwagon to tag along for the ride. Crap, clichés again.

Nonetheless, Cup or no Cup, the Vancouver hockey world and the hockey world in general has seen many a fan like you come and go. It’s the nature of the bandwagon. Even if your hierarchy goes Canada first, Vancouver fan and then hockey fan, it doesn’t disguise the lack of objectivity or acknowledgement of the lack thereof of these certain bandwagon-ing fans. Even the worst of Edmonton Oilers fans will admit that opinion is merely opinion (albeit my opinion is more right than yours :-P ).

In Vancouver, it has been come fact – nay – urban legend that the NHL has the referees against them. The amount of times I’ve heard Vancouver Canucks fans claim that the Canadian team deserves to win more because hockey is Canada’s sport is forgetting that Boston is an original six team.

For myself, I try to cheer for Canadian teams when they are available if I believe in them, but it is never my excuse to cheer for a dirty team – a team that throws headshots and interference and cites physical edge as an excuse for a penalisable illegal play. A prime example in Game 6 is the Edler hit on Peverly where he wasn’t even throwing a hit to get puck possession, he was clearly trying to hurt the other guy. The obvious homerism bandwagon effect occurring not just on the ice but on the national television as well? Yeah, the CBC has dropped to an all-time low with its inability to provide an objective coverage of the series since the Canucks are “Canada’s team” after all.

For those who compare the Rome hit to the Chara/Pacioretty hit – just stop now while you’re ahead. I don’t believe Rome should have been suspended four games but those two hits are not even in the same category (although the corporate response – surprisingly – is).

Take it from a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan (for the record my hierarchy goes Edmonton, Montreal, Los Angeles, Nashville, Boston, although Tampa Bay gets a slight edge because of Roloson).

As a Montreal Canadiens fan it was very difficult to bring myself to cheer for Boston after they beat Roloson and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The pain of making the leap was eased by the solace of knowing they’d be playing against the Vancouver Canucks – President’s Trophy and all.

I cheered for Calgary in 2004 but not Ottawa in 2007. It’s not a big deal.

You see, the reason the league plays both national anthems is because we realize that hockey is an international sport. A sport where Canadians will play on American teams and Americans will play on Canadian teams. Whether or not the Canucks win it or not are irrelevant to me. I simply don’t believe in them – even if they are the NHL’s regular season champions.

It is not requisite to believe in something to have faith although it is requisite to have faith to believe in something; millions everyday see no evidence in an almighty God whether they call him Jesus or they call him Allah but believe nonetheless.

The Canucks new bandwagon fans are the same; they might not even understand hockey but they believe in their Canucks nonetheless – that is until they are losing the game – since that’s when they need their fans the most and that’s when the fans leave the building.

The Canucks fans have no idea what it’s like to be a fan of a team that has to start from scratch and all the arguments from the national papers about the Vancouver Canucks having a greenhorn fanbase that deserves the cup not in spite of terrible fans but because of terrible fans – they should ask an Edmonton Oiler fan what it means to buy into a 30th place team and cheer for them even when the public sentiment is that management is porous with resource management but the team is all that matters – arena troubles and all.

Ask an Edmonton Oiler fan. A Phoenix Coyotes fan. A Hamilton or Winnipeg or Quebec hockey fan.

It’s not about the team – it’s about the sport.

If I neglect to cheer for Vancouver – “Canada’s team” – I don’t lose my Canadian citizenship and I am no less patriotic or Canadian than the next maple-leaf donning snowbird. If I cheer for the Canucks simply because they are Canada’s last hope I not only lose the right to be an Edmonton Oilers fan – I lose the very reason behind being a hockey fan at all.

So again, when people ask me “why not cheer for the Canucks,” I laugh inside.

I laugh because I think a better question to answer first is “why?”

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