Friday, May 1, 2009

Canuck Fever

Vancouver's infected with the fever.

No, not the swine flu - a fever. Canuck fever!

The Vancouver Canucks (the local professional NHL hockey team) are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and they haven't lost a game yet. They're the only Canadian team left now in the playoffs.

This is a big deal here. A big big deal. I don't recall seeing this city so Canuck crazy since 1994.

And perhaps it's rather telling of Vancouver's famed No Fun City moniker, but I can't honestly remember any other time where the vast majority of locals - regardless of race, age, religion, class, sex, neighbourhood, whatnot - come together with such fervent community spirit that the city just exudes a certain infectious joie-de-vivre!

It's like Mardi Gras!

It's like being on Commercial Drive when Italy wins the World Cup...

... except it's everywhere - from the stylish Yaletown bars to the crack houses out in New West. Everyone in this city has Canuck fever, and boy do they ever have it bad.

Back in 1994, the Canucks made it all the way to the game 7 of the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I was in high school then - grade 8. We had organized "Canuck spirit" days where everyone in the school would paint their faces with orange and red and plastered every surface with the team logo. At home my Mom would bring home the Province newspaper's daily Canuck's poster which I'd promptly hang in my bedroom. From our games room window I proudly displayed my handmade GO! CANUCKS GO! posters for our neighbour's enjoyment. For my 14th birthday my girlfriends and I sat around the TV watching the Canucks in the playoffs while I wore my prized Canucks t-shirt. For Halloween of that year I meticulously carved a Canucks logo into jack-o-lantern to the delight of little boys. For Christmas? My parents treated my sister and I to a framed limited edition Canuck's photo where the entire team dressed up in costumes and posed on some wild western set.

Upon the Canucks winning the 3rd round of the finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, we thought it would be a great idea to go to the airport to greet the Canucks as they arrived home. Dad drove us at some ungodly hour to the airport that night where we waited at the arrivals terminal for hours, camera in hand, for a glimpse of our beloved heroes. The crowds were so massive, the Canucks had to secretly flee through the back door and nobody saw them at all. We drove home, disappointed, as the sun rose over the mountains.

Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup in Game 7 in 1994 to the New York Rangers. In one moment, Canuck Fever became the Stanley Cup Riot - one of the stupidest displays of group mentality since a Guns N' Roses concert.

For a long time after, police were so paranoid at even the thought of another group gathering turning into a drunken riot, public festivities were under abnormally high police control. No Fun City was alive and well.

The only other time that such a public display of affection for a sports team was seen in Vancouver was when Canada's men's hockey team won gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was the last time that I can remember when the entire city came together and celebrated in unity in the city streets... where you could hear people cheering and cars honking for hours whether you were in some vacant lot on the wrong side of town or in the heart of downtown like on Robson & Thurlow. Oddly enough, Robson & Thurlow was ground zero for the 1994 Stanley Cup riot, but in 2002 it was a completely different scene. The streets were closed to traffic so that spontaneous parties could fester. Everyone was wearing red and white and parties lasted until the night.

Canada's Olympic Men's Hockey Team winning the gold medal, 2002 Winter OlympicsRobson & Thurlow an hour after the 2002 Olympic gold medal win

The biggest irony of this whole story is that I don't even follow hockey anymore. But it's hard not to these days. You just have to open your windows on game days and you'll hear people cheering when the Canucks score. You see, when the Canucks are playing in the playoffs, the city becomes uncharacteristically quiet as everyone is inside watching the game. The bars and restaurants - anywhere with a TV really - are packed to capacity with Canuck crazy patrons and that atmosphere spills out into the streets afterward. You don't even have to be a hockey fan to notice the excitement in Vancouver these days. Canuck fever, it appears, is more contagious than I initially thought!


Robyn said...

Of course, I completely jinxed the Canucks by saying that they haven't lost a game. They lost last night.

Erik Mondrian said...

In your next post, can you write about how I've never won the lottery? ;)

Robyn said...

Sure! You and me both. ;)