During the most recent NHL regular season and playoffs, I had been accused by many of being a bandwagon fan. "Ah, you only like them because they're doing so well now," people would say to me, before quickly retreating after I responded like Nicolas Cage in almost any one of his movies. This had been incredibly frustrating for me, as I've been a fan of the Vancouver Canucks for 17 years. I've been a fan through the tough times, when the team decided that an aging Mark Messier was better suited to be captain than fan favorite and team leader Trevor Linden, and when Todd Bertuzzi decided that a sucker punch was more important than the potentially great playoff run that lay ahead. I continued to be a fan even after a shot from the red line in the playoffs handcuffed Dan Cloutier easier than a police officer subduing Patrick Kane in a taxi. And I'll still be a fan even after the incredible drop from euphoria to anguish last June.
My dedication knows no bounds. I have multiple jerseys that I demand must be worn by everyone within earshot of the TV during a game. I voraciously devour articles and videos that may have insight on rumors about the Canucks. I even got a Canucks tattoo during the 2011 playoffs, the result of an ill-thought promise made to the hockey gods that may or may not have been the result of a special bottle from Costa Rica. During a game I can be as loud as the goal horn at Rogers Arena, and sometimes as annoying as, well, most Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Before you jump down my throat, I said most. Not all.
I realize this may not make me the most popular writer/fan/drinking buddy with many hockey fans. For some reason, the Canucks have recently been described as the most hated team in hockey. This is something I haven't really been able to understand; I know that some people love to hate the "great" teams, but Vancouver has seen far more shots taken at them than say, Detroit, who has been Cup contenders every year for the better part of a decade. Some say the Canucks take cheap shots or dive, an argument that can certainly be made in some capacity to any team in the NHL. Even the Sedins get a lot of attacks, notably from bad-player-turned-bad-GM-turned-bad-commentator Mike Milbury, when they're clearly elite players who play the game clean and have been known off the ice for their outstanding work in the community. And they certainly wouldn't stoop so low as to taunt and mock a player who just received a serious injury, like some teams...
Yes, the riots in Vancouver gave the team, and city, a bad name. Although the true Canucks fans were back out in full force the next day, cleaning up the mess made by idiots and individuals who were clearly not hugged enough when they were growing up. While the riots created as much damage as Brad Marchand at the Dome in Halifax on a Saturday night, the real Canuck faithful showed up the next day to repair the damage made to their city and their team.
Will the Canucks return to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and bring hockey's holy grail back to Canada for the first time since 1993? Maybe. They certainly have a great team put together and their chances are probably better than most. However, even if they don't, you can be sure that I'll be watching feverishly, with jersey on and beer in hand, cheering on the team that has made my addiction to the sport that much more exciting, heartbreaking, and riveting. After all, isn't that the true point of being a fan?