The sound of silence has settled over the city.
Vancouver is nothing like it was this time last year, when it was brimming with Canuck fever from Langley to Horseshoe Bay, from Fort Nelson to Victoria, encompassing not only the city but the entire province. By June it eclipsed the country, with Canadians from coast to coast preferring the Stanley Cup remain in Canada, routing for the Sedin’s and Luongo.
No, this time it’s different. As the Canucks hover on the brink of elimination, the mood in the city and environs is so deflated there is almost no oxygen with which to whisper, “Come on, Canucks”, no winds to carry the hope that somehow, our team will rise above its 3-0 deficit to the LA Kings.
The fall from glory has been swift – in fact, more like a free fall. From the winners of their regular season division to an almost certain first round play-off defeat – perhaps the worst kind, wherein they can’t even register a single game victory. Fans are trying hard, but failing to close their jaws that have dropped open and are lying in a puddle of beer-infused saliva on the floor of Rogers Arena, the Staples Center, and in living rooms everywhere. This is just not what we expected, not in our wildest Ryan Kesler dreams.
A reformed Toronto Maple Leafs fan by virtue of location, I guard myself from heartache during the regular season by not watching; the ups and downs are too taxing, not to mention frequent. But playoffs are open for business. I hop on the Canuck train with glee and look forward to the many social occasions the playoffs present, and the new topics of conversation they bring. It’s fun to participate, and there’s always beer involved. The playoffs, crackling as they are with excitement, seem like a worthwhile investment.
For a reasonably athletic person, I am a complete hockey loser. I still don’t understand half of the calls and can rarely decipher a clean hit from a dirty one: every hit on a Canuck seems dirty to me. Henrik’s infamous hit from Game 3 looked all wrong in my eyes, despite the commentator’s remarks to the contrary. I blame it on never playing the game, but this hasn’t held back my ten year-old daughter from understanding everything, and she patiently tries to enlighten me. The playoffs present me with yet another opportunity to understand this national game of ours, to the chagrin of the spectators around me. I’m not always invited back, to be honest. These are my own, personal, hockey limitations that I’m trying to work through.
Canuck fans are notoriously fickle, and I don’t want to add fuel to the inferno that has been raging ever hotter as Game 4 rolls around, especially since I’ve herewith admitted to being a firm bandwagon fan. But even so, I’m struggling internally with this decision I’ve made to roll up my sleeves and invest in what could easily and quickly lead to heartbreak. Without getting overly dramatic about it, is it better to have loved, and lost, than to never have loved at all? This year, at least, it was a fleeting romance.
Staring into the face of this abbreviated playoff season, it may have been a good one to miss. The playoffs started, but the Canucks didn’t show up. This is the wonder of sports, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat that happens when an eighth place team handily devours a first place team. But this agony, on the heels of being so close to the biggest of victories last year, tastes particularly sour, and many of us have lost the will to cheer, or even watch.