Hey Canucks fans, don’t forget your boy told you get, that, dirt of your shoulder.
It has become an annual tradition. At some point in mid-April, the Toronto sports media begins their incessant banging of the "Canucks are hated by all Canadians" drum, and this year it has begun early. With the Leafs long since eliminated, and Torontonians struggling to get excited about the prospect of a deep Marlies run into the Calder Cup Playoffs – it’s time for the "centre of the Universe" to turn their judgmental gaze on Vancouver’s hockey club. Over the next several months, fans, journalists and sports writers who have forgotten what "winning hockey" looks like, will begin to obsessively point out all the ways in which the Canucks personnel, attitude and style of play leaves much to be desired.
If you like references to riots and super relevant Todd Bertuzzi jokes, then this is the time of year for you! If you’re a Canucks fan, however, sifting through this crap can get trying. Last season, Canucks fans may not have quite been ready for the proverbial shit storm of harsh criticism about their team that filled up every hockey fan’s Twitter timelines game in, and game out. But heading into this postseason, we’re all a year older, and we’re all a year wiser. Hopefully we’re better positioned to do like the British this year: Keep Calm, Carry On and focus on what matters.
And what matters exactly? What matters is that this years Canucks team is back at the absolute top of the table and have, to some extent, committed to playing a tougher and cleaner style of hockey. This years Canucks are more likely to "back up" their chirping, they’re less likely to dive (Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler excepted), and they’re "officially" the cleanest team in the NHL. Gone is habitual headhunter Raffi Torres, and petulant non-fighting clown Maxim Lapierre. Those two have been replaced by the gritty, inscrutable Chris Higgins, and this years fighty, awesome version of Maxim Lapierre. Sure the organization (top-to-bottom) continues to be a particularly "whiney" outfit – but going up against the uber-whiney Dean Lombardi in the first round should protect the club from facing too much scorn on that front, at least through early May.
Not that any of that will really matter, the faces of the club remain: French-Canadian, Scandanavian or American. Glue guys like Dan Hamhuis and Jannik Hansen hail from Western Canada and Denmark respectively – so it’s unlikely that they’ll be praised for "elevating their game in the postseason," even if it does occur. That leaves only "good Ontario boy" Kevin Bieksa to single out for his contributions, and to praise for his gritty, committed on-ice performance; and the Toronto media can only write so many articles praising Bieksa.
Yes, Canucks fans it’s time to prepare. We’ll continue to be inundated by the hilarious mental gymnastics of NESN, Joe "weak sauce" Haggerty, Damian Cox and Barry Rozner this postseason. Some foolish writer will at some point reach so preposterously far to find an objective reason to hate the Canucks, that he’ll compare a franchise who has never won a Stanley Cup to the Yankees. Someone, at some point will call the Canucks an "embarrassment" to the league, and a "disgrace" to the sport and names like "Stephane Auger" will be thrown around to characterize the Canucks as whiners.
Last year, Canucks fans took their reactions too far. A minority of particularly vocal, unhinged ass-hats went after Theo Fleury on Twitter and embarrassed the entire fan base. Canucks fans were blocked by the thousands by the likes of Bruce Arthur, Damian Cox and Marc Spector. In the end, the ugly underbelly of Canucks fandom culminated in an embarrassing riot after the conclusion of Game 7, and that same dark energy has been (in my opinion) responsible for the continued, and despicable harassment of Milan Lucic in his own hometown this season.
The Canucks have done their part producing a series of excellent This is Our Home PSAs that urge fans to celebrate responsibly. Hopefully the City of Vancouver will do their part as well, (though their plans don’t look all that promising to me), and figure out a serious way of preventing crowds from getting out of hand like they did after game 7.
In the digital space, I want to try to do our part as well. Consider this the official unveiling of the "This Year Will be Different" campaign. What I want to see "be different this year" isn’t the on-ice result (I mean, that too, but that’s not what we’re talking about here) what I want to see is Canucks fans who habitually occupy the digital space (be it facebook, reddit, twitter or blog comment sections) to man up and represent the fan-base with some intelligence, sensitivity and pride. There’s always going to be unrepentant, mouth-breathing ass-hats in every fan-base, we can’t control that, but we here at Canucks Army urge you to do your part to elevate the level of discourse between Canucks fans, and even the slimiest of MSM Canucks haters this postseason.
Here’s some handy steps to follow if you’re interested in avoiding tarring your fellow Canucks fans with the "you guys are ALL crazy scum-buckets" label.
- Attack ideas not people. When the fact-resistant write absurd things about the Canucks, don’t start off your argument by mocking their sick predilection for intercoursing with goats and other mid-sized farm animals. Even if your barb is completely accurate, like in Barry Rozner’s case, it’s uncalled for. Resorting to defensive, ad hominem attacks makes you look foolish, and in this day and age, all any idiot has to do is RT your nonsense and include the epithet "stay classy Vancouver" and you have a veritable mini-Twitter controversy on your hands. So attack ideas, and try to do so articulately and dispassionately. Avoid ad hominem barbs, especially if they include references to your targets history of substance abuse (it’s an illness), weight, race, creed, religion or history of having been sexually abused. You’d think you wouldn’t have to tell these things to people, however…
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the past twelve months, the Canucks have lost a game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and it wasn’t even the most costly emotional loss for the team, or for the fanbase. The losses of Rick Rypien in August and Pavel Demitra in September – now those are real, human losses. Keep that in mind, when you’re about to tweet out an all-caps expletive laden tweet condemning some no-name Chicago sports columnist – that it’s just hockey and you don’t heff to be mad. Keep things in perspective perspective, after all that this club, this city and this fanbase have lost over the past twelve months – that really shouldn’t be too difficult.
- By all means, stand up for the home-team, but don’t devolve into a complete, drooling homer. The playoffs are an emotional time, especially for Canucks fans. Hockey makes people (and people with Canadian passports especially) a little bit crazy, but doing your best to maintain an unclouded viewpoint can help you keep your grasp on reality too. If you can avoid being labelled as complete homer scum, when you do decide to speak out on an injustice (committed either in the press or in the NHL’s office of player safety) against your team – people might actually listen, as opposed to telling you you’re an idiot with clouds in your coffee. Stay on the level, I know it’s not easy, but it’ll help!
- Stay humble. The Canucks are an elite club, there’s no doubt about it, but the Western Conference is filled to the brim with outrageously competitive teams. Even the Canucks first round series against the L.A. Kings promises to be hard-fought and stuffed like sweet pepper with upset potential. Facing a Vezina Nominee goaltender in Jonathan Quick, and one of the league’s top defensive clubs right off the bat is a tough test and if the Canucks do go out in round one, it’ll probably have happened because Quick got hot (a real possibility). That’s just a testament to the quality of the Western Conference, it won’t make the Canucks a "disgraceful group of chokers" (though that’s how the Toronto media will be sure to characterize them). Know this, and stay humble. If the Canucks go up 2-0 in a series, don’t suggest they throw a game so they win it at home – that’ll get you mocked, and it’ll make Canucks fans in general look stupid and cocky. So, stay humble, because, contrary to the opinion of Mark Recchi – you know the team will.
- Don’t get emotional about something some guy says on the internet. Guess what, some people are stupid and say stupid things. There’s no need to get really angry about some uneducated fourteen year old calling the Sedin’s "sisters." If that happens, avoid directly pressing the "caps lock" button and instead try out some word-play, and lay on the heavy sarcasm. If Internet commenter, BruinsFan4LifeMarchy63 comments on a blog post on Puck Daddy with something like: "The Sedin sisters suck more cock than the Kardashians" take a deep breathe and try to avoid setting fire to your keyboard, preparing a vicious retort. Instead respond with something simple and tension diffusing like "have you ever realized how much Kim looks like Dustin Byfuglien?" That way everyone can have a laugh.
- Finally, it’s the fricking playoffs so try to enjoy it! Part of why Toronto media folks, and Leafs fans in general are going to be breathing fire over the next few months is envy, though I hesitate to call it that. It’s a type of jealousy that too often gets mischaracterized because it’s not like Leafs fans wish they were Canucks fans, or wish they had the likes of Luongo, Kesler and the Sedin twins on their team – it’s more abstract than that. It’s that rooting for a team that’s playing meaningful hockey into May is something every hockey fan wants and so few fanbases get to enjoy in any given year. Rooting for a team like the Canucks is a privilege, not one that anyone can take away from you (sadly), but a privilege nonetheless. Understand that, show some empathy and try to enjoy it without descending into a Rousseauian, feces flinging state of animal madness.