Canucks playoff fever leaves columnist cold

Special to The Globe and Mail

Two games into the first round of the NHL playoffs for the Vancouver Canucks and hockey fever has swept the city. Car flags are everywhere, windows are festooned with “Go Canucks Go” posters or photos of players torn from newspapers. Some people defy all rules of workplace attire and wear their jerseys to the office on game day. The Premier of the province even posed for photos wearing a team jersey and gripping a Sher-Wood hockey stick. The mayor of the city for which the team is named, who has so often been accused of failing to consult the public on important civic issues, has sought public input on what an appropriate wager might be with the mayor of Chicago. What is certain is that as the series against Chicago continues, things are only going to get worse.

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I keep hearing that this is “our” year. I am told that once the team shakes the Chicago monkey off its back, “we” are going all the way. Nothing can stop “us.”

Here’s my question: What does this have to do with “me?” The team’s inspiring and all-inclusive advertising may tell us that we are all Canucks, but the last time I checked, the population of the GVRD was about 2.3 million. There are 27 players on the playoff roster. So strictly numerically speaking, almost none of us is a Canuck.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-hockey. I admire the speed of the game and the artistry and skill of the players. A well-executed play that leads to a goal can be a beautiful thing.

What I don’t get is the fact that people live and die by the success of a sports team. Or that it can have an effect on their well-being. Or that two numbers, placed side by side with a dash between them, can spark elation or trigger depression.

Clearly I am in the minority.

I happen to work near the hockey arena and I happen to leave work when fans begin arriving for the game. They arrive with their (sometimes painted) faces full of hope and the names of their favourite players stitched proudly on the backs of their expensive official-league-merchandise jerseys. Sometimes there are entire families. Mom and dad, two or three kids – all of them clad in Canucks gear – who just paid $20 to park the Astrovan and will now line up to get to their $200 seats. Throw in a beer or a snack and the night out with the family equals one bimonthly mortgage payment.

I know, it’s about choices. They may have been saving up for the night out for some time. They may have been given the tickets by a generous relative or boss. Or for them money may not be a concern.

I have been to one Canucks game. It was a regular season game against the Calgary Flames. The tickets cost about $140 each. The seats were not very good. My only enduring memory of the evening is the foul-mouth, beer-swilling yobs seated behind us. I remember almost nothing about the game itself except that it was a stinker. Oh, and the Canucks lost. I do recall the lineups to get in and out of the arena, to buy a ridiculously overpriced beer and to use the men’s room. In short, it was an expensive and not very entertaining hassle.

I know, now tell me about the electric atmosphere inside the arena during a playoff game and about the sound of 19,000 voices rising up to push the team incrementally closer toward its first-ever Stanley Cup. Now wave the white towel.

Nope. Sorry, still not feeling it.

In fact, whenever my TV happens to be on during the postgame madness, capturing those joyous fans screaming “Go Canucks!” or that “Whooo!” sound that is impossible to reproduce in print and sticking their index fingers into the air to indicate where they rank the team in terms of what’s important in their lives, I feel great relief to be safe at home on my couch.

There are those for whom the games do matter. The players, the team owners, people at all levels of the organization. The arena workers whose paycheques may depend on the team’s continued success.

The bartenders and servers in the watering holes where people gather to watch games. And the broadcasters who have the rights to the games for which a long season is a commercial godsend.

I don’t begrudge any of them. Fill your boots.

I get that this is entertainment. A nice distraction from the drudgery of daily life, the devastating international headlines, yet another election. But what I don’t understand is how people confuse this with something that actually matters.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One in Vancouver. 88.1 FM and 690 AM. stephen.quinn@cbc.ca

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