Unlike most other critters in the animal kingdom, mankind has never just blindly accepted its fate. Since the dawn of existence, man has endeavored to understand the world around him, and thus change it for his betterment. Historically, when man has failed to understand his world, he has created deities to explain the unexplainable.
Throughout the years, through science and study, man has slowly come to grips with the hows and whys of this universe. And with each new discovery came the elimination of a God previously deemed responsible for the phenomenon. For example, the reasons for rain are now understood, so man no longer needs to believe in a Rain God. We now know that the rotation of the earth is responsible for plunging us into darkness each day, so most of us have cast aside our beliefs in a God who controls the night.
Because we’ve been so adept at solving life’s many mysteries, no one now resorts to the creation of deities to explain the remaining realms of the unknown… no one, that is, except Vancouver Canucks hockey fans.
Forty years ago, the Vancouver Canucks joined the National Hockey League. And in those forty years, they have never won its ultimate prize — the Stanley Cup. Throughout the years, Vancouver has had some remarkable players and some stellar teams. But for reasons not fully known, they’ve never managed to bring home a league championship. To the Canucks faithful, there can be only one rational explanation: Hockey Gods.
According to Vancouver legend, these Hockey Gods find cruel and sadistic delight in tormenting Canucks fans — teasing them with hope and promise, then snatching it away at the last second. So last autumn, when pundits proclaimed that this years’ edition of the Vancouver Canucks were “Stanley Cup favorites,” Vancouver fans were knowingly skeptical. They remained skeptical throughout a season in which the team finished first overall in the NHL, scored the most goals of any team, allowed the fewest goals of any team, had the league’s leading scorer, and possessed finalists for most of this years’ individual honors, including the most valuable player.
When the playoffs began in April, the Hockey Gods were blamed for a strange twist of fate that saw Vancouver face the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round. The Blackhaws were the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and had eliminated Vancouver the previous two years in playoff battles. Canucks fans predicted the worst.
But a surprising thing happened: The Canucks beat Chicago. They followed this with a win against Nashville in the second round, then quickly dispensed with San Jose in Round 3. For the first time since their heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 1994 finals, the Vancouver Canucks were playing for the Stanley Cup. Only the Boston Bruins stood in their way of claiming the 118 year old trophy.
This years’ Stanley Cup finals were a strange but entertaining affair, with Vancouver winning their three home games and Boston winning theirs. Game 7, the final and deciding game, returned to Vancouver. It was one game, winner-take-all for the Stanley Cup. Perhaps this would be the night that Canucks fans put to rest their ridiculous notion of Hockey Gods, and the even more ridiculous notion that they somehow held a grudge against the Vancouver Canucks.
I attended the game — excited at the prospect of seeing the Stanley Cup awarded, and anxious to see my Vancouver Canucks be the team to hoist it. Alas, Boston prevailed and won the cup. Sure, I was disappointed with the loss. But like most of the other 18,000 disappointed fans in attendance, I remained to applaud our team for their efforts, to heartily boo NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and to cheer when certain Boston players like Tim Thomas, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic hoisted the cup. I then walked home, ate dinner, and recited the mantra of every Canucks fan, “there’s always next year.”
Sadly, this was not the course of action followed by a few of the 100,000 so-called hockey fans who descended upon downtown bars to gather, drink, and watch the game. Instead of relishing in the good things that had transpired throughout the season, small packets of fans opted to set fires, overturn cars, smash windows and loot stores. I gazed from my window in total disbelief at the plumes of black smoke rising between the skyscrapers, and at the scores of riot police marching past my condo lobbing canister after canister of tear gas into an increasingly agitated crowd.
As I write this, the night air is filled with the sound of a dozen helicopters and a hundred sirens. I am utterly disgusted that these people call themselves hockey fans. I have held Vancouver Canucks season tickets for a decade. Before I moved here and became a Canucks fan, I held season tickets to the San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, and Washington Capitals. I love hockey. When my team wins, I smile. When they lose, I still smile. After all, it’s just hockey. It’s entertainment, not life.
Prior to tonight, I’ve never once believed that hokum about Hockey Gods. Tonight, I am a believer. There really are Hockey Gods, and they really do have a grudge against Vancouver fans. How could they not? Anyone who acts like this after losing the Stanley Cup does not deserve the joy of winning it.
I had hoped my lasting memory of this hockey season would have been the preceding photos — all from Vancouver’s thrilling Game 5 victory in the Stanley Cup finals. Instead, it’s this image of riot police and tear gas clouds, taken from my condo window as night descended on Vancouver:
ABOUT THESE PHOTOS: “A Sea of High-Fives,” “One More Win,” “Celebrating Game 5” and “Ducking Another High-Five” were shot with a Leica M9 and a 28mm Summicron lens. “Really?!” was shot with a Panasonic DMC-GH2 with a Lumix 100-300 lens, set to 100mm.
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