Forget asteroids and the Apocalypse. It’s Stanley Cup time in Vancouver! Moms, kids and their dogs are out in Canuck wear. Downtown is a sea of blue jerseys. People smile and talk to each other. Strangers, in no condition to drive, come up to you and hug you. Transit riders high five each other instead of staring off into space. You can show up at work with a hockey puck hat and your face painted green. Canuck banners and posters are pasted on trees and all over houses. Hipsters wear Winnipeg Jets gear. Two Canuck banners on your car are not enough. How about six banners and giant flag to show a little pride? Some drivers have eight or ten and think they are warriors in a Kurosawa samurai movie. It’s a great occasion to go slightly berserk in our normally calm and orderly Canadian world. There is something wonderful about a Canadian team [with some American and Swedish help] reclaiming the Stanley Cup for our country. It has the same unifying energy as the Olympics. Hockey fans across Canada have sent encouragement and support. The sports pages of the Vancouver Sun are the "Stanley Cup Section." Game tickets on Craigslist are thousands of dollars. The players are gods with mystical powers. What’s not to like about that?
The enthusiasm cuts across cultures and generations. Sikhs in blue and green Canuck turbans are out there cheering. Grannies and seniors host raucous backyard Canuck parties and barbecues. You can always count on somebody on your block to blow a horn every time a goal is scored. You can clearly hear what your neighbors are screaming at their TVs. Downtown at game time is a giant celebration with crowds not seen since the Olympics. After games 1 and 2 pubs and bars stayed full until closing. Main streets were full of honking and waving fans. You could not hear yourself think on public transit.
Despite the promise of the Stanley Cup, many here on the Left Coast are gloriously oblivious to the existence of hockey, which is fine. That is part of the local ambience. A big part of the lifestyle here too is doing sports instead of watching it. And not everyone understands the concept of playing winter sports in June or appreciates watching drunken yahoos pass out on their front lawns after a game. Or there are cultural differences. Some foreign students in Vancouver, for example, feel that hockey is violent and not civilized, like soccer. Yes, soccer is quite civilized, without the soccer fans. There is that classic definition of rugby that reads something like: the difference between rugby and soccer is that one is played by thugs in front of gentlemen and the other is played by gentlemen in front of thugs. There could be a case made that hockey is rugby on ice, or something like that.
Love it, hate it, or ignore it, hockey for hardcore Vancouver fans is much more than rugby on ice. For many it is a metaphor for living. It is consumer sport culture at its finest with heroes, villains, drama and intense emotion. How about this description from the Urban Dictionary?
“The best and most entertaining sport out there. PERIOD.
Sadly, hockey's greatness isn't appreciated everywhere. But in Canada, we live and breathe this game, this one sport is intrinsically what links a nation together, it's a part of our heritage.
We even celebrate "Hockey Day in Canada." The passion and love for this game extends to young and old alike, children in pee wee games across the country dream about living the ultimate fantasy and playing in the NHL.
Nothing brings together a city more than a winning local team, nothing brings together a country more than winning on an international level (again, and again and again, I might add).
I get goose bumps when the crowd sings along with O' Canada, I feel giddy when I hear the HNIC theme song, I leave work early or skip class when my schedule interferes with a hockey game, I wear my hockey jerseys proudly after a big win, I have crazy game day rituals and I jump up when we score. I'm blissfully happy when my team wins and torn after a loss.
DON'T TELL ME IT'S JUST A GAME.
There is something seriously wrong with you if you don't passionately love hockey.”
If that sounds totally over the top to you, consider this:
Evolutionary psychologists like to remind us that we are biologically hardwired to beat each other with [hockey?] sticks. Luckily we are also hardwired to be social, supportive and empathetic. How else to explain hockey fans running amuck spreading a bit of goofy and extroverted happiness? In a world full of bad news, that has to be good news.
Stanley Cup Fever in Vancouver – A Street Level View