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Blackhawks-Canucks, Game Seven: The View from Vancouver

It’s just a few hours until the Blackhawks try to complete a reverse sweep of Vancouver, and Canucks fans are starting to sound like Cubs fans. I still don’t get hockey, but if there’s one thing I do understand, it’s losing.

When I was growing up, there were three ways to get the news: the local paper/radio/TV station, national publications and broadcasts, and Books-a-Million or the library (later, we got a Barnes & Noble). You could keep up pretty well from the first two, but if you wanted someone else’s local take, you had to drive to Books-a-Million or the library and hope they had the paper you wanted. I spent a lot of time loading those encased ProQuest discs into a 386.

Now you can go straight to the source from practically any computer. I think it makes us a more empathetic society. For instance: hockey!

They’re losing it in Vancouver.

“Imagine the Canucks put together another spirited effort tonight like they did in Game 6. Imagine they get some breaks out there. Imagine they get some calls. Imagine Luongo makes some saves. We know, it feels impossible right now. At this point, it feels like we’re making the long walk to the electric chair and only the governor can save us. And it’s the governor of Texas.

We’re on the verge of something so incredibly traumatic that we can’t quite believe it’s one loss from happening. It’s not just losing a chance to finally win the Stanley Cup, it’s the thought of supporting the Canucks in the future with this hanging over us. If they lose Tuesday, every team’s fan base will have the ultimate trump card to play on Canucks fans. However badly the Leafs screw things up, they could never embarrass themselves quite like this.”

“For all the intrigue and drama already generated by the two teams through the first six games of their Western Conference quarterfinal – and Game 6 on Sunday night was basically The Godfather, Gladiator and Avatar rolled into one three-and-a-half hour epic - the final act will define this edition of the Vancouver Canucks for the next five years.”

Wow. Obviously the last time a team choked in a high-profile seven-game series was the Yankees, in their extraordinary series against the Red Sox—a series that was so great, and so cathartic, that I accepted it as inevitable and even just when the Red Sox went on to maul my beloved Cardinals—but the Yankees are the one team in professional sports that can legitimately say “wait ’til next year.” They have that luxury. I take it the Canucks, and their fans, don’t.

I for one feel their pain, not because I’m a good person, but because I don’t know anything about hockey I didn’t learn from “Blades of Steel” (icing… sure, sure, I know what that is), and don’t have the attachment to the Blackhawks that might cause me to revel in it. I grew up in the South, before there was such a thing as the “Carolina Hurricanes.” We did have the Roanoke Valley Rebels, which later became the Roanoke Express, perhaps because this logo…

roanoke valley rebels salem

…was, um, atavistic and depressing. Sort of like the Dixie Youth Baseball insignia I labored under during my ill-fated baseball career. (They’ve revised the logo so it looks more like a sampler and less like the General Lee, but it’s still Dixie Youth Baseball.)

Not that too many people cared much either way. Atlanta Thrashers fan Tom Glavine, the Braves great who chose baseball over hockey, expressed the problem to Elliotte Friedman of the CBC: “Glavine said one of the Thrashers’ biggest problems was football season. Friday night: high school. Saturday: University of Georgia. Sunday: Falcons. Tough to get fans against that.”

I grew up, moved to the Midwest, expanded my horizons, met hockey fans and practicing Catholics, and I still find both institutions exotic and mysterious. But having been exposed to hockey played under a cheeky version of the Confederate battle flag, I understand the perverse appeal of lost causes. So I’ll be watching tonight.

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