Friday, May 14, 2010

Home Sweet Home?

"We are all Canucks." This was the motto which was supposed to get the city of Vancouver behind its hockey team. Judging by the playoffs, it didn't work.  It was in the stands, not on the ice, where the "Canucks" were the most underwhelming
The wounds of a second straight playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks are still fresh, so what better time to point the finger of blame? That finger is usually reserved for the coach, or the star player, but this year it can only land on the fans of GM Place. The writing was on the wall in the first round series with LA. The difference in atmosphere was astounding. The Staples Center was rocking...GM Place? Put to shame by the fans from LA, whose hockey team isn't even the biggest draw in the city.
The trend continued into the second round. The home crowd is supposed to put pressure on the away team and support the good guys.  You do this by making as much noise as possible, spurring on the home team to make the plays which will make the crowd more raucous, which spurs the players on further, and on and on; it is a vicious cycle for those on the visitors bench. Make no mistake, that cycle has to start with the fans.
The fans at GM Place took anothert approach. Vancouver fans aren't a mob, they're a flock of sheep. They cheer when the Canucks score, they 'ooh' and 'aah' when there's a chance, they yell Luuu when Luongo makes a save, they boo penalties against the Canucks, and they repeat what the scoreboard tells them to do.  But that's all they do. All the noise a crowd is supposed to make in between these big plays, the noise that puts the visitors on their heels, was missing in Vancouver. In it's place, a buzz of nervous expectation which put the Canucks under pressure.
Up until Game 6 of the Chicago series, the Vancouver fans performance merely hinted at lack of commitment and belief; their performance in Game 6 confirmed it.
It took a goal from public enemy number 1, Dustin Byfuglien, halfway through the 3rd period to end the series and wake the fans at GM Place up.  With the series over, the fans found their voice to jeer their captain Roberto Luongo, and boo their own team.  It was a pathetic end to Vancouver's participation in the playoffs, and Canucks fans around the world should be ashamed.
The sheep in Vancouver should look to the east and see what a mob of fans can do, a la Montreal.  A city that is 100% behind its team, and shows it, has propelled an 8 seed into the conference finals.  You take the Bell Centre crowd and transport it to Vancouver, there's no way the Canucks lose all 3 games at home against the Blackhawks.
The experts will point to an injury-riddled defense corps, or underperforming stars, but this is a team that took 2 of 3 in Chicago, and deserved more from its fans.  Based on these playoffs, one can only assume that the people who buy tickets for Canucks games aren't real fans, aren't knowledgeable about hockey, have no faith, no commitment, and no class.  They have a lot to prove next season, namely that they aren't among the worst fans in the NHL.

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