Monday, March 10, 2014

From One Canuck to Many

I had the pleasure last night to be invited to the hockey game at Rogers Arena where our beloved Vancouver Canucks were hosting the Calgary Flames. Unless you’re a season ticket holder (or friends with one) or have access to a corporate box, the tickets aren’t so easy to come by unless you’re willing to pay the large price tag attached. I usually go to one game a year, and this was the one for 2014.

I’m a Vancouverite, and have been all my life, but most of all, I’m Canadian. And to be Canadian is to not only enjoy but to also be proud of our national sport--hockey. I believe that to be a globally accepted concept given we just won Olympic Gold for both the women’s and the men’s teams in the recent 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

So on a glorious, rainy evening after working a long day, I stepped out with my good friend Sheila to see the game. Rogers Arena is smack on the border of Yaletown and Downtown in Vancouver. Ah yes, Yaletown--an interesting part of the city and an area that I instantly become directionally challenged in as soon as I enter. Given the insane torrential downpour, we opted for the ridiculous $40 cash parking below the arena (parking is usually much cheaper around the stadium). Funny how when I went to the KISS concert it was only $25…whatever.

I decided to wear my Markus Naslund No. 19 jersey--yes, an original on-ice jersey that you could fit two of me in, but it doubles as a handy top and a coat all in one thanks to its sturdy polyester material (it’s like a little oven in there). I wasn’t alone in my attire--sure enough, as soon as you enter the seating level of the arena, it’s just a sea of chaotic blue. We were already late thanks to the traffic, so we had missed the anthem and the pre-game show, and arrived just 5 minutes into the first period. Sheila had amazing corporate seats--lower bowl, 5 rows up from behind the Calgary net--it was fabulous. It was certainly much easier walking down those stairs in my riding boots versus the 5 inch heels I had on to see KISS!

To be clear, I know enough about hockey to understand the language, the terms, the calls, and whether to jump for joy or shout in anger. I know the players, and which ones I like...based on my terms, such as how cute they are and if they can fight. Take Kevin Bieksa for example; an awesome defenseman, a great fighter, and one very good looking guy. He’s my favourite. Stats? Not sure, but whatever he’s doing, he’s doing a great job of it. I vote for a no-touch jersey-less exhibition game some day *sigh*.

So you noticed I mentioned fighting--now, that doesn’t mean that I’m a fan of violence, but sometimes on the ice there is just cause to make a statement and that statement can only be made through a good punch or two. Besides, the refs usually break it up fairly quickly anyway. I remember taking my friend Hedieh to a game once--it was her first time seeing a hockey game live. I was a little nervous because she had never really seen “that” side of me. We were having a nice, quiet, civil conversation, and all of a sudden one of our players was pulled down with no call against the other team and a fight broke out. Well, no sooner was I talking about afternoon tea when I was on my feet with the rest of the crowd shouting obscenities at the referees. I sat back down after a minute after almost losing my voice, to simply carry on my nice conversation in a much more calmer tone, as if nothing had happend, while Hedieh just looked at me horrified.

I always am interested to see who is sitting around me in my section--that can make or break a game as a spectator. This one time, I was in one of the sections in the upper bowl (it’s usually madness up there), and by the time the game was done, half of the people in the section has been removed--but boy, was it a good time.

Our section this time was pretty quiet--well, there was the guy with Tourette’s Syndrome a few rows down from us that had a lot to say.  I was impressed by the fact that no one gave him a hard time--it was nice to see given mental illness is not always so easily understood.  Then there were the two children (sans adults) sitting in front of us, so I felt I couldn’t be my usual “x-rated-non-child-friendly” self. Lastly, there was the fellow sitting right next to me (I found out later his name was David), who in the third period, was getting calls from his 8 year old daughter, TaylorAnn, trying to figure out where her Daddy was sitting in the arena. We did make it on camera (you could see it on the jumbo-tron), so I suggested he stand up and wave when they came down the ice and the camera panned in our direction. And sure enough, I could see Sheila and myself (I was all hair--hey, it was raining out), all thanks to David, who oddly was the only person in the section wearing a solid red sweater (mmm...kind of Calgary-ish if you ask me). I would like to personally thank David for being the crazed guy in the red waving madly for no reason (that’s how it looked to everyone else in the arena) because it helped my Mom find me too, which then allowed me to make a call to her to stop all her incoming calls, saying “Where are you? I can’t see you? Are you sure you’re there?”.

Watching the game in the arena versus at home is totally different--there’s no announcer giving a play-by-play. It kind of sucks in a way, but then hey, you’ve got those uniformed hockey players right there in front of you. I was surprised how many people there were not really watching the game but just having a lot of side conversations through the whole game. When there’s a break in the game between periods, they throw on some music and get people to do dance-offs or have the little tykes from Tim Horton’s Hockey on the ice to play their game (it was just too cute). Because I’m not the least bit shy, I usually do whatever I can to get on the jumbo-tron, but, thanks to kids directly in front of us and the heavy meal I ate before the game, I wasn’t in usual form. There was one Valentine’s Day where I was stood up by one of my guy friends who was supposed to go to the game with me, and I sat next to a couple who felt sorry for me and felt alchol would be of help. Well, eight Smirnoff Ice later, and you can better believe I got on camera. One thing that was really cool during this game, was an interview they did with a lady who was celebrating her 93rd birthday! The entire arena sang happy birthday to Violet--neat. Incidentally, she happened to be in our row, so we got to personally talk to her--she was amazing for 93!

As I mentioned at the beginning, this game was against Calgary--Vancouver’s arch-nemesis. I’ve been to few of the games against Calgary, and it was always enjoyable to get the section I was sitting in to sing anything loudly enough that made Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary’s long-time famed goalie) get off his game. Well, Mr. Kiprusoff has since retired and has been replaced with a young fellow, Joni Ortio, who, even while I was in prime seating, was just too young and innocent looking to make fun of--no one wants to see a goalie cry. I did happen to find a second-favourite player...No. 29, Tom Sestito. There’s a nice 6’5” player who looked like he could bowl through anything, and hey, he’s cute too. His name is difficult to say and made me crave tortilla chips, but when said with a Spanish accent, it works quite nicely. 

There’s no question that all these men have talent, and watching them play is like watching a finely choreographed dance (most of the time). It is truly an experience being there, seeing it all happen, especially when they win (which they did that night, 2 to 1). I will add my two humanitarian cents by saying that it does sadden me that society places such a huge spotlight on this form of entertainment along with rather ridiculously large pay cheques. It’s tough when you think about how we don’t even pay our doctors who save people’s lives a fraction of what a professional sports person or actor/actress gets paid. Do I watch movies? Yes. Do I attend an occasional hockey game? Absolutely. So I suppose I could be called a hypocrite then, but it certainly is some food for thought. 

Perhaps it’s best to look at all the good that comes from the support we give our hockey team--the charitable organizations like Canuck Place, and all the support our Canuck players personally give to our children in need who are eternally grateful. Even the joy that Fin, our Canuck’s creepy orca-headed-man-mascot-guy (they should just give him a full orca suit already), brings to the kids--whether it’s in a hospital or in the arena.

Thank you, Vancouver Canucks, for the smiles and fun--your fans love you. Now win the f*cking Cup already please.

No comments:

Post a Comment