Leave it to soon-to-be former Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongo to sum up how every Vancouver fan was feeling before game 1:
— Strombone (@strombone1) June 13, 2013
Watching the game, my inner Canuck fan was very conflicted. I have stated that I would prefer Chicago to win because to me they were the lesser of two evils, but it just felt wrong pulling for the Blackhawks, especially after seeing this from Jonathan Toews:
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 11, 2013
There’s absolutely no way I’m going to cheer for the Boston Bruins. After what they did to the Canucks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, I will forever hate the Bruins. It’s the way the Bruins beat the Canucks, both physically and on the scoreboard. If you look at the whole series, the Bruins heavily outscored the Canucks because of the blowouts in Boston. They didn’t leave the barbs for only on the ice; they have also voiced their hatred of my team many times during and after the series.
I’m left to cheer for something every fan, no matter their allegiances, roots for: excitement. When the Blackhawks fell down by two goals to the Bruins, I hoping Chicago would come back because I wanted a competitive game. If Boston was down by a few goals, I would want for the Bruins to tie it up. I just wanted a fast pace game with at least 4 goals, acrobatic saves, and some real drama. And boy did it deliver. The game went into triple overtime and although both teams were exhausted, they managed to produce some great chances at both ends. If the rest of the games in the series are like this one, hockey fans are in for a treat.
Obviously, the highlight of the game was the multiple overtimes. The NHL has the best overtime system in all of professional sports; it is unmatched. The NFL relies too much on the coin flip (even with the new OT rules, if a team wins the coin toss, they can end it with a touchdown without the other team getting a shot). The NBA, MLB, and soccer are not sudden death and that really takes away from the intensity. I love NHL playoff overtime because you don’t know if you will be watching for a minute or for hours. As a Canucks fan, I’ve been treated to some very long overtime games (like the quadruple overtime game against Dallas in 2007) and some very short ones (Game 2 of the 2011 Finals against the Bruins).
When your team is in overtime, you have a funny feeling in your stomach throughout the whole period. The sound of puck hitting the post is either the best sound in the world or the worst. It’s a really special time and is my favourite thing about rooting for your team in hockey. The joy of an overtime win can drive you into the arms of a stranger, high fiving everyone around you. The sting of an overtime loss has you lying in bed, wishing it had gone the other way. I can’t say it enough: I love playoff overtime.
However, it’s different when you have no dog in the race. You don’t have that nervous feeling in your gut and you aren’t hanging onto every play. But, don’t let that detract from it, you may not be as invested, but it’s still awesome. It’s one of the few occasions you see grown men jump around like little school girls, laughing and giggling because they won the game. Add bigger circumstances, like a game 7 and the celebration gets even better. I love it when the bench clears and half the team goes to celebrate with the goal scorer while the other half mobs the goalie. Even the coaches get very excited and they jump high in the sky and hug their peers. Also, who doesn’t love seeing the suits in the press box get all excited? It’s simply awesome.
Here’s a question that a fan of any hockey team needs to ask them self: first and foremost, are you a hockey fan or a fan of a team? I know a lot of people in Vancouver who are Canucks fans, but not hockey fans. At my very core, I am a hockey fan. If there was a scenario that I could either see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, but the league would fold immediately after or the Canucks would cease to exist, but the league would prosper, I would choose to save the league. Nothing would please me more than to see the Canucks finally win the Cup, but the NHL takes precedent over anything else.
So I will watch every game of these finals despite it being played between two of my most hated teams. I will also watch the winning captain hoist the Cup over his head, just like how I watched Zdeno Chara lift the Cup in the centre of Rogers Arena. I’ll do it because I’m a hockey fan. I won’t root for any team; I’ll just root for quality entertainment.
Because it’s the Cup.