“Despite being so far away, I never stopped following the Canucks,” says 29-year-old Francisco Varas. “I will be a die-hard fan forever.”
Varas was born in Richmond, but his parents moved him back to their home country of Chile when he was 13.
“Being raised in a hockey town I think I was born with hockey skates,” Varas adds, “So I can pretty much say I have been a Canucks fan my whole life.”
Varas is a business analyst for L’Oreal’s Active Cosmetics Division in Santiago, crunching numbers and marketing products to dermatologists.
Since moving to Chile, following the team has been a struggle, Varas says, since there are no NHL games aired in South America (could you imagine?). They don’t even have the ability to order NHL Centre Ice.
“My only resource is to watch live online streams, and if it’s safe to say, I found some bootleg websites that show the games, which is how I follow the Canucks now.”
“If the streams are blocked, I’ll listen to radio streams available at Canucks.com.”
Varas says that games are usually aired five hours ahead in the regular season and only three hours ahead during the playoffs due to a time change there. If he has to go to bed at 2 a.m. he’ll try to sleep as much as possible and deal with being tired at work the next day.
“It’s worth it,” he says. “I can always rest on the weekends.
Like many fans, Varas wears a jersey on every game day (in his case the away jersey) and if the team wins, he’ll wear the same clothes the next day out of superstition.
“I bought the away jersey because I believe I am, and will be, a Canuck that is always on the road,” he says.
Varas spent a few years in Colorado and was able to watch the Canucks play every time they took on the Avalanche. He also flew to Anaheim once to “witness some duck hunting at the pond,” so despite living thousands of kilometres away from Vancouver, he has seen his team play more than most international Canucks fans.
“I grew up idolizing the Russian Rocket, and when playing minor hockey in Surrey I tried to always play and skate like him,” he says. “I was very fortunate enough to have met him after a Canucks-Ducks game when I was 12, by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life.”
“As for present Canucks players,” he hesitates for a moment. “That’s a tough one. I love Mason Raymond’s explosiveness, Kesler’s grit and passion, Louie’s butterfly style and in-your-face Burrows.”
When it comes to the playoffs, Varas is very confident about the Canucks’ success. With an amazing season behind them, he is convinced that Luongo will be the man to bring the Cup back to Vancouver for the first time in 96 years since the Millionaires hoisted the trophy in 1915.
“Louie is going to have a stellar run like he did with Team Canada last year. He’s going to be the brick wall we need to make it over the hump, sort of like Captain Kirk and King Richard, but this time I’m sure he’ll lift the Cup.”
To Varas, the team’s skill, grit and depth are key to what he thinks is inevitable post-season success.
“I believe we have many Cup runs to come with this team,” he says.
“Having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs will definitely help. At the same time, the Canucks have been playing great hockey for years, and it’s about time they start getting the credit they deserve.”