After the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Final, I stepped away from hockey for a while (in reality, it was about two weeks). I couldn’t watch anything hockey-related; every time TSN or Sportsnet would show clips of the Boston Bruins lifting the Stanley Cup in Vancouver’s own home, it was like that knife in my back twisted, and dug a little deeper.
I watched a lot of sports movies in that time. Some for the first time, others for the millionth time.
One movie which never seems to fail me is Friday Night Lights. For those who haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it. It’s about a young Texas highschool football team who are under the intense spotlight and expectations of winning (not all that dissimilar from Vancouver). Like hockey in Vancouver, football is life in Texas, and one quote from the team captain Mike Winchell to head coach Gary Gaines virtually summed up life for Canucks fans.
“You ever feel cursed, Coach? Like no matter what, inside your heart you know you’re going to lose, like something’s hanging over you. I feel like that all the time. Even when things are going good. When we’re winning, it’s there. When we’re losing, it’s there. It follows me like a witch.”
Now let’s be honest. Who else encountered that feeling at least once during the playoffs? Truthfully, it was there in the first round; even when the Canucks held that commanding 3-0 series lead against Chicago. And eventually, those doubts, those fears, they crept into our hearts and minds as that series dragged on. It made Alex Burrows’ eventual game winner all the more sweeter, but it wasn’t just elation that swept over fans in that moment … It was relief. Maybe that curse was being lifted.
Slowly, we began to believe. And the city began to as well. The Canucks beat the determined Predators in six and rolled over the Sharks in five en route to that coveted Stanley Cup Final berth. The curse was just four more wins away from being vanquished once and for all.
But as the Canucks squandered that 2-0 series lead, those same old doubts and fears barreled down on us like a freight train.
The story pretty much writes itself from there. The vaunted Canucks, the best team in the regular season bar none, lost four of the last five games. Losing four of five in the regular season was virtually unheard of, let alone doing it on the biggest stage of them all. And just like that, Canucks fans remain tethered to that curse, that 41-year curse, that weighs on us like a gigantic boulder.
Until the Canucks finally capture that Stanley Cup, all we’ll ever feel is cursed. The 2011/2012 season is a brand new chance at redemption, but as those years drag on, we can only feel that boulder getting heavier.
And for those wondering, here is Coach Gaines’ response to curses:
“It took me a long time to realize that there ain’t much difference between winning and losing, except how the outside world treats you. But inside you, it’s about all the same. It really is. Fact of the matter is that our only curses are the ones self-imposed. We, all of us, we dig our own holes.”