Lament of a Fan in Exile

When I lived in the Lower Mainland, my anger at those 5 PM playoff starts boiled to Tony Gallagher levels of indignation. How dare those Toronto stockbrokers dictate our schedule?

Boy, do things look different when you move to Eastern Canada.

There are many things to love about Fredericton: the cathedral spire across the frozen Saint John river, the famously-friendly Maritimers, the $168,000 average house price. But it ain’t easy being a Canucks fan here.

For one, Fredericton is on Atlantic Time, four hours ahead of Vancouver (and only another four behind London). A home game starting at 7:00 means I’m watching the anthem at 11:00 and staggering to bed at 2:00 am. And watching highlights or tape-delayed games the next day just isn’t the same, is it?

And even the playoffs, I fear, won’t be the same without a community to celebrate with. No cars honking jubilantly at every goal, no street party on Scott Road, no high-fives at work the next morning. It’ll feel like getting a plate of scraps thrown down the basement stairs while the real party thunders on upstairs.

Fredericton offers no home team to cheer for. The Moncton Wildcats and Saint John Sea Dogs may be the last two QMJHL champions, but New Brunswick’s third city hasn’t had a team in any league, not even Junior B since the AHL’s Fredericton Canadiens departed for Quebec City in 1999. The only option is $10 varsity hockey.

I haven’t encountered a single Canucks fan. Fans are equally apportioned among the Leafs, Habs, Bruins and Whalers. (Yes, we’re a little behind in the Maritimes.)

Should I adopt one of the sixteen NHL teams in the Eastern Time Zone? Every team worth cheering for has something offputting, trivial or otherwise: Rangers (1994), Boston (2011), Philadelphia (Pronger), Pittsburgh (Cooke), Washington (Ovechkin), Detroit (rival), Ottawa (yawn), Florida (Florida). Besides, can you ever cheer for any other team than the one you lived and died with as a kid?

That’s why I salute my fellow Canucks fans in exile in Hogtown and Beantown, Amsterdam and Abidjan, in cities hostile or indifferent, who keep the flame burning. When victory comes for you, it’ll be all the sweeter even if the only fan nearby to hug is yourself.

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh, this hits so close to home!  Granted, I wasn’t even a hockey fan as a kid, but being an American and a Canucks fan in DC is no picnic.  🙂  

  2. BP says:

    I hear you. After Vancouver I lived in Paris for five years. I think I saw 2 games because of an early east coast start at a Canadian themed bar that showed games. Now I’m in Montreal, but so far the locals seem to appreciate the Canucks, certainly more than the Bruins or Leafs.

  3. Bart Byl says:

    My in-laws live outside DC (Fairfax) and I had to agree not to discuss Ovechkin with my father-in-law, for the sake of family peace. 

  4. Bart Byl says:

    More than the Bruins or Leafs? That’s not saying much!

  5. Earl Gordon says:

    I was a Canucks fan in Palo Alto for 2 years. I knew a few other hockey fans (Canadians) but none were Canucks fans.
    For every game I went to a sports bar by myself, the Old Pro. They had about 30 TVs in the place – when I’d walk in all 30 would be on college football or NBA. I’d get my 1 TV in the corner to watch Canucks games.
    It was pretty difficult have no one to turn to when Cloutier let in Lidstrom’s shot from centre (except my good friend Crown Royal).

  6. I hung out with my good friend, Jose, after Lidstrom’s goal.  Jose Cuervo.

  7. Scott Road? Would you be a North Delta boy? I am, but I’ve lived in Prague for the last 5 years–that means home games start at 4am. When Burrows scored in game 7 vs Chicago and Bieksa in game 5 vs SJ, I had to leave for work in less than half an hour. I have encountered another Nucklehead in the city. We organised Stanley Cup parties for every game in last year’s finals, advertised on the internet, and all sorts of Nux fans on European holidays joined. We had about 100 people to game 7 (a 2am start) and about 80% were pro-Canucks. 

  8. Okanagan Transplant says:

    You are not alone in your East Coast Exile.  We’re few in number, but there are other BC-transplants/Canucks fans who now call NB home.  I’m a couple of hours down the road in Sackville (home to Mount Allison University).  The Canucks’ Stanley Cup run last year earned the team some more fans and jersey/cap-wearers, but it’s still largely Leafs, Habs, Bruins (booo), Sens, and Pens country.  I will admit that I did buy a Whalers ball-cap this year… 

    I thought that I had found a new ally when a Penticton and fellow Okanagan boy moved to town, but he shocked me when he admitted to being a Flames fan.  How is that even possible???  We struck up a friendship nonetheless and he regularly has to wear my Canucks jersey as punishment for any Calgary losses to Vancouver.  Satisfaction is sweet even when there’s no one else around who really appreciates just how painful it is for him to don that jersey. 

    All the best in Fredtown.  Hopefully you find comfort in the knowledge that you’re not the only one trudging to bed at 2am on Saturday nights.

  9. Nat says:

    100 peopple for a 2am start?  Awesome.

  10. Bart Byl says:

    It would be almost comforting to have a Flames fan nearby to mock. Lucky!

  11. Bart Byl says:

    I was from Cloverdale, actually. Love your Prague playoff story!

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