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.