Katie Maximick

Oct 152011
 

During the miserable night that was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Canucks fan Pauline Lee was in an Ontario bar surrounded by Boston Bruins fans.

With five minutes to go in the game and the ugly score of 4-0 looming on every TV around her, Pauline couldn’t stand anymore.

“I got up and dragged my depressed self out the door and just walked,” she says, recalling that June 15th night. “I couldn’t bear to see my team cry or the Bruins hoist what should’ve been ours.”

It was close to midnight in St. Catharine’s when Pauline, a student of Brock University, hit the streets.

“I walked aimlessly for a bit, just in utter disbelief at what happened. I was so angry and I wanted to hit or throw something. I was holding my phone so I chucked that. Luckily, it landed in the grass and no real damage was done.”

Pauline’s feeling to hit or throw something might have been a general Canucks fan reaction to the loss. As Pauline walked in a numbed state of shock around St. Catharine’s, Canada’s worst hockey riot was breaking out on the West Coast.

“I can’t really say I was surprised that riots broke out, after what happened in ’94 when the Canucks lost to the Rangers, and after the numerous riots that broke out in Montreal,” Pauline says. “I was still shocked though that people hadn’t learned from past events. And to shame the team, the city, and our country like that? I don’t think I’ve ever expressed such disappointment in my life.”

Pauline’s reaction to the riot isn’t a rare one, but what is rare is her. She’s a very uncommon Canucks fan. Why? Because she was born and raised a Leafs fan in Ontario with zero Canucks fans in her circle, yet somehow she grew into a Canucks fan on her own.

She’s the first to admit that she became a Canucks fan in a rather shallow way back in 2002, when the sight of Ed Jovanovski and his “crib” aired during a 2002 Winter Games special on CBC. Regardless, that night she and her sister decided that a few Canucks were cute enough to start watching Canucks games, and that’s how she was lured in.

“Sounds ridiculous right?” she asks. “Well let’s just say that were it not for our shallow tendencies, I probably wouldn’t be a Canucks fan.”

Now, however, you can’t confuse Pauline for a puck bunny. She knows her stuff (seriously) and she’s committed to the Vancouver Canucks in a way that would silence any critic. Like me, her love for the Canucks began at the height of the West Coast Express era, so Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund remain her two favourite players. After all, they’re the reason she likes the Canucks in the first place. With the depth of today’s Canucks roster, Pauline can’t pinpoint a favourite player, but she definitely speaks highly of the Sedins.

“Which Canucks fan doesn’t love them?” she asks rhetorically. “They make great plays, score highlight-reel goals, and are just amazing guys!”

Like many Canucks fans outside of B.C., Pauline feels rather far from Canucks Nation and alone in her love of the team. She has three sisters, all who cheer for different teams.

“A lot of my girlfriends aren’t into hockey and my sisters would cheer for the opposite team,” she says about her experience during the playoffs. “So the only way I could connect with Canucks fans was through Twitter. There were many times where I’d whine and complain about wishing I was in Vancouver so I would be surrounded by people who understood what I was feeling. My girlfriends tried to sympathize with me but it just wasn’t the same. They knew it too. They were constantly saying how I needed to be in Vancouver.”

But being surrounded by Leafs fans isn’t as bad as it seems.

“I’m pretty sure Leafs fans have accepted the fact that most teams are better than theirs, so they can’t really chirp [me],” Pauline says, laughing.

She watches every game she can, and if she has to stream them online due to blackouts, she does. Pauline has all the sites bookmarked. At times her fingernails (and sometimes her eyes) are painted in Canucks colours to match her favourite pair of earrings, and when meeting new people she usually starts conversations with, “Are you into hockey?” This would hopefully turn into her favourite subject to talk about: the Canucks.

There’s no doubt that Pauline Lee is a super fan. She bleeds blue and green and says that since she was introduced to the Canucks, her priorities have been completely out of order. But out of order to HER? Hardly.

Pauline was asked to complete this sentence: “For me, the Canucks are _______.”

She answered: “My life… If I have homework to do, guess what? Canucks first.”

“Who knows, maybe I am a crazy fan. What can I say? I love my team and I’m not afraid to show it! Canucks fan until the day I die!”

Oct 032011
 

Passion. Courage. Integrity. Humility. Honour. These are what it takes to have the Heart of a Canuck.

Here at Canucks Hockey Blog we honour these qualities in others and value community involvement and charity work, which is why we’re running the “Heart of a Canuck” contest.

Canucks fans are amazing people (see the post-riot cleanup for example), so we’re posting this call for nominations, looking for fans who have “The Heart of a Canuck.” These are fans who donate their time in many ways to help others in need in their community, and who make a difference with the resources available to them. They have passion, courage, integrity, humility and honour. They care.

Is this you or someone you know?

If you or someone you know has The Heart of a Canuck, let us know and we’ll profile them on the site. We’ll share their stories, and with help from Canucks Nation, choose one who will be honoured with a Canucks-related “thank you” for all they do. After all, they deserve it.

Let us know who you want to nominate and why. You can do this by:

We’d like to be able to share these fans’ stories soon so we’ll take nominations until Friday, October 14th.

“Every good act is charity. A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows.” – Moliere

Jun 172011
 
Vancouver Cleanup June 18 2011

Photo credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I’m not going to re-hash what every major news outlet has already covered about Vancouver’s riot. What I do want to talk about is the positive solidarity felt across Vancouver today amidst the ruins of the riot’s aftermath.

What we felt today was a unification of Vancouverites against the destruction and embarrassing behaviour of a small group of morons, a group we feel do not represent this city’s people or its hockey fans.

Yesterday morning as I drove into downtown Vancouver before 6 a.m., volunteers were already hitting the streets en masse, wearing their Canucks jerseys, and armed with gloves and garbage bags to clean up the mess that a bunch of idiots created.

All day long, piece by piece, thousands of people cleaned up their city in their spare time. The glass was swept up, the garbage collected and smashed windows boarded up with plywood. Everywhere you looked, Vancouverites were uniting to help try and fix what the riot left behind.

On Twitter, tens of thousands of Vancouverites wrote about their disgust with the riot, and began documenting all the good being done today in the riot’s aftermath, using the hashtag: #thisismyVancouver.

Passers-by on the street complimented those sweeping near bus shelters, with “You are amazing! Thank you!” Others simply smiled at each other in embarrassed understanding.

Throughout the day, that plywood covering the windows of many businesses downtown was eventually covered in the writing of those apologizing on behalf of their city and their hockey team. Thousands of messages of hope, disgust, apology, and love can be read outside the Hudson’s Bay Company, and if you take the time to read a few of them, you will quickly read between the lines and see the real spirit of Vancouver.

For the first time since I moved here, I saw this multi-cultural and multi-faceted population unite to try and save the reputation of its beloved city.

All day, Vancouverites worked together to clean up their city, write words of hope on damaged buildings and help the Vancouver Police Department identify hundreds of criminals in the riot with the help of social media. The Vancouver PD Tweeted that it was overwhelmed with flowers, letters and emails of thanks, as citizens expressed their gratitude for their courage shown last night.

Today’s collective actions might not make international headlines, but what I saw happening today was people rising against the negativity surrounding the riot, and showing the world (if it will open its eyes) what the real heart of Vancouver looks like.

It may be too late to save the reputation of Vancouver and its hockey fans, but I thought the world should know that it took a lot of sorrow and destruction to bring out the true spirit of this city. What I saw emerge from the ashes of the riot was a quiet humiliation, one that quickly changed into a determination to gain back some of Vancouver’s good name.

What many outsiders are quick to forget is that this city is heartbroken and in collective mourning after the Canucks lost to Boston. For Vancouver, hockey isn’t just a game; it’s everything. The Stanley Cup Finals were bigger than the Olympics, so it says a lot that the people of this city could to go out there today, put on a brave face despite heartbreak, and patch up the broken spirit of Vancouver with everything they had.

It may surprise some people to hear, but today’s tremendous show of heart by this city made me proud to live in Vancouver.

Jun 142011
 

Gutless – lacking courage or determination.

Unclassy – lacking in good taste or sense; crude.

Both of these terms have been tossed back and forth between the Vancouver and Boston camps since the beginning of the Stanley Cup Final. They’ve been used so often and so stupidly that for many people, the words have lost their venom. Even the supposedly “unbiased” media is jumping on the wagon of name-calling, labelling the Sedin Twins “Thelma and Louise” (Mike Milbury, NBC/Versus) or calling the Canucks a bunch of classless, gutless brutes (Barry Rozner, Daily Herald).

It’s pretty apparent that the Canucks and their fans are more often the culprits of these accusations compared to the Bruins, who time and time again are coming off as the victims, despite HNIC calling the series’ officiating in favour of the Bruins and the countless horror stories from Canucks fans brave enough to go to Boston.

What’s disgusted me is how this whole series has spiralled into a savage show of brutality, finger-pointing, whining and name calling from both cities. Is this really what hockey has come down to? 

A grown man elbowing a nine-year-old boy in the head for wearing a Canucks jersey?

Or Canucks fans calling Milan Lucic’s parents at all hours of the night to swear at them?

Some parents should be more concerned about their own terrible behaviour rubbing off on their children rather than that of the players’ on the ice.

The lowest point in this entire series so far is what happened in Game 6 when Mason Raymond went down awkwardly into the boards and laid on the ice while Boston fans cheered, clapped and chanted. Then while Raymond’s limp body was carried off the ice by his teammates, fans in TD Garden actually booed.

Today it was revealed Raymond has fractured vertebrae in his back and will be out 3-4 months.

Fans across the NHL know that you never boo an injured player off the ice no matter how much you hate the opposing team. It’s the epitome of bad taste, or “unclassy” behaviour if you want to recycle some redundant terminology. It was a disgusting, embarrassing show of behaviour at TD Garden, and yes, I did actually expect more from Boston fans despite the shame spiral this series has turned into.

Even NHL Connected had something to say about this today:

“Bruins fans: how do you feel now after the merciless booing you rained down upon Raymond as he struggled on the ice with a broken back?”

And somehow Vancouver is the classless city of the two? Really? Because when Horton went down in Boston, fans watching on the JumboTron at Rogers Arena applauded in support when he left the ice.

Today @lizzmoffat tweeted: “When Horton was hit everyone at the Rogers (Arena) viewing party clapped him off. Boston booed off MayRay. I think that says a lot.”

Vancouver has a reason to be very upset with Boston’s performance last night. It didn’t matter who was hurt; an injured player should never be booed off the ice, especially not a harmless Mason Raymond who hasn’t done anything to garner hatred in Bean Town.

Some Twitter reactions to the incident:

Sportswriter Joe Haggerty: “One thing I can confidently say I didn’t like tonight: Bruins crowd yelling at Mason Raymond while he was seriously hurt on the ice. Brutal.”

From Nanaimo, BC: @Tambellini_Girl: “What’s more “classless” than making fun of Raymond while he’s hurt on the ice? I’ve never hated other team’s fans until yesterday.”

From Montreal: @MALaviolette: “’Mason Raymond out with fractured vertebrae’ »»» I wonder if the booing Bruins fans feel cheap now. #classless #bruins

From Denver, Colorado: @Greg69Sheryl: “Mason Raymond suffered a fractured vertebra – Now I’m more embarrassed about the behavior of #Bruins fans in Game 6.”

I could go on, but what’s the point? There’s one more game left to play in this series, and I have to admit that despite how much I love hockey, I can’t wait for it to be over for a while. Obviously I hope that Vancouver walks away with its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, but another part of me is glad the series will be finished after all the continuously ruthless crap going on between the two cities.

I don’t think the good name of hockey (or what’s left of it) can afford any more incidents like this if the sport is going to walk away with any scrap of dignity after Wednesday.

Normally I’d end this kind of post with “stay classy” but what’s the point? That ship sailed a long time ago.

So I’ll end with what every Canucks fan is thinking, and what every Bruins fan should be admitting:

We hope you’ll be okay, Raymond. See you next season.

May 282011
 

I knew playoff tickets were going to be expensive here in Vancouver, but I didn’t think that seats for games in the Stanley Cup Finals would be comparable to the men’s hockey games in the 2010 Olympics.

It came to my attention yesterday that tickets for the SC Finals at Rogers Arena are going for $924. Each. A seat.

That’s half my pay check, and no doubt it’s some people’s ENTIRE pay check!  With the cost of living in Vancouver being as high as it is, many fans can’t afford to go to any of the games, which really sucks because this would be the time to see them play; to possibly watch the Canucks make history.

Of course, Canucks tickets are already the most expensive in the NHL during the regular season, so I expected things to get pricey, but $924? Seriously?

This just goes to show how elitist hockey is becoming in the Canadian market. Montreal, Calgary and Toronto have very high pricing for games too, so this isn’t an isolated issue. It’s a problem, really, because this means that only those with a decent amount of disposable income can afford to go to hockey games.

Canucks fans notice how the lower bowl of Rogers Arena is being packed with “suits”, clients of big corporations who are season ticket holders and hand out tickets as perks. This usually makes for a lacklustre audience down below while the more rambunctious fans pack the rafters in the upper bowl, where the seats are considerably cheaper.

Corporations own a fair share of season tickets at Rogers Arena, and season ticket holders get priority for tickets to post-season games. Is it surprising then if the majority of lower bowl crowds are uninterested businessmen fiddling with their iPhones?  These people aren’t there to watch hockey. They’re there because someone gave them a free ticket to some hockey game that they should probably check out.

There have been complaints since Round 2 of the playoffs that Rogers Arena has been “too quiet” during games. I agree that some games have seemed pretty dead (most remarkably game 1 against Nashville), but apparently those in the arena say it isn’t so bad, and CBC’s audio doesn’t do justice to the noise level of the crowd.

Either way, is it really any surprise that as ticket prices go up, the crowd gets a bit tamer? I mean, think about the kind of people who can afford tickets – they’re not average fans, that’s for sure. More and more clients, celebrities and high-profile businessmen will be filling Rogers Arena because they can afford it, and I can’t see these people wearing face paint, jerseys and waving their playoff towels around.

It’s unfair, because there are a lot of fantastic, die-hard fans out there who deserve to fill Rogers Arena to the rafters and watch their favourite hockey team go for the Holy Grail of hockey. Instead hundreds of thousands of Canucks fans will be watching from home or a pub because admission’s free there, and beers definitely come cheaper there than their $8 counterparts at Rogers Arena.

There should be some kind of priority seating for die-hard fans at Rogers Arena; the rich, uninterested clients and their partners would be turned away at the door. But that’s not realistic. More and more hockey is becoming all about making money, and the only way to do that is to hike ticket prices, which means slowly but surely, fans at Rogers Arena and around Canada are being replaced by the Suits.

Why? Because the Suits can afford it, not because they really want to watch the Canucks play.

And yes, it’s an absolute shame.

I’m going to end this rant with something Jim Robson told me:

“Sports became a real release or outlet for people in tough times … There was something about sports being an escape, but the people who are suffering financially nowadays couldn’t afford to go to a game.”

And ain’t that the truth.

To every Canucks fan who’ll be watching from home or a pub, I’ll be joining you.

To all the Suits planning to go to Rogers Arena who aren’t really huge Canucks fans – I hope you feel guilty that there are a hundred thousand people who should be there instead of you.

And don’t spill your $8 beer on your $2,000 suit.

May 202011
 

I’m sure everybody and their dog has talked about (and reviewed photos of) the female Canucks fan who flashed Ben Eager her breasts beside the penalty box Wednesday night. And honestly I didn’t really give it much thought until I was interviewed about it by 24 Hours Thursday afternoon. When the reporter asked me how it made me feel, I realized it made me feel pretty pissed off. Why? Well because after all the articles I’ve written on female fans and our fight to be taken seriously in the NHL, some chick goes and does something like this and sets us back a peg in the hockey world.

Flashing on national TV is embarrassing, not only for women watching the game, but for Vancouver fans in general. Whether you’ve thought about it this way or not, it was a pretty inappropriate move for a fan to make no matter what city it’s in, and Canucks fans have a bad enough reputation as bandwagoners and ref whiners. Do we really need to add “classless” or “trashy” to that list too?

It’s not appropriate for a guy to take off his shirt at a hockey game, and it sure as hell isn’t for a female to do the same when there are many children watching from either the crowd or their living rooms at home.

And yeah, I know that guys will be the last to complain about the Penalty Box Flasher, but part of me hopes that they can understand why hard-core female fans might find this offensive and degrading. It’s hard enough for us girls to be taken seriously by male fans without stuff like this taking place. It’s an uphill battle, and for us flashing goes hand-in-hand with puck bunnies, not fans.

I’m not a Feminist – actually I’m quite hard on my own sex most of the time, but when it comes to breaking through the Boys’ Club of hockey, I’m quite prepared to carry the torch for many women out there. I’ve worked hard to be where I am, and I didn’t show my breasts to get there.

Seriously girl, where’s your class?  You’ve embarrassed many female Canucks fans with this move, and I hope folks across the league don’t associate your trashy behaviour with the rest of us.

It’s no wonder I’d rather have the Green Men in her place any day. At least they’re creative.

Boobs?  I see them every day, and so do most of the men still talking about this. Get over it guys. The only reason the Flasher is getting as much attention as she is (which I’m sure she planned), is because this rarely happens in hockey, and there are many reasons for that.

If you can’t think of any of those reasons right now, peel your eyes away from the blonde’s nipples and try to see the larger picture. In it alongside of you are kids and thousands of respectable women trying to enjoy the game.

May 092011
 

Here on CHB we have had the privelige of profiling Canucks fans from all over the world during the 2010-2011 playoffs, including fans from the hometowns of the Sedins and Jannik Hansen.

Now we profile a fan from the country of defenceman Christian Ehrhoff. Meet 31-year-old Sören “Madayar” Assmann (yes, that’s his real name, and Sören realizes how funny this is in English).

Sören is from Friesing, a town near Munich in Germany where he works as a tech supporter. He first fell in love with hockey back in 2002, thanks to NHL computer games and a family link to Ontario.

“I first went for the Maple Leafs,” Sören admits, “But the Canucks actually won me over. I started watching NHL online in Hamburg from 2004 forward, and quickly found out that while I was always rooting for Canadian teams first, the Vancouver Canucks were just the most fun to watch and the most entertaining club. I never looked back since.”

His all-time favourite Canucks is Markus Naslund “no questions asked,” but when he thinks about it, Sören has the fondest memories of the West Coast Express line.

“Then again,” he adds, “The Canucks always get lucky with the Swedes. The Sedin twins and Samuelsson for example. Them and Burrows and Luongo are of course everybody’s favourites nowadays, but frankly, I value two other players higher – my countryman Christian Ehrhoff and another Swede Alex Edler.”

“They are the backbone this season, two stalwart defenders that can both be trusted and thus let the offensive line be freer in their actions. And both are extremely dangerous in front of the goal, too.”

(Uh oh, no one tell Sören that Ehrhoff is a minus-7 right now. It could break his German heart).

Like other fans who favour their countrymen as players, Sören patriotism is easily understood.

“Ehrhoff is Germany’s best defender of all time, and Germany’s hockey is getting better in the process of more young players looking into the NHL. We just beat Russia in our 30-what attempt!”

Sören thinks he brings bad luck to teams he likes, as well as to women he likes, but apparently that’s different matter altogether. Pretty much every time he watches any of his favourite teams play, they lose.

“So I stopped watching,” he says, confused about his luck, “But why can’t teams I love win trophys? How can Vancouver win three in a row, and when I start watching, they lose three by 16 goals?”

I don’t know, Sören, but if you watched Game 5 on Saturday I hope you don’t watch Game 6. They need to win and give their injured players a break!

Preparing for the worst, though, is part of Sören’s playoff routine.

“I’m European,” he says. “The whole pllayoff thing is seriously annoying me, for it makes three quarters of the regular season a waste of time. It’s a money-making scheme, and the best regular season team gets nearly nothing for it and has to start anew. I think it’s an unfair setting.”

Sören watches game online at home, not live for the most part since games start at 4 in the morning, but like most overseas fans, the playoffs are a different matter.

“During working days that is blatantly impossible most of the time. Although when the games get really tough, especially late in the playoffs, I actually do get up early for the games.”

“Replays are watched, of course, online, and sometimes a buddy is there to watch them with me.”

Originally Sören anticipated the worst for the Canucks in the playoffs, thinking they would be eliminated in the first round, but beating Chicago in Game 7 showed him that the Canucks play like one of his favourite soccer teams – “Sometimes brilliant, dominant, and highly entertaining.”

“Sometimes they make me lose all hope in humanity, and my hair gets grayer by the minute,” he says. “The first round overdid it. 16 goals in three games after leading 3-0 – that’s horrible even for my Canucks. Still, as long as they’re in it and occasionally produce shutouts, they can win it, even if they were a worse team than they are.”

“But with their offensive power and defensive stance fuelled by Edler, Ehrhoff and Luongo in goal, they are still my favourite to win it all. If they can get their concentration up, that is. It’s only a mental question if the Canucks can win it or not.”

That and injuries…

Despite his German patriotism, Sören expects more out of the blueline in the playoffs, including his fellow countryman Ehrhoff, admitting they haven’t been brilliant as of late. He also knows the Sedins are underperforming and need to put their foot on the gas.

But like every Canucks fan, Sören is anxiously waiting for his team to get through Nashville and make it to the Western Conference final. The sooner the better to give everyone a bit of a break, fans included.

“How do I say ‘Go Canucks Go’ in my native language?” he asks. “Literally it would be ‘Vorwärts, Canucks, vorwärts!’, but more fitting – in clutch situations, as these playoffs, for example – would be ‘Kämpfen, Canucks, kämpfen!’ – Fight, Canucks, fight!”

Let’s hope they hear your chants all the way from Germany, Sören, because more fight is exactly what they need.

Apr 302011
 

Amman, Jordan – one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  Since 10,000 BCE people have lived at this Middle Eastern site, and only in the last century has the town grown into a city due to the adoption of Palestinian refugees.

Amidst the hustle and the bustle of Jordan’s culturally diverse capital lives Canucks fan Ramzi Ghurani, a marketing and brand strategy consultant who moved from Vancouver to the Middle East 10 years ago.

“I fell in love with hockey when I first moved to Vancouver during the ‘88 playoffs when I saw Gretzky beat Mike Vernon with a slap shot over his shoulder to have the Oilers top the Flames in overtime,” he says. “I was like ‘this is awesome!’”

And then he was hooked.

“I’ve basically been a Canucks fan since the 88-89 season, and my earliest memory of the Canucks is that playoff series where they almost beat the Flames. Of course the Canucks lost to an Otto kick and the Flames went on to win the Stanley Cup.”

Ramzi’s hoping that, this time around, it’s the Canucks who make it all the way.

After living in Vancouver for most of his life, Ramzi found watching his favourite sport to be quite the challenge once he moved overseas.

“It really affects me,” he says about the time difference. “I get up at 5 am to watch Canucks home games, not every game of the regular season but every game in the playoffs.”

“It’s a passion I have and I get up to watch the games; the problem is getting to work the next day. But things become easier when they win, but extra tough for me to do anything when they lose — I was flying high after that game 7 win!”

You weren’t alone there, that’s for sure.

Ramzi’s first favourite Canuck was #1 goalie Kirk McLean, but as the years passed a certain Swede eventually grabbed his attention.

“My all-time favourite by far is Markus Naslund,” he says. “He simply resurrected the Canucks from mediocrity, and his number being retired is justified.”

“Currently I’m a fan of Luongo. People might say he’s not a big-time goalie, but after the ‘06 season the Canucks were a hairline away from entering mediocrity again, and I credit him for putting the Canucks into a winning frame of mind.”

When it comes to the playoffs, Ramzi thinks the first-round win over Chicago has propelled Vancouver’s momentum for the second round.

“They just overcame their biggest hurdle – beating the Hawks,” he says. “I really think that this is their playoffs now. Nashville will be tough, but not nearly as tough as the Hawks on all levels. Plus I think they learned a lesson.  The only team that I think may be able to knock them out is San Jose, but that would be a dandy of a series and another nail biting epic series.”

And who has pleased Ramzi all the way across the Atlantic? Who needs to step up?

“Before game 6, I thought Kesler and Burrows needed to step it up – I can safely say they raised their level,” he says.

But…

“I actually think the Sedins really need to show more. If you have these 4 players playing at a reasonably high level, the Canucks will be very fine!”

And for our favourite part here at CHB: How to say “Go Canucks Go!” in another language.

“Um, I’ve never done it,” Ramzi admits, “but if I were to, it would be Yalla Canucks Yalla!”

Apr 282011
 

Just when we all thought my CHB colleague Richard Loat was the only man in the world who would follow Jannik Hansen to the ends of the earth, we hear about Danish press photographer and Canucks fan Brian Poulsen.

Poulsen, 32, was also born in Hansen’s hometown in Denmark called Rodovre, and as part of his job as a photographer, Poulsen has been able to travel to Manitoba and Vancouver to shoot Denmark’s newest hockey hero, #36.

“I’ve actually been to Vancouver to shoot a couple of Vancouver games,” Poulsen says. “Unfortunately Hansen was out with a groin injury when I was there. It was in the 2008/2009 season when the Canucks played Phoenix. Another guy from Rodovre was playing for Phoenix – Mikkel Boedker so they would have been the first two Danish players to ever play against each other.”

Technically, Poulsen’s only been a Canucks fan since 2004, when Vancouver drafted Hansen. Before that, he liked the Rangers and grew up idolizing Brian Leetch.

There’s really no point in wondering who Poulsen’s favourite Canuck is at the moment.  Really, he’s been following Hansen for quite some time, watching the blond forward progress in the NHL.

“Having watched him play with a full cage on the men’s team here as a 16-year old, it’s been great to watch him evolve into the player he is today,” he says.

Like the rest of our international fans profiled on Canucks Hockey Blog, Poulsen has to wake up at a ridiculous time to watch a game.

“Being in Denmark, the time difference is 9 hours so I watch the games on my computer. Thank god for ESPN360!” he says. “This means I set the alarm for 4 a.m. to watch hockey. I can usually get an hour and a half of sleep before I have to get up and go to work.”

Interrupting REM for the Canucks? This guy’s a trooper, folks.

“Despite this, I think I’ve only missed somewhere between 5 or 10 Canuck games all season long. The TV station that shows hockey here usually shows east coast games because they are 1 a.m. starts and not 4 a.m. starts.”

Like most Canucks fans who lived through the Chicago series, Poulsen is hopeful about the team’s odds.

“I think this is the year where the Canucks go all the way,” he says. “Everything else would be considered a disappointment. I’m sure everybody feels that way.”

And as for individual player performances, Hansen’s first few games have not escaped Poulsen’s trained eye.

“So far the Jannik Hansen has stepped up his game in the playoffs, but I hope a guy like Burrows will do it too,” he says, although Poulsen’s answers were submitted before the Canucks’ Game 7 win against the Chicago Blackhawks so, really, he got what he wanted.

“The whole first line has to get it going. So far that has only happened in game 2 of the series against Chicago. They make or break the post-season in my mind.”

And there’s no doubt about that no matter where you live. It’s not a secret that the Sedins (mainly Henrik) need to step up their game if the Canucks are to go far and live up to Poulsen’s, and the rest of Canucks Nations’, expectations. We all await the return of the Art Ross brothers in Round 2.

And just when I thought we were going to get an interesting version of “Go Canucks Go!” Poulsen goes and tells me:

“Go Canucks Go in Danish is pretty much the same. We actually use quite a few English words here.”

Damn.

Well, at least that’s good news for Richard if he ever takes his bro-mance with #36 overseas.

Poulsen will be closely watching Hansen’s hard-hitting performance for the rest of the playoffs from Denmark and, if we’re all lucky, the outcome will not be disappointing.

Apr 222011
 

“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.”

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