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!”

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.”

Apr 152011

Örnsköldsvik, Sweden – the home of hockey greats like Peter Forsberg, Victor Hedman, Markus Naslund and the Sedins.  Is it any surprise that the small Swedish town would be host to a few Canucks fans?

Jon Häggqvist may be a bit of an Avs fan thanks to Forsberg, but his love for the Canucks is growing due to the concentration of his home-town hockey players on the Vancouver roster.

“My greatest idol was Peter Forsberg and therefore the Avs was my favourite team growing up,” Jon admits. “But I always liked the Canucks too, and for the last six or seven years or so they have been growing on me, mostly because of Näslund and the twins, of course.”

“I wouldn’t say that I’m a die-hard fan yet, but I’m on my way.”

Well, at least he’s honest.

Jon is 27 and proud to be from Örnsköldsvik. Who wouldn’t be? He seems to be a pretty down-to-earth guy. He’s not superstitious and he doesn’t really have any game-day rituals aside from coffee drinking (let’s face it – it’s 4 a.m. there when a home game comes on, so coffee is a necessity).

And this is how he says Go Canucks Go in Swedish:

“Kom igen Canucks, kom igen!”

It sounds strange to our English ears, but if we in Vancouver can nail it, we can yell it at half the Canucks roster and they’d love it.

Not surprisingly, most of Jon’s favourite Canucks were, and are, Swedish, except for one Russian guy…

“I always fancied Pavel Bure,” Jon said. “He was so skilful and quick; a real force on the ice. He also had that kind of mystic aura that surrounds some players.”

“And then there was my hometown fellow Markus Näslund. He was such a star, but still one of the most humble hockey players I’ve ever met. The determination that took him from the press box to the Lester B. Pearson Award is truly inspiring.”

“Who is my favourite player is right now? I can’t choose between Daniel and Henrik…”

Don’t worry, Jon – most can’t.

Like our Scottish fan profiled in the first of these international fan profiles, Jon has to struggle with obscure early hours to catch the Canucks in action. I can’t imagine it’s very pleasant to get up that early 82+ times a year.

“It is a pain in the ass to be honest,” he said about 4 a.m. starts. “I have a job to take care of and of course a family too, so many nights I just can’t stay up. I try to watch the Canucks when they play on the east coast and the difference in time zones isn’t killing me… Sometimes when they play at home I go to bed early and put the alarm clock on 4 a.m. When I can’t watch them, I catch up and watch extended highlights when I wake up in the morning.”

Jon said bars are closed in Sweden during those hours, so there’s nowhere to go catch a game aside from on his computer while his family sleeps.

But for playoffs, he thinks he can round up some other hockey fans to watch.

“If it comes to very important playoff games, I think I will get together with some friends. A lot of people around here cheer for the Canucks.”

And who will Jon be watching closely in the playoffs? Surprisingly he’s not Swedish.

“I think Alex Burrows is gonna step up a couple of notches now when the games get tighter, making way for the Sedins and hopefully scoring at a faster pace than he has done lately. I also have hopes for Mikael Samuelsson to get things together for real after his injury. He knows what the playoffs are really about.”

In regards to Jon’s expectations of the Canucks in the postseason, can it be any surprise that he expects nothing but the best? Look where he’s from – a town of elite hockey players, some already with Stanley Cup rings.

“After their amazing season, the expectations can’t be other than extremely high. 54 wins can’t be a fluke, right? This has to be the year, and anything other than the Stanley Cup finals is a disappointment.”

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