Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stanley Cup craziness

The excitement in Vancouver for the Canucks possibility of winning the Stanley Cup is completely understandable. The anticipation is palpable and no doubt the same is true on the streets of Boston.

The momentum has steadily grown with each game in the series final and with each home win for the Canucks, currently sitting at 3-2 to Vancouver. Just one more win will secure Vancouver glory and this town will go crazier than it is possible to imagine right now and that opinion is based on the celebrations in downtown Vancouver on Friday night.

It's not comparable to the euphoria for soccer teams in the UK. This is bigger. Vancouverites themselves are saying that people are acting as if Canucks has already won the Cup. The nearest comparison that comes to mind in UK soccer at club level is Arsenal's 1989 League Title win. That brought to an end an 18 year drought not only for the team but also for London.

You see, in London there are some 16 rival clubs. These include Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham United. Those are the best well known in the capital city. Add to that the newly promoted Queens Park Rangers with a history as proud as that of West Ham, and you are beginning to get close to the complexity of tribal patterns of UK soccer support. The soccer club scene in the UK is so competitive with so many teams in each others pockets that it is difficult to find a comparison to the Canucks. Even the great teams in the UK that have achieved so much in recent years both domestically and in Europe have rivals in their midst. For Manchester United see City, for Liverpool see Everton. You get the drift.

Really the only buzz that is truly comparable to this year's Stanley Cup run is the excitement surrounding England's World Cup run in 1990. They lost on penalties to West Germany. By the following world cup West Germany was Germany once more. Yes it that was long ago. Although in 1996 the excitement surrounding England's hosting of the Euro Championships was pretty incredible. Hitch-hiking from Scotland to London a day or two before the England Scotland clash clearly displayed the north south divide at the border. In Scotland the Saltire proudly waved while to the south it was the George Cross.

In Vancouver, 1994 was the last time city's hockey team did so well. Not having a rival hockey team closer than Edmonton or Calgary means that the loyalty is pretty much focused on the Canucks. Heck people are even traveling from Calgary to soak up the vibes.

There's been narrow wins for every Vancouver home game and big losses on the road. There has of course been a lot of rough play too at those away games. It was a little bit daunting last night at zero zero in the second period and listening to the commentary on the radio it seemed to me at least that Vancouver were on their way to defeat. Not so. A tight game had me thinking given Boston's last two wins would give them the motivation to get the all important third win. The win went to Vancouver.

The chatter has for so long leading up to the final been on the potential for riots in Vancouver should the Canucks lose. This won't happen. It would be pretty impressive should Boston win the next two and take the Cup but there won't be riots. Policing is just so different now in Vancouver compared to the mid-90s. The authorities really know how to manage crowds. That can be seen with the fan zones and the strict monitoring of people entering these areas. The city quickly realized that a fan zone centered on the CBC building was the best way to ensure that people could be controlled. Crushing is the only danger that could occur but even that seems unlikely due to the lack of alcohol being consumed.

The city flooded last night with people rushing towards Granville and Georgia Streets to celebrate the win. The celebratory mood looks set to continue and even two losses in Boston and in Vancouver next Wednesday can't dampen what has been a great cup run for the Canucks.
A win for the Canucks in Boston or on home ice midweek will again send people into the streets. Granville for some reason appears to be our city square. It is peculiar. The lawns of the art gallery were relatively quiet last night with most people preferring to congregate on the shopping and nightclub district.

What we can expect if Vancouver do clinch the Stanley Cup is one huge party, and a snap provincial election of course. Christy Clark wouldn't miss an opportunity like that. The postal workers of this city might have something to say on that though. Their solid strike vote is power indeed and could potentially thwart the Liberals.

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