You’ve heard it by now. The media, the polls, the rants by the immaculately wise fans, about how the Vancouver Canucks are the most hated team in the league. Inspired by the diving, whining, and high flying hits in the 2011 playoff run, supporters on the West Coast have had to put up with a lot of flak.
Born out of that is the war of words that has been raging since April of last year. There are only two powers: Canucks fans, and “other”. In coffee shops and offices the discussions consist of the regular polite small talk with a little kick. Online, however, people tend to be a considerably more courageous. Personal attacks and call-outs between guys who will never so much as look each other in the eye are run-of-the-mill on chat rooms and forums.
Is there really a need to defend so valiantly the pride of the organization? After all, the razzing from around the hockey world is nothing new to successful clubs. There is no team that has followed a superb regular season by a deep post-season run who has ever avoided the same type of hatred Vancouver received.
The source of the real problem is the way Canucks fans have handled the remarks. The standard method has always been to ignore. Most often these attacks are brushed off with a quiet pride, knowing the hatred is born out of suffering.
This approach is usually taken by fans of historically great teams. They have grown used to winning, and the harassment that comes with it. When followers of a struggling rival come calling, they know the drill.
Vancouver, as their fans have heard repeatedly, is not one of those franchises. The famed 40-year drought has been littered with painfully irrelevant teams. Many of today’s supporters have spent much of their lives playing second fiddle (more like fifth) to the powerful Flames and Oilers squads of the eighties. The BC natives were the ones giving to the Albertans in bars, rather than the other way around.
Now, for the first time in their lives, the Canucks have spent the past couple seasons as serious contenders. And they are loving it.
People who have endured so long with absolutely nothing to brag about finally have just that. Suddenly, four decades worth of pride has come out in less than a year. Inevitably, the smack talk has been massively overdone. Even the normally classy audience at Roger’s Arena has turned into an anthem-booing mess. Canuck Nation has been given the unshakable reputation of arrogance. And there is nothing fans sick of losing hate more that arrogance.
As a result, these non-playoff supporters have turned unreasonably harsh on Vancouver. Their insults are nastier, and they dig deeper for dirt about the actual players. The Canucks, on ice actions are more scrutinized that those of any other team. Every single incident is blown out of proportion, and guys like Burrows and LaPierre have been turned into rats.
However, anyone without a clear bias (not many) can see that the Canucks are among the least suspended teams in the NHL. Some like to spin this fact, claiming the league is soft towards Vancouver. The reasons for this favouratism are always different, depending on who you ask, but the common denominator is that they are all baseless.
Nonetheless, these conspiracy theories only add fuel to the fire; they are conveniently adopted as fact. Canucks fans, instead of realizing how silly this talk is, let it agitate them into heated arguments. The reputation worsens, the haters get angrier, they find more dirt, and Vancouverites retaliate, doing even more damage to their own image. Such is the vicious cycle of ignorance.
This commotion is made more ridiculous is the fact that the actual athletes are seemingly indifferent. While fans are lapping up the hype the media is serving up, opposing players are continuing their business-as-usual approach.
With the obvious exception of the once-a-year Canucks-Bruins matchup, the “most hated team in the league” does not generally receive a lot of the cheap shots and rough play a truly despised group would expect. Even yesterday’s archrival Chicago Blackhawks have never given Vancouver an abnormally hard time in a regular season game.
In this case, the cliché is true: rivalries are for fans. If looked at beyond the first glance, the notion of other players hating Vancouver’s appears artificial. The animosity that is supposed to be sparking these heated debates does not actually exist, which makes this whole thing even sillier.
Rather than dwelling on fabricated anger towards their team, Canucks fans would be better off taking the high road. Just as those more used to winning ways have done, it must be realized that “haters gonna hate.”
These arguments cannot be won. No Toronto Maple Leafs fan is going to read a post and go,” You know what, he’s right. I’m gonna convert to a Canucks fan right away.” Somehow people still put up a fight, holding on to slim hopes of changing their adversaries’ minds. Beyond that prayer, there is no point in satisfying their hunger to get under Vancouver’s skin.
They simply have to accept that they will take some verbal abuse, and be glad to know the better man will have playoff hockey to watch.
Obviously it is unlikely the entire Canucks fan base will all of a sudden decide to be classy. Understandably, it is not easy to take a ribbing with dignity, or even without cursing them out. However, Vancouver is enjoying the most prosperous years they are likely to have in a long time. Rather than wasting the good years endlessly bashing the doubters, why not rationalize and enjoy the ride.
Then again, we are hockey fans. When did people start expecting us to be rational?