Coping with loss: Reflections on another untimely Canucks’ playoff exit

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 11: A pair of Vancouver Canucks fans sit in the stands after the Canucks lost 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals and the series 4-2 during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 11, 2010 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Playoff elimination. It is a painful process for fans, who pour their heart and soul into a playoff run which comes to a crashing halt when their team gets knocked out. The end of the playoffs is a time of reflection, rationalization, thinking of what could have been and dreaming of what might be next season. It is the worst time of year for a sports fan.

It has been a while since I've posted anything here at Nucks Misconduct. Part of the reason is busyness with school, part of it is not having much new to add to the insights and opinions that have been shared throughout the playoffs by Sean, Yankee, WAACH, Missy and all the fanposters who have chipped in. Furthermore, because I watched most of the playoff games (and shared a few beers) with friends, I was not even been active in the gamethreads. But for the past week, though I have read all the great posts here at NM and read or scanned many of the comments, I have largely steered clear because I've needed some time to get a sense of perspective on the series against the Blackhawks and the end of what seemed like a very promising Canucks season. And, now that I live far from Vancouver, I find that that perspective comes mainly through solitary thought and reflection rather than talking about it.

I am not over the 2nd Round exit just yet, though as a Canucks fan with over two decades of experience in dealing with annual disappointment I have trained myself to transition relatively seamlessly back to normal life after the season draws to close. This has been particularly exacerbated since I moved away from Vancouver, as I lack the collective understanding and unspoken sympathy of a mass Canucks fan-base. As a result, I have to try harder to act normal, to act like I'm not really THAT upset about the loss, and to internalize my feelings on the season. When friends and colleagues who give me their condolences, I appreciate their recognition that the loss meant a great deal to me, yet I also know that for them the loss has very little personal meaning and that, therefore, they do not share in my pain. So I smile, thank them, and make some lame comment like "oh, it's not that surprising given the injuries to their defence" or "hopefully we'll get 'em next year!" Invariably my response is designed not to reflect my state of mind, so soon after a season and postseason of intense emotional investment, but to deflect conversation away from the painful topic, to close the door on conversation about my feelings for the Canucks and move on.

Of course there are exceptions. My closest friends, I think, understand my love of the Canucks as part of me, and do not see it as a trivial or unimportant aspect of my personality. It help also that many of my good friends are hardcore sports fans themselves, and understand the irrational and thrilling obsession of following the fortunes of your favourite team. So, even if they are Maple Leafs or Buffalo Bills fans (admittedly two very sad-sack franchises whose fortunes are fairly similar those of the Canucks), they know the feeling of stinging loss and personal disappointment that accompanies a disappointing season even if they do not feel it directly for the Canucks. I guess this point comes down to the distinction between sympathy and empathy. Fans and close friends/family can empathize in a meaningful way. But sympathy is much harder for the fan to deal with because he/she knows that it comes from a place of non-understanding.

So I continue to rationalize the end of the season and seek silver linings in the Canucks absence from the playoffs. I take advantage of time that I would have otherwise been spending watching the Canucks. I see friends who I have neglected during the playoffs. I enjoy the spring weather. But really what I am doing is trying to cope, trying to move on, trying to forget the disappointment of another Canucks playoff failure. And now I felt like it was time to write this post. It is part of the therapy. And I know that I am sharing my emotions and my passion with and fantastic and understanding community of the best kind of fans: Canucks fans.  If anyone in the world can understand my emotional state following the end of the season it is you guys.

And hey, there's always next year, right?  

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