I woke up on the morning of June 15, 2011 to one thought: In 12 hours, I might watch my team win the Cup. Now, here I sit 12 months later, still thinking about how they lost it. A lot has transpired since that Wednesday evening. A full year later, I am still trying to piece it all together.
There are very few people who can understand what the Vancouver Canucks winning a Stanley Cup would mean to me. A large number of sports fans have witnessed their team win at least one championship in their lifetime, and if they haven't, chances are their fanbase hasn't been tortured quite as cruelly as mine. In the past three seasons, the Canucks have been forced to watch their rivals put an end to some of the longest championship droughts in pro sports, all of them — Chicago, Boston, and and now Los Angeles — rolling through a Vancouver squad that was probably good enough to win it all with the right mix of luck and circumstance. The only teams in hockey that have not been winning Cups as long as the Canucks are the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres, and the St. Louis Blues. Is there a curse on the colour blue? Has Lord Stanley himself "embraced the hate"? We named a park after you, man. What more do you want?
As fans, we share the expectations, we celebrate the highs and wallow together in the devastating lows. A loss like last year's leaves a scar in a place you seldom see. You'll be cruising along, as carefree as Cory Schneider drinking from a water bottle, when suddenly you'll catch a glimpse of that scar and it forces you to remember that as a fan, a part of you is damaged permanently. Another season will start soon enough, but — to use one of our favourite expressions — the switch becomes harder to flip. You need a little more convincing to keep on caring. You'll always come back, but will it feel the same?
Without realizing what I was doing, soon after last year's loss I started writing consistently about hockey and the Canucks. I brought my blog back from the dead and started putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) on a regular basis again. I don't know if it was the loss specifically that triggered this — I'm only now starting to make these connections. What I do know is that through writing, I discovered an incredible community of smart, hilarious Canucks fans that helped make a summer without a Stanley Cup celebration a lot more bearable.
This past season had a weird feel to it, like staring at a human replica that is just a little too lifelike. Training camp in the fall after a loss in Game 7 of the finals feels like going into work and screaming at all your co-workers, flipping off your boss and getting thrown out by security, only to come back the next morning as if nothing had happened. What were we to expect from a team that had been through so much? The entire fanbase was walking on eggshells. Through nearly a hundred Morning Buzz posts and endless tweeting and retweeting, we endured a season weighted by the hopes from the season before. We could tell early on the team just wasn't the same. But out of all this came endless streams of quality content from one of the league's best blogging communities — the jovial pop culture-packed game recaps from Pass it to Bulis, the advanced stat breakdowns from Canucks Army that left you more confused than informed (I kid!), and the epic game threads here at NM. As fans, we may have been damaged, but we certainly weren't alone. And while it all came to an end sooner than we had hoped, if we're honest with ourselves, it was no sooner than we expected.
So we march on, still Cup-less, still hated, still hungry. There will be much talk about our two goaltenders, about Ryan Kesler's surgery, about a lack of depth on the blueline, and maybe even a few whispers about the Sedin twins getting older. How do we endure? How do we keep on caring?
If I've learned anything this year, it's this: keep talking, keep tweeting, keep reading and commenting, and when all else fails, keep writing.
Sports is a metaphor for life. Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care. Lurking underneath that surface, that's where all the good stuff is — the memories, the connections, the love, the fans, the layers that make sports what they are. It's not about watching your team win the Cup as much as that moment when you wake up thinking, In 12 hours, I might watch my team win the Cup.
- Bill Simmons, The Consequences of Caring
* If you're curious about the title of this post, go here.