Hockey is for everyone, or IS IT?

Here we go again. It’s 2017 and yet here I am re-living a nightmare from last season and no I don’t mean the Vancouver Canucks. No, I mean being a hockey fan who happens to be a girl. This whole being a hockey fan that also happens to be a girl is not always a fun journey.

Let’s be honest, there’s often a whole different set of rules and beliefs when it comes to girls who love hockey. If you are a guy and say you love hockey, you are in the club. If you are a girl, you have to constantly prove your fandom and knowledge of the game. If we know the game, then we must have heard it somewhere else, we couldn’t possibly have learned it on our own. If we don’t know something it’s because it’s yet another reason of why girls can’t know this game properly or love it. Or there’s the notion that we merely watch the game to check out the players or love the jersey colours/designs.

OR there’s reality that is often overlooked in which we women can actually LOVE the game itself just as much as any man. It’s no secret that I love the game and everything about it from the good to the bad and everything in between. Heck, I write a blog about hockey. I don’t claim to be an expert on all facets of the game and I love learning NEW things about this crazy game all the time.

This season, my sister and I were ecstatic to be able to up our support from quarter season members to half-season members for this season. Twice as many times to support our team? To say we were excited is an understatement. We also moved from the lower bowl to the upper bowl which up until our most recent game had been an impeccable experience. I love the experience of being in the arena from the quiet preparation before the chaos, to the warmups, to the anthems, to puck drop and the end to end plays on the ice to the final buzzer.

Yes, we are girls, and yes we love hockey but that does NOT mean that we deserve to be treated as though we can’t possibly understand the game or be talked down to or attacked for our jersey of choice to support our team. And many thanks for the ever subtle reminders that we were at a hockey game but I think our jerseys & being decked out from head to toe in our team’s colours made it abundantly clear we were in the right place. And yet while in that right place, my most favourite place, there was pit in my stomach acknowledging that we were not welcome on this night. At final buzzer, my disappointment was not from the scoreboard but from the sheer shock of how some fans turned a place that is a safe place into one that was unwelcoming.

And once again, that was beyond unsettling. We were made to feel as though we could not cheer for our team and also were judged for every ounce of support that we did show or vocalize. I’m all for opposition fans supporting their own team BUT I draw the line at attacking the integrity of franchise players, and then turning those insults towards fans of the home team. I can fully accept that we may root for different teams and I respect that. I may not agree with their view all the time, but I respect it and would never spend the duration of the game berating the fans of another team.

For the most part, I love talking about the game with Canucks fans and fans of any team, man or woman, any time. What I do not enjoy, is being talked down to and belittled. And yes, it is unfortunately still true that sometimes when I admit how much I love this game that I get given looks of derision that I cannot possibly comprehend what it is I am talking about. When it is confirmed that I do know the sport, these individuals then treat me as though they still don’t trust me even if what I am saying is true and attack my loyalty to my team or why I love this game. Truthfully these experiences leave me feeling as though perhaps I do not deserve to enjoy this incredible sport and then I remember that these individuals who make female fans feel this unwelcome DO NOT represent the entirety of the hockey community.

So, while you belittled us and attacked our love of the game, you did not destroy it. You tried and while yes it took me aback, nothing that was said to us or directed to us will take away my love for this team or this game. We should all be allowed to enjoy the game we love without having to feel as though we are being judged or to feel bad when we do. Hockey is more than just a game, it is a community that most of the time is very welcoming and hopefully one day, no one will be made to feel like an outsider.  I’ve said a lot in the last year but, it’s 2017 and I sincerely wish that the sentiment that “hockey is for everyone” was actually true. One day, maybe.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

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Vancouver Canucks: 5 games in & it begins again…

Here we go again and all it took was 5 games into the season before a few headlines made me near livid. All it took was 5 games before the Vancouver sports media began their “we have a goalie controversy” frenzy. Markstrom vs. Nilsson.

Listen, there’s no denying that Anders Nilsson was brilliant against Ottawa or that Jacob Markstrom struggled in the previous two games despite playing brilliantly in his first two starts. Does it make sense to start Nilsson against Boston? Probably but that doesn’t mean that Markstrom’s season is over or that he won’t get a chance to redeem himself or that Nilsson will have a tough game or two down the road.

It’s no secret that from the start of the season that both goalies were going to split the net and that they’d compete for playing time. Does that mean that from the start we’ve had a goalie controversy? No. Does it mean we have two competitive players that given the chance will push each other to up their game? Yes.

It’s been 5 games. FIVE, not 82, so how’s about we wait before we drag these names through the mud? Wouldn’t be something if we instead of creating drama like what happened with Luongo and Schneider, we did pit the goalies against one another but actually supported BOTH of them?

Remember what happened with Luongo and Schneider? How suddenly the city turned it’s back on their franchise goalie and rather than support him during the tough times, they begged for Schneider to be given the net. Suddenly you were either Luongo supporter or a Schneider supporter. The worst part was that even if Luongo had a good game during that time, he was never given the benefit of the doubt despite his history with the team, any error in his play was berated while the praises kept piling up for Schneider. I’m not saying that Schneider didn’t deserve the praise in that moment, but Luongo did not deserve the treatment he received during that time.

That was then, and it blew up over two seasons. This is now and we are already talking about a goalie controversy FIVE games into the season! So, please media, fans, and “experts”, how’s about we leave that goalie controversy talk on the back burner and perhaps drop it completely? Let’s not go back to the way that we made it unbearable for Luongo or the way we thrust Schneider into the spot light. Let’s turn a page and actually support BOTH goalies. Tough games will happen but that doesn’t mean you stop supporting them, you stand by them through thick and thin. It shouldn’t matter which one is the net, we should support both them from puck drop to final buzzer because they are both Canucks. It would be a different approach, but a refreshing one to see.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Heart of a Canuck

If you were to look up the definition of what it means to have the heart of a Canuck, it would be a pretty long description of numerous virtues embodied by players of the Vancouver Canucks past or present that outside of their fan base, are not always seen by those on the outside.

A small sample of those descriptors: Determination. Sacrifice. Motivation. Driven. Perseverance. Leadership. Dedication. Mentor. And the list goes on, but these are indicative of not just how the player is on the ice but also off of the ice within the community.

Some players exhibit one or many of these qualities throughout their time with the team and beyond. And then there are some that embody everything that having a heart of a Canuck means from the moment they join the team to the time when they retire or are traded to join another team. Players that have embodied this quality over time include: Orland Kurtenbach, Pat Quinn, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund and yes the Sedins. One that to the outsiders was always and still at times seen as pest to his opponents but to Canucks fans will always be on that list is: Alex Burrows.

Alex Burrows was an absolute class act in his time here. From the outside, that side of Burrows was not always seen. His name was synonymous with pestering his opponents. In Vancouver he is synonymous with constantly proving his critics wrong, playing any spot in the lineup that coach put him, breaking streaks, becoming the third Sedin, slaying dragons, and helping to end the stigmas surrounding mental health. He gave his all for his teammates, every single game, every single shift and off of the ice as well. He gave everything to this city.

This past week when Alex Burrows returned, Vancouver had a chance to express our thanks to a player who always has and always will embody what it means to have a heart of a Canuck.

He’s with the Senators now, but even in his leaving, he made sure that Vancouver also benefited from the trade. His last act was one in which once again he put his team first, as he always has done from day one. From undrafted to becoming the heart of a team and turning an entire city into believing that dragons were meant to be slayed.

Burrows was not the first player to have these qualities and as he grew into the inspiration that he has become, he had some incredible mentors in the Sedins and Trevor Linden. He also over time became a mentor to the younger players coming into the Canucks system and paved the road for what it means to be a professional on and off of the ice.

This year the Canucks have some veterans and some great young players on the team. Some of those players spent a lot of time mentoring Burrows, being mentored by him, learning from him and some never played one game with him, but they all know of him or have heard his story from him or his former teammates. His story is one that anyone can relate to, undrafted, too old, never meant to make it or have any sort of longevity and yet here we are more than 12 years later talking about his continuous legacy.

Players like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, Brock Boeser can all look to the example of Alex Burrows if they ever need inspiration of what it looks like to give your everything to the sport, their team and the city. They can look back at Burrows, and up to players like the Sedins to know that while it’s not an easy road, if they commit to it, they will inspire more people than they could possibly imagine possible.

To have a heart of Canuck, it’s not always an easy path, but it is one that will always inspire others. And if you see this Burr, this is just a reminder that to Canucks nation, you will ALWAYS be a Canuck. Thank-you endlessly for everything you did during your time here and still continue to do as you keep playing.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

THANK-YOU, HANK & DANNY.

Dear Henrik & Daniel,

Thank-you, hardly seems close to enough for what you have given this city for 17+ years, but I’m going to try. First things first, please know that neither one of you have ever once for a second ever let me or this city down.

Fans from around the league have never really understood just how lucky Vancouver Canucks fans have been to have witnessed the entirety of your NHL careers. The road to success wasn’t any easy one, but you both persevered through it all. From playing the Swedish Elite League, to the NHL draft, to a tough start in the NHL, to the 2004-05 lockout, to Olympic Gold medals to pure dominance of Sedinery that led to back to back Art Ross Trophies to accumulating endless franchise records. From rookies to seasoned veteran leaders, you have both exuded professionalism on and off the ice and you have done it with incredible grace.

More than 1200 games each over the last 17 years in Vancouver, you have embodied everything that it meant to have the heart of a Canuck. You were never meant to have success in the NHL, let alone play your entire careers together, lead the top line for an extended period or score many franchise goals or become inspiring pillars within the community or leaders on and off of the ice.

The 1999 NHL draft forever changed not just the league but the fate of the Vancouver Canucks franchise. That day, no one could have predicted that the next 18 years would unfold in such a whirlwind of memorable moments. At the beginning no one was sure of what kind of impact you could or would go on to have in an NHL lineup. There was the constantly mentioned potential but until you both started playing, no one really knew what to expect. Most saw the underlying skill sets that were there but as is the way with a hockey market, when there were growing pains in the early days, quick judgments and assumptions were made. For a while, it seemed like maybe they had all missed the bigger picture and to tell you the truth, in those early days, I had to stop reading the newspapers.

Most people wanted to see what I saw, the potential of what could be beyond those early days, but they also wanted to see the increased numbers and stats right away. It took some time, as is the case with any career, there were some growing pains as you navigated the waters on the way to success. It started slowly, and then suddenly all at once before all the “experts” could complete their critiques, the ever evolving Sedins were flourishing and leading the way.

Through 17+ years, you have seen your fair share of coaches come and go but there were two in particular who saw and helped shape you to be the players you’ve both become. Marc Crawford and Alain Vigneault. Crow & AV always recognized your full potential and yes even made some unconventional choices like putting a pesky Burrows on a line with you one fateful February day that spurred a shift that season and a inspired a few seasons worth of highlights. The critics never stopped with their critiques but you both always found a way to respond with grace and constantly prove them wrong.

You never let the negativity in. You always rose above it all, every step of the way. You have always done whatever was asked of you by the coaches and management. Every day, you were and are consummate professionals on and off of the ice. And when called upon to help within the community with Canucks For Kids, Canucks Autism Network, the BC Children’s Hospital or a myriad of other charities, you are always there. You give everything you have with every shift on the ice and every moment you are constantly giving to the community throughout your continued tenure with the Vancouver Canucks.

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you and thank-you again for 17+ incredible years of defying the odds, the ever persistent pursuit of your dreams, and inspiring so many more to never give up. I wish you knew just how big of an impact you’ve made on the team, on the franchise, on this city, on this province, and on the fans. You made your coaches proud. You made your teammates proud. You made this city proud. And you’ve made Canucks fans around the globe proud.

IF this is it, IF this is the final hurrah, the final season of your career or IF you keep playing for another year or two, I am going to savour every single moment of Sedinery yet to come. And Henrik, when Daniel joins you, in the 1000 points club this season, we will cheer just as loud, or maybe louder because that means there are now TWO Canucks legends on the roster.

And to THIS fan, no matter what happens at the end of this season or when the day comes that you decide to hang up your skates, you will always and forever be Canucks. When things get tough, all I have had to do was think of how you both always kept pushing forward despite the odds and I am reminded that when you tune out the negative, anything is possible. Thank-you doesn’t seem even close to enough but it’s what I have to offer. Henrik, and Daniel, THANK-YOU, for everything.

Sarah E.L.

You Better BO-lieve it…

Now that deal is officially signed and Bo Horvat is locked in long-term with the Canucks, it’s time to take a different approach than what I’ve seen making the rounds on social media today.

Where do I begin? Here goes:

Dear Bo,

First, let me say: congratulations on the new contract extension!

I can still remember the day that you were drafted, crystal clear and the slight uproar that followed. It was an unexpected move to hear that Vancouver had traded Cory Schneider for a top ten draft pick, and yes initially some people were upset with the trade. No one knew what to expect when your name was announced by Vancouver or how the future would unfold. Four years later and every one who was uncertain is now rooting for you, wearing your jersey and envisioning a long tenure for you with the Canucks.

Today was a great day for the franchise when they announced your extension. It shows that the team sees what you bring to the team both on and off of the ice now and in the future. Playing in the NHL is no easy feat but you’ve come a long way from the day you were drafted and days in the OHL. From a rookie finding his way developing into a 2-way forward with a knack for timely goals and defensive plays to a community ambassador.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to ignore the negative narratives out there, don’t let them bring you down; instead use those voices to push you and prove all your critics wrong. There will be praise and good days and there will be critics and there will be hard days but from the short time you’ve already been in the league, you have proven that you are able to handle all of it. And if you ever need an example to look to, look no further than to Henrik and Daniel who have been through it all before.

You came into an unknown atmosphere across the country and made a city full of doubters into BO-lievers.

Here’s to the upcoming season about to start that will feature many BO-SCOREvat moments and the start of a very promising future for you and the Vancouver Canucks!

Sarah E.L.

Sedinery: The Beginning of the End?

The rumour mills are in full swing as the 2017-18 NHL season edges ever closer. The latest whispers getting louder out there right now being the possibility that THIS is the Sedins last season playing in the NHL. Is this the end, or perhaps the beginning of the end of the phenomenon that is Sedinery? Just writing and even considering the truth in those questions hurts to think about. The day the Sedins stop playing hockey will be a hard day.

What is Sedinery, you ask? It is the pure magic that has occurred when Henrik and Daniel Sedin have showcased their skill sets on the ice over the years throughout their careers. The Sedins have been a part of the fabric of the Vancouver Canucks since June 1999. In fact, it is impossible or very near impossible to envision the team when they are no longer on the roster.

IF this is in fact their last season, from the day they were drafted (2nd and 3rd overall in ’99) to their veteran days, they have left an indelible mark on the Vancouver Canucks.

From the outside, the Sedins are seen as “soft”, called “sisters”, and in general are viewed as players who are not elite. From the outside, because they have not won the Stanley Cup, often they are not considered worthy to be a part of that discussion. That’s the view from the outside.

From the inside, as a fan who has witnessed their entire career from the beginning, those on the outside do not understand just how elite these two players are.

In Vancouver, they are so much more that just two hockey players. They personify everything that it means to be a Canuck. They are brothers, they are leaders on the ice, they are leaders off the ice, they are resilient, they are well spoken, and they are pillars within the community. They didn’t have an easy path to success, they struggled early in their careers, and some wondered if they would ever make it. They have always been their own worst critics, and despite what so many on the outside have said or speculated, they always rose above it.

I cannot tell you how many times over the years, even when they had their record breaking seasons (including back to back Art Ross trophies), that I read reports from both sides of the hockey world, that often many “experts” missed the truth of who the Sedins are. Yes, they would talk about the facts but they never quite understood the awesome that is seeing the Sedins play the game. The way they read off one another during a game, from shift to shift, on and off the ice, it is beyond magic. They seem to anticipate where the other is, often without even looking up, and making a play that to the outside would seem odd, but if you’ve been paying attention, you knew that some how that puck would find the other Sedin. Just as they always have, they’ve reached record after record in Vancouver, one after the other.

It’s not often ONE player, let alone TWO on the same team will amass more than 1000 points. Only 86 NHL players including, Henrik have joined the 1000 points club. By season’s end, Daniel will once again follow his brother’s foot steps further into the Canucks history books when he scores his 1000th regular season point.

Is it fair that they do not want to be traded and desire to retire as Canucks? ABSOLUTELY, they have more than earned that right to that decision. They have played the entirety of their careers in Vancouver, a place that has been where they’ve played hockey and a place that has become their second home. They have been a part of the team since their draft day. They have seen Vancouver through all kinds of seasons on the spectrum from terrible to record breaking, never wavering on their loyalty to the team or the city.

Truthfully, in Vancouver, we do not deserve the Sedins, but we DO owe them the same loyalty and respect that they have always shown Vancouver. IF this is in fact their last season playing in the NHL, I plan on savouring every last moment of Sedinery as it plays out.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Vancouver Canucks: Goalie Conundrum

Ah yes, the goalie conundrum, one of the oldest stories in the book. Great teams and the not so great teams are often defined in part by their goal-tending. And as the story goes, fans and the media are at times toughest on a team’s goalies. And as the story goes, Vancouver is often at the top of the list when it comes to critiquing goalies; even being labeled a “goalie graveyard” over the years.

Yes, it’s true that it’s their job to stop the puck, to keep games close and to close out games. Wins, and wins in tight games or games when the goalie absolutely steals the game are always met with praise. It is also true that when those close games swing in the other team’s favour or a game gets out of hand with a lop-sided score that the goalie is often the first one that is blamed for those losses.

And then there are the cautionary tales, those that become the ever dreaded “goalie controversy”. How well a goalie plays throughout the year, particularly down the stretch will define a team’s season as good, bad, great or terrible. And sometimes when your starter struggles or gets sidelined by an injury, that opens the door for a back up goalie to take the starter’s job. Let’s take a closer look at some of the goal-tenders from the Canucks most recent history:

Dan Cloutier. No, he didn’t win it all but he played a massive part in turning the team’s culture. Suddenly this team became one to watch with stand out seasons not just from Cloutier but players like Naslund, Bertuzzi, Morrison, and yes those ever humble Sedins. Yes, he didn’t do it on his own, he shared his successes with the team and when things did go wrong, it was often his faults that were highlighted and critics came out in droves.

Roberto Luongo. When he was winning, he could do no wrong and the city loved him; when he lost, everyone turned on him. It seems like everything was amplified when it came to Luongo, whether he was playing well or struggling. It still blows my mind how quickly an entire city will turn on one player. A player that took them to GAME 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals one day and the next was a scapegoat for all the mistakes made in that series and the following few seasons before his eventual trade. Never once did he place the blame on others, he was always the first one to take the blame even when it was not solely on him. How quickly it was forgotten all of the good things he did for the team and instead the focus became the loss of that one game and all the mistakes along the way. After game 7, the remainder of his time in Vancouver, he was almost never given the benefit of the doubt again and instead given a short leash with no room for mistakes. That shortened leash seemed to predict Schneider would be the next goalie in the line, BUT it was not so, and for a brief moment Luongo was back in the spotlight as the starter. The leash was once again cut short, leading coach to not start the “franchise goalie” in the outdoor game which became more of a spectacle than the actual game that took place that day. Cue to the deal that was impossible that suddenly happened in an instant, Luongo was headed back to Florida.

Cory Schneider. The one that got away or so some have thought since he was eventually traded to the New Jersey Devils. Initially many fans were angry that it was Schneider who was traded first and especially about getting a draft pick that became Bo Horvat(who had now become a fan favourite). It’s no secret that I was never Cory’s biggest fan but I’ve never denied his skill. He’s always had undeniable skill and he did make an impact in Vancouver. My only real frustration was the credit he was often given by the fans and media before it was ever earned. If Luongo ever faltered, it was almost always assumed that Schneider must be the answer, but if Schneider made a similar mistake, he was given the benefit of the doubt more often then critiqued.

Eddie Lack. Eddie was from the beginning a hit with the fans and the media. No, he didn’t always win but he ALWAYS had a sense of humour through it all. He always made time for the media and the fans. He can’t be blamed for the debacle that was the “Heritage Classic” when he was given the start over Luongo, that one is on Torts. It became again, a situation where no matter what Luongo had done, it was never enough and once again the back up was thrust into the spotlight by the coach and the fans.

Ryan Miller. Losing both of Schneider & Luongo to trades meant the Canucks needed to add another veteran goal-tender moving forward to help close the gaps. With Ryan Miller, he provided a stability in the crease that often went unappreciated during his tenure with the team. Yes, he had some tough nights as all goalies are prone to, but he also had some great moments that so often he was not credited for when they were happening. No matter the game, or the situation he always gave his best and always stood by his teammates. I’ll never forget him stepping up for Troy Stecher when havoc broke out. It wasn’t until his contract was over and he had signed with Anaheim, that many fans seemed to realize just how much Millsy did for the team.

Jacob Markstrom the goalie that could be, the one the Canucks received in the deal that sent Luongo back to Florida. It was a tough situation to come into, but he never complained, was simply grateful for the opportunity. With Lack and Miller set to be the duo in Vancouver, Markstrom spent his first full season with the Canucks in Utica having a season to remember. He led the Comets to AHL Calder Cup finals. The last two seasons, he has spent backing up/splitting games with Miller and being a pillar with the community. This upcoming season he will share the crease with Anders Nilsson as both get a chance to become bonafide NHL starters. The duo will also provide depth that allows Thatcher Demko another year further developing his game.

Thatcher Demko. A beacon of hope for the future. An impeccable college record, a solid first season in the pros with the Canucks affiliate team: the Utica Comets.

As the story goes, time always tells how each will prevail over their individual careers. As the story goes, the fans will love their goalies when things go well and be quick with honesty when things go south. Ah yes, the goalie conundrum, one of the oldest stories in the book.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.