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Affection for the Canucks is Misguided, at Best

Photo of the Canucks fan zone on Georgia Street in Vancouver by MikeWu.

If any in this city doubted—at the outset of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs—the direness of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 44-year championship drought, chances are they’re doubters no longer. Two short months after the Leafs’ sixth consecutive failure to qualify for the playoffs, their fans—among the most blindly loyal in the NHL—find themselves cheering for another team.
Toronto, decidedly and unabashedly, wants the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup.
Obviously, there are exceptions. But there is an unmistakable and prevailing sentiment among diehard NHL fans and casual observers alike that the Canucks are now our adopted home side as they continue to face off against the Boston Bruins in a best-of-seven series for hockey’s legendary trophy. Indeed, encounters with the phrase “Canada’s team” have become increasingly difficult to avoid.
Unfortunately, this appellation makes no sense.

Although it is true that the Canucks play their home games on Canadian ice, their roster is just like that of every other team in the league, Boston included, in that it is made up of players from all over Canada, Europe, and the United States. Unlike in Boston, however, the box-office staff, ushers, security personnel, beer vendors, and Zamboni operators at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver are presumably overwhelmingly Canadian. Is it for them that we are cheering? Perhaps we are cheering for the Canucks’ Canadian owner, the Aquilini Investment Group?
Admittedly, unification of the country behind a hockey team’s playoff run has precedent.
In 2004, Canadians found themselves enthralled with the Calgary Flames as they won the western conference only to fall to Martin St. Louis and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the finals.
But the Flames had a few things going for them then that the Canucks do not have this year. A number-six seed in the west when the playoffs began, the Flames had the appeal of the underdog. They had the star power of team captain and Canadian Jarome Iginla, then among the most dangerous scorers in the game. They had the finest collection of playoff beards in recent memory.
How, then, to make sense of the popularity of a Vancouver team which was a pre-playoffs favourite to win, is led by the stoic Sedin twins of Sweden, and has a reputation for delivering dirty hits and cheap shots?
In Toronto, the likeliest explanation is found in the perpetual ineptness of the Maple Leafs. Seemingly, our desperation to back a winning hockey team—or winning sports team of any kind, for that matter—has made us eager to hop onto the Canucks’ bandwagon.
But that bandwagon is traveling on a one-way street.
Calling it “Canada’s team” implies that Vancouver is battling for this championship for all of us. While the Canucks’ skaters may or may not be motivated by a sincere interest in bringing the Stanley Cup to their fans in Vancouver, or to their friends and neighbours in their various hometowns, chances are good that they would find the support of hockey fans in Toronto largely inconsequential, were they aware of it.
For their part, Canucks fans themselves will be reluctant to share their celebration, if and when their team prevails, with inconstant supporters from a city on the other side of the country who have not been around to suffer the lean years with them: the four championship-less decades, the riots that followed the Canucks’ near miss in 1994, the very public shaming of Todd Bertuzzi.
With a win tonight in Boston, the Canucks will close out the Bruins in six games and get to call themselves the Stanley Cup champions until at least the same time next year. But even if they lose tonight and go on to lose the series, we in Toronto should not despair.
Because, fortunately, Canada does have a hockey team.
Just like the Canucks, Canada’s team had Roberto Luongo in goal the last time they played. Just like the Canucks, they played home games in Vancouver. But unlike the Canucks, our team was composed exclusively of Canadians, unpaid, competing for our country against teams with an equal mandate to compete for theirs.
So relax, Toronto. We won already, remember?


  • Astin44

    I was wondering when Torontoist's anti-Canucks jibes would coalesce into a full article.

    So by this logic, should we not be cheering for the Leafs during the regular season? How many of our players are from Toronto? Oh… none. Unless you count Kadri from London.  I guess that 14 Canadian players could qualify them more? If that's more than other teams, should they not be cheered by all by your logic?  Oh wait… The Canucks have 17 Canadian players… 17 is more than 14.  And SIX of them are from Toronto or its environs, all closer than London is.

    Perhaps the Blue Jays should be sent away entirely from Toronto, as their contingent of Canadian players is insignificant?

    Is it perhaps that many Toronto fans are actually… gasp… HOCKEY fans? And abandoning interest in the sport we love to watch during it's PLAYOFFS would seem cheap? Would seem fairweather? Would seem to only solidify the belief that Leafs fans are made up of corporate suits and bandwagon jumpers instead of legions who actually follow the game outside of the city, but keep the Blue-and-White closest to our hearts? I've followed the playoffs from game one. I've cheered for one side or the other in each series. Hell, I picked Boston-Vancouver as my final before the playoffs started and picked the Canucks as “my” team for the duration of the playoffs. Why? Because it makes the games more interesting to have a side to cheer for. Because after 6 seasons without a sniff at the cup, I like ENJOYING the run of a team.  Is it the same heights as a Leafs run? Hell no.  But it keeps me watching, keeps me cheering, and keeps me interested. They aren't Canada's team, but they are the sole CANADIAN team left… and by all your metrics, they're more Canadian than the team you compare them to.

    Next season? I'll be cheering the the blue Maple Leaf every game. Cheering for Vancouver now isn't cheering against Toronto.

  • 19someguy67

    It's also probably likely that many Torontonians used to live in Vancouver, or have friends/or family who live there. Stronger community connection than Boston.

    The same argument was made last round with regards to Tampa Bay. Didn't stick then either.

  • kat

    When did it become “wrong/bad/etc.” to cheer for another team? I don't care if people say I'm jumping on a bandwagon. I'm cheering for a hockey team I want to win the Cup. I'm cheering for the Canadian team in the fight for it. And all these numbers about Canadians on teams, etc. is silly. The team is REPRESENTING a Canadian city. I don't care that Boston may have more Canadian players on it than the Canucks…that's inevitable in hockey! Over half of all NHL players are Canadian. If you want to cheer for Boston on those grounds, more power to you, but you can't tell me I'm cheering for the wrong team when I say I'm cheering for the Canucks. I don't care that Vancouver “fans themselves will be reluctant to share their celebration” or that “they would find the support of hockey fans in Toronto largely inconsequential, were they aware of it.” If the situation were reversed and the Leafs were in the finals (oh, one can wish can't they?) I wouldn't care who's cheering for my team and who's not. I highly doubt that it really matters to any hockey player. Yes, they talk a good talk in the interviews, but at the end of the day, they're doing their job and they're playing for THEMSELVES. So, let's stop bringing petty politics into the cheering sections and just watch hockey. Because isn't THAT what it's all about?

  • Corbin Smith

    Call me crazy, but people from Toronto might cheer for the Maple Leafs because of the “Toronto” in “Toronto Maple Leafs.”

  • Corbin Smith

    Any chance that Torontonians like Orcas more then Bears? Could that be it?

  • Astin44

    Yup! And the Vancouver Canucks have “Vancouver” in the name, which is a city in Canada. My point is that the article is wrong-headed and if its logic is applied to Toronto, nobody would cheer for the Leafs.

  • drybrain

    Hello, my name is Daniel, and I am no fun.

  • qviri

    Serious business!

  • 19someguy67

    A fresh angle I had not considered!

  • Jimbeau

    The whole idea of cheering for a “national” team in the NHL is ludicrous. That's what the Olympics are for. If you want to cheer for the Canucks because you like the team, or individual players, after your team is out, that's fine. But claiming they're “Canada's team” just doesn't wash. There are tons of long-time Bruins fans across the country, especially on the East Coast, and many Alberta fans hate the Canucks because of the rivalry with Edmonton and Calgary.

    It makes just as much sense to cheer for a team led by Lucic and Recchi (both of whom are actually from Vancouver/BC), Bergeron, Marchand, Ryder…

    The Canucks are led by dirty, cheap and classless divers like the
    Sedins, Burrows, Lapierre, etc. Yes, “Canada's team” led by two Swedes and
    an American (Kesler) who said at the Vancouver olympics that he hated
    Team Canada. Yeah, represent.

  • Adam Owen

    Liam Eagle wrote pretty much the same article in The Grid two weeks ago. It's still a silly sentiment. We're not cheering for the individuals that make up the team, we're cheering for the city whose name appears on the jersey.

  • Corbin Smith

    Trying to find a way how everyone is right here…

    How about: don't cheer for Vancouver as “Canada's Team” – because they are not Canada's Team. However, if you want to cheer for Vancouver because it is a team based in Canada, then my all means, go right ahead.
    People sometime cheer for teams for silly, or arbitrary reasons. It doesn't really MEAN anything – it's not like we are cheering for a contentious issue which significantly impacts people, say, cheering for or against Toronto road tolls. (Take your pick of a contentious issue here, if you'd like.)

    Though I grew up with the Calgary Flames, and will always deep down be a Flames fan, I'll cheer for teams in other games during the season and in the playoffs for a myriad of reasons. The number one reason is that its fun. Maybe I need a team to win to give me points in a fantasy hockey league, maybe the goalie on one team is from my home town, maybe a minor hockey teammate of mine is on an NHL roster, maybe I am excited for the first Inuit player in the NHL (Tootoo, on Nashville), maybe I share my birthday with one of the team's training staff – whatEVER!

    Choosing a team to cheer for makes watching the game more exciting as there are stakes involved.

    So what have we learned here: cheer loud and proud for whatever reason, but realize that cheering for a team based in Canada does not mean your cheering for “Team Canada” or “Canada's Team.”


  • Nathan Kelly

    Wait, there's some kind of national sporting event going on right now?

  • qviri

    The Gold Cup! Canada has to beat Panama tomorrow, or draw and cross fingers really hard and hope Guadeloupe defeats United States.

  • Mark Jull

    I've been a Canucks fan since I started watching hockey – not that long, just since the strike/lock-out. I then lived in BC. Until they made it to the Western Finals, I don't think they had much respect around here or on Hockey Night in Toronto. I find it a bit weird to see so many Canucks jerseys and t-shirts around now. And even more bizarre are people who suddenly have these strong opinions about certain players or how they play as a team when they didn't pay any attention to them during the regular season or early playoff series.

    Anyway, I don't think people are 'bandwagoning' just because the Canucks are  Vancouver's team. I think people now cheer for the Canucks because their *fans* are (largely) Canadian. That is, I think people are cheering for the fans, showing 'solidarity' or something like that. They want Canadians to be happy they won the cup, not Americans. The chant is “*We* want the Cup!” They want to be part of the party, not uninvited. 

    At the same time, though, were this reversed (Leafs in the playoffs), I don't think you'd have as many Vancouverites 'bandwagoning' on the Leafs. If you've ever lived out west, you know that CBC has this strong bias to the Leafs, and there's this difference in expectation. Leafs fans (CBC included) have this weird sense of entitlement to winning every game and the Cup – and it's annoying. Canucks fans and Vancouver media don't have this. It's like, when the Leafs lose, Toronto media assumes there was something amiss in the universe, otherwise the Leafs would've won. When the Canucks lose, Vancouver media is more like, 'Well, they didn't play as good as they should and the other team was pretty good, so it makes sense they lost.' And now that the Canucks are one win from winning the Cup, most long-time Canucks fans are thrilled, but have no expectations. The Canucks always make it to the Playoffs, but get bounced out at some point. And fans don't freak out when they do lose. They know that lots of teams lose; only one wins the Cup and it's rather odd to think your team 'deserves' it.

  • Steven Davis

    Misguided? Uh – Daniel – I'll cheer for whoever the hell I want to cheer for whether you think I'm misguided or not! Go Canucks!