Arriving three minutes before puck drop for Game 2 between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, I was swallowed up by the intense atmosphere that filled Rogers Arena.
Fans were on their feet waving their white towels and screaming for the Canucks. Of course, while my buddy Bruce Walkinshaw was on his feet with everyone else and recording it on his IPhone 4, he looked at me wondering why I was still in my seat. Having a fear of heights sucks. I was still trying to get used to where we were in the upper bowl. I began feeling more comfortable during the national anthem as the sold-out crowd belted it out with pride. Normally I’m a silent singer. But with Mark Donnelly raising his mic to the crowd, how can you not get into it?
The energy in the arena was something to experience. I quickly discovered that regular-season crowds don’t even compare.
Rober Dirk, coach of the prep team for the Okanagan Hockey Academy and played with the Canucks from 1990-94, said the Canucks fans and the passion they have for the team is “unbelievable.”
“I can remember going out after the warm up and this was back in the Pacific Coliseum with 16,000 fans standing up and cheering, it would send shivers up and down your back,” said Dirk, who was traded from Vancouver before they went on their ’94 Cup Finals run. “The hair on the back of your neck stood up. Winning playoff games, the atmosphere not only in the arena, but in the city, it’s second-to-none.”
During moments when the crowd at Rogers Arena was quiet, a group would start “Go Canucks Go” chants to lift the team when they felt the foot wasn’t on the pedal. When Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the game, the crowd jumped to its feet. Bruce and I hugged and screamed, then joined the chants of “MVP, MVP,” all the while spinning our towels. It was quite the spectacle. It was repeated when Daniel was named the game’s first star thanks to a three-point performance.
Dirk said of his stops in St. Louis, Vancouver, Chicago, Anaheim and Montreal, playing with the Canucks was his favourite. Fans were part of the reason.
“Playing in any Canadian city, there is more passion for the game, for their team than in the States. Us Canadians like to think hockey is our game,” he laughed. “Growing up in Kelowna, basically started playing in my hometown. It was a big thrill for me as well.”
Game 2 was critical for the Canucks to win or it would bring the idea again that what happened the last two years would duplicate. Luckily, for the Canucks that didn’t happen and they also took Game 3 to give themselves a comfortable lead. While the Canucks laid an egg in Game 4 on Tuesday Dirk believed the series would end in five games.
“They have proven all year they are the best team in NHL during the regular season,” said Dirk, who still follows the Canucks. “Can they do it? Of course they can. They have to defeat their demons of the past couple seasons. Not succeeding in the playoffs. If and when they are able to beat Chicago, I think that will go a long way to exercise those demons. I still say Detroit is the team to beat to come out of the west. You still have all that experience in Detroit with them winning all those Cups. That’s the other hurdle they are going to have to get through.”
Of course there is nothing better then tens of thousands of passionate fans standing behind you to do it.
“It gets exciting for them,” said Dirk of the players feeling with the fans that supportive.
And watching the Canucks advance past the Blackhawks will be exciting for the fans, who following Game 2, high-fived strangers as they exited Rogers Arena. I guess they aren’t strangers when you are cheering for the same team.
As the saying goes, We Are All Canucks.
Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor at the Penticton Western News and a die-hard Canucks fan.