The diary of an [ice] hockey rookie

Joe’s Tour Diaries Part 3 – NHL Canucks v Avalanche – Rogers Arena, Vancouver, 10 April 2014

The majority of our trip during April is based in the USA, so you could be certain I was going to use this opportunity to watch some of the sports that are popular in the USA – Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey. I’m sorry, did I say Ice Hockey? I meant “Hockey”, which is what it’s called over here, as opposed to “Field Hockey”. However, in Canada, it’s not just called Hockey, it’s more of a religion. So, it seemed appropriate that when looking for the opportunity to watch a hockey game, I should try to see one in Canada.

During our 4 night stay in Vancouver, Canada we learned that news coverage of hockey in Canada is like watching coverage of the AFL back home – on at all hours and either going into far too much detail or rehashing the same story. We heard one-hour pre game shows on the radio and watched a little bit on TV before our departure. If I had a drink every time I heard the words “Trevor Linden” I would have needed medical attention. One aspect which is a little bit different to Melbourne-based AFL coverage was the severe bias in the coverage toward the home team – maybe Adelaide and Perth AFL fans would be used to this!

The game we would be seeing was between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche. When I knew I would be coming to Vancouver, I asked Chris, one of our hosts in Vancouver, to line up some tickets. He promptly arranged tickets 5 rows from the ice so we could watch the game and get the full experience.

Now, it should be noted I probably chose the wrong year to visit. The Canucks have been a sensational team in recent times, winning two Presidents trophies, making one Stanley Cup final and being one game from the title. Chris and his wife Tanya have lived in Vancouver for six years now, and I’ve been able to follow the fortunes of the team through his social media updates. This year however they have been poor, and the clean out of players and staff had already begun – their goaltender Roberto Luongo had been traded to Florida, and a new president of hockey operations has been hired – club legend Trevor Linden. To give you a comparison point, it’s kinda like how James Hird became coach at Essendon, but with less peptides. In the previous game, their playoff hopes had been snuffed out. Just my luck – I would be watching a dead rubber!

The fast and the furious

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Chris took us to the game early so we could watch the pre-game skate, and I was amazed at how quick they were. Pucks were flying around everywhere as they all took practice shots at the goals. And they go to great lengths to pump everyone up before the game, including the Canadian and American anthems.

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When the game started I was interested to see the strategy and tactics involved.

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(No zoom required – I told you we were sitting up close!)

Chris gave me a crash course on the rules and I started to understand what was going on. The fans got excited in the first period when Henrik Sedin tipped in a goal for the lead. But we were more interested in the collisions and the violence – even the refs weren’t immune to the hip and shoulders from players!

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Markstrom was the starting goaltender in this game, which I was told was his first start for the Canucks. He seemed to be doing really well, until an intercept left him all on his own defending an unmarked Paul Stetsny, who scored.

Are we going to Red Lobster after this, Shooter?

There was a couple of fans who reminded me of this guy.

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(Check out this link for more)

He’s the heckler from Happy Gilmore, whose favourite heckle was “you suck!”. These two spent most of the game naming Avs players and saying “You suck!”. With the subdued atmosphere, their voices were clear over the others. Early in the 3rd period, they screamed “Stetsny, you suck!” just moments before Stetsny slammed home Colorado’s 2nd goal. The Avs fans turned on these two with big smiles on their faces.

“Who sucks now, jackass?”

The 3rd period

Soon after Stetsny’s goal the Canucks hit back through Booth to make it 2-2, a goal which managed to find just enough room to hit the top corner of the net. The fans started to find some voice as the prospect of a win arose. Unfortunately Colorado scored through Tyson Barrie promptly afterwards. (This annoyed the locals as it turns out he’s a British Columbia export – a local product twisting the knife into the local team’s dead season). As the minutes went on the cheers rose in hope of an equaliser and overtime, and a minor scuffle broke out which gave the fans something to yell at…

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…but a penalty against the Canucks leading to a player being banished to the penalty box made it 5 on 4 with two minutes to go and a miracle would be needed. A quick turnover put the Canucks on the attack, and they pulled the goalie hoping for a goal. But, they conceded possession and with no goalie the Avs scored an easy empty net goal to seal the game. The fans rushed for the exits.

On the way out I bought a Henrik Sedin t-shirt. I would have bought a Markstrom one but I guess they haven’t got around to printing any!

I think I’m now armed with enough knowledge to watch games on TV and enjoy them – I’m no longer watching the puck fly around with no idea of what is going on! There’s heaps of strength, skill and speed required – and (pardon my language) you need massive balls. The players were being crunched from all angles so if you were the sort of person who shirks a collision this wouldn’t be the right sport for you! I would happily go back to another game because it was a fun experience and very entertaining. Although, I would probably try to go early in the season when the team’s playoff hopes are still alive – or to a playoff game later in our trip if all goes to plan – so that the atmosphere would be at its best.

In the meantime, I can now say I have a hockey team that I support, and I look forward to seeing how they recover next season.

Go Canucks Go!

Yours in Sport

Joseph

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One Response to The diary of an [ice] hockey rookie

  1. Pingback: The diary of the birthday boy at the ball game | Some More Sport

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