On Fans and Reputations
Tue June 7, 2011 1 Comment
When discussing hockey with the woman I love, the conversation often ends up touching on one particular thing: fanbases. You see, while I live in Vancouver and consider the city and the province of British Columbia to be my adopted home, I would not consider the Canucks to be my team. My partner lives and dies by her team, the local heroes in green and blue. They are her team and her true love.
I, on the other hand, am not a Canucks fan. At all. I’ll support them on and off, such as when they face an opponent I very much dislike (see: Detroit), but typically if I pull for them it’s in support of the woman who ranks me second to the boys in blue.
But I do support a team. Heck, I support two of them. I grew up in Ottawa. From the moment the puck dropped on October 8, 1992 (the first game the team ever played), I’ve been an Ottawa Senators fan. My dad lived in Colorado in the mid-90’s, and when the Nordiques moved to Denver, he jumped on the opportunity to be a season ticket holder for the first time in his life. While he would always support his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs first, the two of us share the bond of also being Colorado Avalanche fans.
What this gives me, I believe, is a perspective that many people do not have: I am a fan of two different teams in a city that likes neither of them. I’m okay with this. I love being the contrarian. I save myself from being lumped in with fans in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Colorado.
Because, you see, Vancouver (the city, and its fans) have a reputation. They are considered to be obnoxious, spiteful, and immensely dislikeable. They openly support one of the most abhorrent teams in the world, a team that spits in the face of all that is good and respectable in the sport of hockey.
Frankly, it’s utter bullshit.
You see, when someone who does not have any ties to a team sees said team commit fouls (diving, for example), it’s very easy to perceive that anybody who supports that team must be ignorant and classless. This typically leads to slanderous attacks that do little more than fuel the fire until a reputation forms that is at times deserved, but more often than not a fallacy.
Newsflash: There is not one evil empire and 29 faultless teams.
Fans get unfairly labeled based on the actions of the team they support. It’s not always baseless, but it can be grossly unfair. You want examples?
Some of these reputations are more deserved than others. Philadelphia is widely considered to be one of the worst places to be a visiting team. However, much of this stems from one incident many years ago where fans in the city booed Santa Claus. I swear that I hear that incident mentioned at least 10 times a year, often more. I’m sure there are people in Philadelphia, especially Flyers fans, who aren’t very pleased that one incidents has defined them.
Truth is, there are always exceptions to the reputation. I know several Phoenix fans who are as dedicated and knowledgeable as any other hockey fans I know. Yet because they root for the Coyotes, it’s as if they can’t shake the label that’s been bestowed upon them by those oblivious to their existence. And sometimes it’s not even because they’re oblivious. Sometimes it’s because people love to mock others at any opportunity, and reputations make for a quick and cheap joke. This is especially true on the internet, where people can anonymously or near-anonymously make comments that they will never be held accountable for. Some of these comments would never, ever be made to someone’s face, but because they’re online it’s not a big deal to be cruel.
This brings me back to Vancouver. The fanbase that the Canucks have cultivated has earned a reputation for being an obnoxious, uneducated, and classless bunch. Some of it stems from things fans have actually done or said, and some of it is based solely on things that players have done.
The most recent example is the Aaron Rome incident during game three of the Stanley Cup Finals. Earlier today it became public that the NHL reached out to Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke for his thoughts on the situation. Burke, of course, was both once the lead disciplinarian for the league and also a former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. While most fans in Vancouver were accepting and even in agreement with the suspension, there were a few cries of “conspiracy” (the crying of which is another reputation Vancouver has gained).
You see, a couple summers ago, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis publicly called out Brian Burke for tampering, saying that Burke revealed a proposed trade between Vancouver and Tampa Bay that was never completed. Unsurprisingly, the vocal minority in Toronto jumped on this incident and have made countless tampering jokes over the last two seasons. Shockingly, amongst all those jokes, it is never brought up that Brian Burke himself also made tampering complaints about former Edmonton general manager Kevin Lowe while Burke was running the ship in Anaheim.
The Vancouver Canucks players have been labeled as cheaters for alleged diving, whining to officials, and throwing cheap shots whenever possible. Believe what you will – and I do believe there is truth in those allegations – but many people I know have taken these claims and extrapolated them from the actions of the players to making assumptions about the Canucks’ fanbase.
As I said in the opening, I have a perspective that many people don’t. I’m part of two different fanbases, neither of which are the local team. As such, I see Canucks fans from a different eye than people outside of this city do. While there are several fans who are arrogant, obnoxious, and spiteful, there are even more who are some of the best people you’ll meet and some of the most knowledgeable fans you could hope for.
They’re not monsters.
And yet, they’re treated as such by people on the outside.
Did you notice how I attacked Toronto fans about the Burke tampering situation? Was that fair to lump Maple Leafs fans into one group based on the ignorance of a small few? Nope. But it was really easy to jump to that conclusion.
Just because Ryan Kesler dives does not mean that the person sitting next to me on the bus is a horrible person just because he likes Ryan Kesler. But it seems that people who do not know this person are unfairly criticizing him for just that, even though they’ve never met him, and even if he openly says he doesn’t condone Kesler’s diving. I’ve watched this happen to a few fanbases now, and it is almost always unfair. Aaron Rome’s hit and suspension are generating the same kind of “Canucks fans are such jerks for supporting him” chatter as Kesler’s diving or Luongo’s overacting. Yet, I’ve seen more than twice the people within the organization (four players, one coach) say they disagree with the suspension as I’ve seen fans do the same. Likewise, one writer calling conspiracy (Tony Gallagher) does not mean that everyone in the Canucks fanbase or even media agrees with him. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Opposing fans are going to do what they’re going to do. These sorts of conclusions will always be reached by the quick to accuse. I can’t change that, and neither can you. All I ask is that everyone take a step back and think for a minute about how you would feel if people in Vancouver would make the same accusations as you are making about them. Because chances are when your favourite team is as successful as the Canucks are, people will attack you and your city. And you will take offence.
And it’ll be just as unfair.