Thursday, June 02, 2011

B's and V's if you please

So here we are, nine months since training camps opened have passed by, each and every one of them leading up to this next two week period, the highest of Holy Days for NHL fans, potentially seven games of drama leading to the deliverance of Lord Stanley's Cup.

There are three cities full of excitement these days, Winnipeg from their return to the lodge will no doubt continue to celebrate that achievement through these Stanley Cup playoffs, no team to live and die with in the Stanley Cup final, but their days filled with the prospect of September of 2011 when the next season begins anew.

The more direct excitement of course, will be felt in Boston and Vancouver, where last night the Canucks played host to their first Stanley Cup final game since their long march into spring back in the nineties and a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the New York Rangers.

The Bruins with their own playoff ghosts to ponder, likewise are anxious to return Stanley to a place it once dwelled.

The match up this year takes your humble blogger back to the days of youth, growing up in south end Ottawa back in the day gave us no "home" team to follow, the divisions of loyalty as disperse as the make up of the neighbourhood, one which consisted mainly of Irish, Italian and French Canadian puck heads.

There were the usual divisions among the Leafs and the Habs, but in the era of the time, beingthe late sixties there was a smattering of other original six teams, with the Bruins grabbing my attention based mainly on the exploits of one Robert Gordon Orr.

Through the late sixties and into the early seventies it was a Boston Bruin sweater that was pulled on for road hockey games or twirls around the neighbourhood outdoor rink, the number 4 haphazardly stitched on the back and while the will to be like Orr may have been there, the skill level was a tad below the bar as you might say.

Still, Number Fawh was the player and the Bruins the team for me at the time, others in the neighbourhood could wear their Red Wings and Black Hawks finery (we imagine guys named Howe and Hull had something to do with that) and since it was a slightly more intimidating neighbourhood than most, the odd Flyer uniform began to appear with expansion (owing we suspect in part to the Flyers using Ottawa as a training camp base) , but I stayed true to B untl that fateful day when the Bruins and Bobby parted ways.

They lost a star player that day and I never went back to cheering on a Bruins team and even if the years that have passed we can perhaps point the finger of blame more correctly towards a certain player agent who will remain nameless, think birds if you will.  The fact that the Bruins let Orr go to another team (though perhaps it could have been helpful if he had been provided with all the details eh) was the first sign that hockey was starting to change.

Where loyalty was not to be honoured or to be compensated and the business of the game began to overshadow the beauty of the action, hard lessons for a youngster but then again we all have to learn about the mean old world them sometimes.

So with my own self declared fan free agency at hand, I began to cast about for a new team to support, with the idea of joining the Leafs and Habs supporters clearly not on (a proud Ottawan steeped in love of the CFL Riders, cheering anything Montreal or Toronto (except for the Expos) wasn't to be considered)  the newly arrived Vancouver Canucks began to hold some appeal.

The exotic distance was one temptation and frankly the sweaters just looked neat, the blue and green on the white, a classic uniform that still looks pretty sharp today (best move ever was going back to that traditional colour scheme).  The hockey rink (or was it a puck? as the question was in the day) with the stick in the middle a simple declaration of the sport.

And while we never quite declared totally fealty to all things Canuck, we watched with far more than a interest as they moved through their 40 years of NHL transit, along the way we found time to cheer on an amazing and confident Quebec Nordiques team if for no other reason that it annoyed the Habs fans so much, their day of departure for Colorado still a black mark of injustice on our historical calendar.

Likewise, having spent a few years in Manitoba and making the pilgrimage to salute the Queen's portrait at the Winnipeg Arena a  few times, where we chanted Go Jets Go with the rest of the crowd the loss of the Jets providing another shake to our NHL foundation for a while.

The return of Ottawa to the league gave us cause to salute a new flag and gain a little hope that the hockey universe was beginning to right itself, a rooting interest for the old home town back where it once ruled oh so long ago, and even if we'll probably never make it back to see a home game, we've taken them as our team, good years and bad (and man was this year the bad).

The exit of the 2007 Stanley Cup final still a bitter pill to swallow, with so many expectations, and with the vision that of all teams, it was the Anaheim Ducks carrying the Cup around could have put a waver  into many a fan, but hope springs eternal and we're always suggesting that next season could be the season.

In fact, despite evidence to the contrary, we had kind of hoped that this years Stanley Cup Final would feature the Sens and the Canucks, a prognostication that proved only fifty percent correct, a wish that perhaps may have been guided by rose coloured glasses or  perhaps clinical delusion, who knows for sure.

Since their return, the Sens have been the focus of our hockey attentions, though successive decades in British Columbia have reminded us of our early fascination of those that sport Green and Blue on the Canucks, and while not quite as attached as the many uniform clad and flag flying residents of the province currently in rapture, we have developed a rather healthy respect of and rooting interest for these Canucks.

Still, 50 per cent is better than nothing, and since our outpost among the blogging portals is from this west coast of Canada,  this series offers up a welcome change from the recent Stanley Cup finals.

Where in the past we've watched with interest but with little emotional attachment to the outcome, this year is a little bit different, as there's an actual team to cheer on and celebrate for their achievements.

That Bruins sweater long ago faded into our history, the only the memory of that era  the remarkable time when Bobby Orr ruled the ice. While we are sure the current roster is fine, outstanding young men, there's nothing there now for us to hitch our hopes to, no real emotional pull to the Black and Gold.

While we still await the day for the inscription of the Ottawa Senators name again to Lord Stanley's Cup, we're hopeful that this year at least will belong to the Vancouver Canucks, the anticipation in this province of that hopeful day later this month  is being felt from Rockies to Vancouver Island, from the American line to the south to beyond the Yukon border in the North.

With one game in the books, that path to the Stanley Cup, which has its roots with a team called the Millionaires from the last century, seems closer than ever.

Some remarkable hockey is yet to come, more memories yet to be made and somewhere in this province and perhaps in towns and cities across this country we imagine, someone is pulling on a hockey jersey for the first time in a Stanley Cup run.

Like those that have done such through the decades before, ready to live the dream with each game and each goal.

Their faith to be rewarded in but a few short days, whether it be for years of support, or recent conversion to the cause, the celebration we imagine will be much the same.

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