Happy Hockey Day

Game #55: Oilers v. Senators @ Scotiabank Place

**A few years ago the CBC began setting aside one day a year to celebrate the National pastime. It’s kind-of a contrived celebration but anytime I’m presented with an excuse to watch 9 hours of hockey coverage, well,l I’ll do it. This is also a good time to reflect on why hockey occupies such an important part of our lives. The following then, is a guest post written by my friend Babs – a native Vancouverite and pretty funny guy – about the hockey experience growing-up in the lower mainland where ice doesn’t exist.

The first and last time I skated outdoors in Vancouver was twenty years ago. That was the last time anybody from the lower mainland laced up their skates outdoors (pictured). It was 1991 and I was three years old. My dad took me to Lost Lagoon, which borders Coal Harbor in Stanley Park. The embarrassing family videos show that the ice was horrendous and I spent more time on my bum than on my skates. I blame this initial introduction to skating as the source of my awkward stride. A theory so far only accepted by myself.

The one thing that never wavered after that, unlike my skating, was my passion for hockey. I was hooked. I’d never skate outdoors again, or skip school to go play shinny with the guys. That quintessential Canadian experience that provides the foundation for so many Canadian’s love of the game was not in the cards. Being from Vancouver there’s a better chance I’d drown from excessive rainfall than head back to Lost Lagoon to play hockey but my love for hockey still exists. For me personally, I played it every day in the alley way with my friends, even refusing to come in for dinner (although that may have had something to do with my mom’s meatloaf). I collected mountainous heaps of hockey cards. I listened to all the games on the radio before bed. I even turned my stuffed animal – Franklin the turtle – into a goaltender (Kirk McLean obviously).

What’s really telling of Vancouver’s passion for hockey is that unlike most of Canada we don’t have to play it. If that sounds snobby then please forgive me, but when it’s -25 in Saskatchewan and everything is frozen as far as the eye can see what else is one to do but play hockey? Hockey as a necessity to pass the time in the cold desolate winter months isn’t something Vancouverites experience. Yet hockey still thrives. At a junior level kids still flock to it and water cooler talk is dictated by it. The Canucks have the longest sellout streak currently in the NHL with no end in sight. And I swear to god “The Province” is actually a tabloid about the Canucks disguised as a newspaper. If you want to know what Ryan Kesler ate for breakfast read that newspaper.

Vancouver and the lower mainland will never have that pure hockey identity that other parts of Canada have. The climate doesn’t allow it. The sushi-eating business men that take up most of the lower bowl at Rogers Arena don’t help either. But in my experience as a Vancouverite there is no doubting that Vancouver and the lower mainland loves hockey. Hey, we started a riot for it for pete’s sake.

-Babs

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