It’s game day in Vancouver. For the first time in the history of the Vancouver Canucks, game 7 of the Stanley Cup final is here, in our building, in our town. 82 regular-season games, four rounds of playoffs comes down to tonight. One game decides the best-of-seven race to the hardest prize to win in professional sports.
The city has embraced this team, this playoff run, with tens of thousands of people flooding downtown Vancouver and Surrey to watch the game in public and millions more here and across Canada watching at home and in restaurants and bars.
In Canada, hockey is more than a game. It’s the heart of our communities. The old Hockey Night in Canada TV theme music is as familiar to most of us as our own national anthem. Whether you’re a hockey fan in Canada or not, if you live in this country, you know at least a little something about this game. We love our athletes and support them in all their sports, but no medal was more important to Canada at the Vancouver Olympics last year than hockey. This is our sport. And this prize, the Stanley Cup, is our holy grail. It’s what kids play for in street hockey games in between moving the net to the side when someone yells “Car!” It’s what every young hockey player dreams of when he laces up his skates to play.
And now our team, which has been an underdog so many times, that has missed the playoffs or dropped out of them early more times than we’d like to remember, is on top. They were the best team in the regular season. They earned home ice advantage for these playoffs. They have what it takes. And tonight, they take their shot at history. Because even though this is our game, our Vancouver Canucks have never hoisted the cup. The hopes and dreams of life-long fans sit on the shoulders of these men, these boys. No pressure.
We’ve been to the final twice before, always as the underdog. The last time, in 1994, the team that wouldn’t give up stole the hearts of the city on a fantasy run to the cup thanks to a great group of guys and a goalie – Kirk McLean – who kept them in it.
They were never expected to get there, but they did. And we were heartbroken when they lost in game 7. So, I imagine, were they. Tonight is different. The weight of expectation is heavy. Those of us who were with the team the last time, who’ve followed them through their ups and downs, are cautious. We remember. We believe our team can do it, but we’re a little afraid of getting our hearts broken again. We can’t wait until tonight, and yet we’ll be a little glad when it’s over with, whatever happens.
Whatever happens tonight, this is the game we dream of, game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. It’s the pinnacle. We’re here with the team, because, as the slogan goes, we are all Canucks. This game brings us together, millions of strangers of all ages, all ethnicities, all socio-economic groups, all political affiliations focussed on a common goal, and that is something pretty special. I wish our boys the best game of their lives tonight. But I’m a proud fan, no matter how this turns out. Play well, boys. Enjoy the moment. We believe.