What’s the proper way to say sorry to the fans?

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The lockout is over, training camps are open, but there is a debate among hockey fans on what the league and it’s teams should do for the fans to make up for them missing half a season of their beloved sport.

Gary Bettman has said he’s sorry, but what was he supposed to say? And does anyone care? The Pittsburgh Penguins are offering 50% off all merchandise and free concession items, while the Tampa Bay Lightning offered 200 season-ticket packages for their 24 home games for $200 on a first come, first served basis.

For their part the Canucks have opened up Rogers Arena this week for their abbreviated training camp. They will also hold a “Jersey’s off our backs” night for Saturday’s season opener against Anaheim. The team says there will be other giveaways and random prizes given out during the season.

But that’s not good enough for some fans, who feel the team should be a little more generous if they hope to maintain their loyalty. The reality is however, at least in Canada, they don’t have to. There is a waiting list for season tickets that spans years, so the Canucks have that in their back pocket, and know that soon hockey fans will forget. Probably after the first big save by Cory Schneider, or the first tic-tac-toe play by the twins. Canucks fever will be back, it’s already back so if you’re expecting that half price jersey, don’t hold your breath because if you don’t buy a full priced one, ten other people will.

In Winnipeg the MTS centre was sold out for the Jets first practice of the year. The buzz in Edmonton isn’t “what can you do for me”, but is instead one of getting to watch their exciting young team possibly contend for a playoff spot. In Toronto the rink will be packed as they hope for the arrival of a goaltender from the west coast that could help them get to the playoffs in a post Brian Burke era.

Talk of boycotts of this and boycotts of that are noble and understandable stances, and everyone is entitled to their own way of dealing with the return of hockey, but they likely won’t last long with the true hockey fan.

In the end, I would have been happy with the league making their Centre Ice package free for the duration of the season. A quick look at the Shaw Cable website shows the package is mentioned, but not available to order at the moment. Could it be a discount or free offering is in the works? We’ll have to wait and see, but there would be no better way to get fans interested again than to give them maximum exposure to what promises to be some intense hockey once we get going.

What individual teams do is obviously going to depend on the market they are in. Teams in the U.S. will no doubt have to make more of an effort and Canadian fans will  point south and say, “What about us?” In a way it’s a shame that the game’s most passionate fans will likely get the fewest perks when it comes to post-lockout apologies, but let’s face it…Canadian fans already have the biggest prize they could hope for; their game is back.

Micro-analysis: The joys of living in a hockey town.

Four games into the 2011-2012 NHL season and already talk shows and fans alike are micro-analyzing the Vancouver Canucks.

Ok, if we’re completely honest, it never really stopped did it?

If I’m really really honest, i’m just not into the new season yet. Those of you who know me I am also a CFL freak (Canadian Football League for those NFL folks out there) and my BC Lions are the hottest team in the league at the time of this blog. So with the battle for playoff position brewing and Vancouver hosting the 99th edition of the Grey Cup this season, my attention is admittedly elsewhere. *Shameless plug warning* I also run BCLionsDen.ca, if you would like to check it out.

There are other reasons why the Canucks don’t have my undivided attention yet. The the mental drain of last year’s playoffs and the way things ended last year have been tough to get over. I’m almost there, but not quite. Off-season, we hardly knew you.

I’ve watched parts of every game this year. I’ve been impressed with Cody Hodgson, the Sedin twins are once again displaying outstanding regular season form, and Luongo is once again struggling through his annual October tuneup. Is it the playoffs yet?

I’m a big sports radio guy. I pretty much listen to sports radio all the time in the car, usually the TEAM 1040. I understand this is a hockey market and that the ratings, advertisers and callers dictate that hockey rule the airwaves 90% of the time. But over the first four games of this season, I’ve gotten to thinking how the sports radio hosts on those town have an affect on the hockey fan in Vancouver.

Already they’re talking about how the Canucks aren’t tough enough, how Luongo isn’t good enough and how Marco Sturm is a bust after four games. The “experts” are riling up the masses and fueling the micro-analysis that exists in this rabid hockey town and that’s their job.

Of course social media has given everyone a voice. Bloggers blog, fans tweet, all with their own critiques and opinions. Some are very rational, some not so much, but such is the world of the fan today. It’s certainly provided fans and media with a voice they never had in the past.

In an 82 game season, there are going to be slumps and streaks, peaks and valley’s. As a long time Canucks fan of over 30 years, I’ve see a lot of bad hockey teams. I’ve seen teams that weren’t supposed to do anything excel, and teams that were just crash and burn.

I’ve also learned a lot from the players over the last few years and how they don’t get too high after a win, and too low after a loss.  I’ll admit, I’m not the best fan come playoff time. I’m heavily invested and affected by the outcomes. I wish I could have the calmness and patience of the team, who has much more at stake in the games than I do as a fan. It’s a game by game process with the ultimate goal of making the playoffs and winning the last game you play. That thought process worked last year and the team fell short, but it’s the best process to follow for both players and the fans.

There should be no panic in Canucks Nation, yet you wouldn’t know it listening to some of the radio hosts in this town and the flames they fan with the fans. I always find it amusing when talk show host fill the airwaves with negativity and then in the next breath accuse the callers that interact with of overreacting etc. Some of them should look in the mirror.

I know my passion will come back, it always does. I know that come playoff time I will be glued to every face off, every goal, watching nervously. I do have the “Heart of a Canuck” and that heart will always belong to the green white and blue. Whether Luongo lets in a soft one or Daniel goes four games without a goal.

While it’s great that people are passionate about the Canucks, fueling the success of sports talk radio in our city, the only thing that really matters is what happens come playoff time. So sit back, relax and watch the story unfold game by game in hopes that come playoff time the final result will be different.

Or, you can just keep micro-analyzing every little thing that happens and drive yourself insane. ;-)

Go Canucks go!

Justine Galo: Canucks fans have a lot to be humble about.

Justine Galo, CanucksCorner.com

As I have read through some tweets and Facebook statuses of some friends who are “Canucks” fans, I always get a chuckle when they say players consider us, Canucks fans, the best and most knowledgeable fans in the league. Really? Which players? The Canucks players? Of course they are going to say that, they play in Vancouver! It’s good PR!  I know this! I work in PR!  I mean, do we really know what the players think? And if there is any ounce of truth to this, why do fans of different franchises consider us on the lower end of the scale when it comes to being ‘knowledgeable’ fans? 

I’ve traveled to 28 NHL arenas, and I’ve met fans from all over the league, and I’m going to be the first to say, “Canucks fans, we have a lot to learn.” So why don’t we start with being humble?  Here’s why:

Mediocrity Lowers The Bar

If anyone knows the history of the Vancouver Canucks, the uniforms from the late 70s and early 80’s weren’t the only thing ugly about the franchise. In fact, I believe the Canucks overall record isn’t exactly what you call ‘exemplary’!  In fact, our expansion twins, the Buffalo Sabres, overall, have been better than the Canucks.  We need to make sure that our players are at league standards, not just ‘our’ standards.

Attendance: Not Perfect

When John Ashbridge mentions it on the loud speaker, at Rogers Arena, it’s true! “X” amount of games are sold out “X” amount of times in a row. Of course there is some truth to that, a sold out game doesn’t necessarily mean a full arena in today’s NHL.  As long as that ticket is bought and paid for, that it’s a part of the gate.

As a fan-base, we’ve done extremely since the “Burke Years” to come in and watch our Canucks in the stands. But it wasn’t always so. I remember getting off the Skytrain in 1998-1999 and I could buy centre ice middle lower bowl tickets for $40 a pair. No one was in the arena, and no one gave a hoot that was there in attendance.  So as a fan-base, where were we? Not at GM Place, that’s for sure.

 

Hall of Fame-less

With the exception of former Canucks play by play announcer, Jim Robson, the Vancouver Canucks have yet to have a player who made his career in the NHL with the Canucks inducted into the HHOF. No, we cannot count Cam Neely. The Canucks threw him away to Boston and he became a star.  Mats Sundin will be in the HHOF as well, but let’s not even go there, a half a season with Vancouver doesn’t make him the Canucks inductee.

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s only Stanley

And although the Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915, it doesn’t mean the NHL Vancouver team has won a cup for the city.  In fact, just because Canucks Sports and Entertainment finally purchased the rights to the Millionaires’ intellectual property doesn’t mean we can count their cup win as ‘ours’.   Stanley in Vancouver means a big green space in the downtown core.  I still patiently wait for the ‘challis of dreams’.

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I’m not pointing out things like this to say that Vancouver is a bad fan-base and we don’t know our team, but maybe we should think about how the team has looked on a bigger scale. A scale that is beyond the city and beyond the doors of Rogers Arena, in one with the rest of the hockey world. 

One time, when I was in St. Louis and in attendance for a Blues and Blue Jackets game, I remembered the amazing fans I met there (I have similar stories from Columbus, Long Island etc etc) and how well they knew not only the NHL but the game of hockey itself.  I was impressed how they broke down the opponent of the Blues that night and what they thought of my Canucks.  No bashing, no arrogance, just great shared knowledge and appreciation.  It has to be one of my most memorable moments ever in a visitor’s home arena.

As we cling to our Naslunds, Lindens, Sedins, Luongos in our corner of the NHL, there are teams with richer histories, with HOF players and many victories in cup finals. We have franchises and fans that have been around prior to the 20th century.  Generations upon generations of fans who have passed down their knowledge down their lineage.   Yet when I go and visit with their fans, I feel like I am still learning. I relish being able to learn hockey beyond the Canucks and the city of Vancouver.

As a fan of the Canucks of 30 years, I’d just like to share that we don’t have to be the most knowledgeable or the most passionate, I don’t want to be known to the rest of the league of as a fan base of whiners and arrogant wannabes.  I’ve always taken pride in the fact I am a Canucks fan, but I’ve taken more pride knowing that I can appreciate most other teams and fan-bases around the league. I just want that reciprocated, and it all starts by taking a step back and being a little more humble.

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Make Some Noise For The Boys!

Make some noise for the boys!

Saturday evening the Vancouver Canucks return home. It will be the first time in 42 days the majority of the Canucks have stepped onto the ice at General Motors Place.

What better way for fans to show that support Saturday to wear blue to the game, and give the team a playoff type welcome back. There will likely be a ceremony to honour the teams Olympians, but it would be nice if the fans gave the team a standing ovation when they take to the ice.

“There were days when you woke up in another hotel and wondered ‘Where are we now?’ before you get it together a little bit,” said center Ryan Kesler, “The last six we’ve played here on the other end of the Games, that hasn’t been as bad … but those first eight were real tough. They took forever.”

The longest road trip in NHL history, 13 cities, 14 games and 20,737 kilometers is over. And the Canucks emerge from it 8-5-1, collecting 17 of a possible 28 points and still sitting 3rd in the conference and atop the Northwest Division. There were bumps along the way, but the club has to be pleased at how they coped with the trip, especially with key injuries to the defense adding to an already tough stretch.

Now, with 10 of their last 15 games on home ice, the Canucks look to kick their road weary bodies into overdrive and hit the playoffs running on all cylinders. They will likely get the services of Kevin Bieksa back soon while the future of Willie Mitchell is unclear.

So make some noise for the boys! Spread the word, tell your fellow fans, tweet your faces off! They did us proud now let’s get loud and show the team we’re behind them down the stretch!

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