The Bruins: Game Seven
I wasn’t surprised and I don’t think anyone else should be have been surprised either. I almost wrote a pregame post about how the over the top reaction of the entire province to this Stanley Cup run had an ugly dark side, one that threatened to explode, win or lose.
In some ways, the incredible level of Canuck fever was a fun thing. Even my wife – who despises hockey 99% of the time – could not help but climb on the bandwagon. “It’s like Christmas, and then some,” she said. “Everyone is excited, everyone is smiling, everyone is nice, everyone feels like they have something in common. Go Canucks.”
Marginalized groups (like new immigrants and Natives) found – perhaps for the first time – that they weren’t marginalized in Canuck nation. Even prisoners could be Canuck fans in good standing.
When everyone is on board and and everyone is overinvested emotionally in what is essentially a reality TV show (complete with manufactured narratives), we have a situation that can turn ugly very quickly. Why? Because everyone includes Canuck fans very bitter and angry because they believe that the fix was in. (Everyone, of course, includes a lot of people who are not very bright.) Everyone also includes people who really don’t care much about the Canucks but who like smashing and burning things. Everyone includes people who, seeing a store window smashed, figure its okay to grab that Ipad they’ve always wanted. Everyone includes a lot of people who lose all self control when they have too much alcohol in them. Everyone includes people who are violent and people who are drawn to violence.
The league, the NHL hockey media, and the hockey team helped create and then exploited the fever for financial reasons. Mix in a media storyline that set the Canucks and Canuck fans against the rest of the hockey world and a city that allowed – no, encouraged – 120,000 people to flood downtown without seriously considering how easily it could all go bad… I don’t want to call the result inevitable, but it doesn’t take a large percentage of everyone in the square to turn a disappointed crowd into a frightened herd trying to escape an out of control mob in their midst.
The result was ugliness on a grand scale.
It was better in the arena as most fans politely acknowledged the Bruins victory and the Canuck season. Still, I was actually a little concerned for Gary Bettman when he came out. The booing was vicious, of course, but a number of yahoos were throwing garbage that bounced around Bettman as he approached the microphone.
As to the game itself, my wife was more disappointed by the result than I was. She had been looking forward to Christmas day and somehow the holiday had been cancelled at the last minute. “It was just a hockey game,” I said. “We lost, but it is not the end of the world. The league is going to do it all again next year. It is merely entertainment. ”
Had the Canucks won I would not have felt unrestrained joy and I refuse to accept that defeat is agony. Had the Canucks won, I would have been delighted for the players, but – notwithstanding the Canucks marketing slogan – we are not all Canucks. We don’t win anything and we don’t lose anything. We are entertained. I would have enjoyed a much more entertaining experience with a win, but what will be, will be.
Because the Canucks did not win, I lost a great deal of my entertainment value, but that’s all I’ve lost. That’s not much, certainly not enough to make me feel sorry for myself. I do feel really, really badly for the Alain Vigneault and all the players. They are the ones who worked so hard all year long. They are the ones who endured the pain and the pressure and a devastating loss – more than one along the way – with grace. They are the ones who have to take the (mostly undeserved) slings and arrows.
I think we kid ourselves if we think the players are actually trying to win for the fans. They are trying to win if for themselves and for each other. They are beyond consolation today because they (barely) failed each other and because they (barely) failed to meet the goal they set for themselves 10 months ago. If it is any consolation to the Sedins, Roberto, Kes and all the rest – and I know it is not – the Canucks did not fail anyone except perhaps themselves.
They sure as hell didn’t fail me. In a real sense, we failed them.