It’s okay to cheer: let fans be fans

Vancouver Canucks fans, it’s finally our time

PHOTO: Josh Appel / Unsplash

By: Kaja Antic, Staff Writer

The 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs have just begun. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, the Vancouver Canucks have made it to the postseason. Blue car flags have been parading through the streets to celebrate this feat. But despite the Canucks’ stellar performance this past year, fans still can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to celebrating their favourite team. Although banter is common among NHL fans, the shame directed toward Canucks fans feels unique

In the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) postseason, the Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild, and the reigning Stanley Cup winners, the St. Louis Blues, before their championship aspirations were dashed in the semifinals after losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games. The team was written off by many across the league before the 2019–20 season even began, though the fans were excited about this run nonetheless.

Without any achievements worthy of hanging a banner in Rogers Arena, and notably without the Stanley Cup itself, it seemed like nothing to truly celebrate. Sure, the team had made the playoffs without being expected to in an equally unexpected season, but they had fallen short of the ultimate goal, meaning any celebrations were seen as premature and childish by the larger hockey sphere.

The Canucks are one of 11 teams that have never taken home the Stanley Cup, and it feels like the sports world is yet to move past memories of the 1994 and 2011 riots. While what happened is beyond inexcusable, the entire community of fans is not to blame and should not have to pay the price whenever their team celebrates a win. Still, social media users are quick to attack Canucks fans whenever their team sees success. Popular X accounts have made countless anti-Canucks posts, including one proclaiming “some cities just can’t handle the playoffs,” after the mayor of Vancouver said the city would exercise caution when planning future outdoor watch parties. 

It’s not a new concept to be shamed for celebrating a team’s achievement. In the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the elusive trophy for the second consecutive year, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in game five of the best-of-seven series. Tampa had high expectations being the reigning champions, but the Canadiens had barely snuck into the playoffs — earning the last spot in the postseason for the all-Canadian North Division

Others have mocked Canucks fans for celebrating their game one win “like they won the Stanley Cup,” as if celebration should be reserved for the end of the playoffs. This running narrative that you’re only allowed to celebrate once you have the Stanley Cup is dismissive of the overall passion fans are supposed to have year-round. While the Canucks did earn the highest spot in their division before the 2024 Stanley Cup campaign, the previous years of chaos make this run even more special.

Before the 2020 “bubble” playoffs, the last time the Canucks had hosted a playoff game inside their Rogers Arena home was on April 23, 2015, a 2–1 win to force a game six against the Calgary Flames, who would defeat and eliminate them in Calgary two days later. Canucks fans were disappointed in this result, though the ache would only grow throughout the years as the city suffered a nine-year hiatus for playoff hockey.

“Canucks fans are finally able to celebrate the success of their team, rather than stir in anguish over the team’s failures.”

When the Canucks roared into this past December holiday break at the top of the league, it was quite the achievement. Hockey in Vancouver was fun again, after years of disappointment, agony, and heartbreak. Canucks fans are finally able to celebrate the success of their team, rather than stir in anguish over the team’s failures. BC’s team led the NHL’s Pacific Division, set to play the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals

After a comeback 4–2 win in Game One — which saw two Canucks goals scored in a record-breaking twelve seconds — Canucks fans young and old were positively buzzing. Outside Rogers Arena, excited fans gathered around the statue of former Canucks head coach Roger Neilson — the man credited with the invention of “towel power” at playoff games after a 1982 show in which he waved a makeshift towel on a stick in defiance against game officials. 

Some especially excited fans climbed the statue, with one able to place a Canucks 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs towel on top of the statue’s bronze towel. Videos of this celebration went viral in the hockey sphere, with NHL fans across the continent commenting on the spontaneous festivities. There were also fans parading through the intersection of Scott Road/120th Street and 72nd Avenue in Surrey, waving flags and one fan even carrying a creative replica of the Stanley Cup. 

Even though it was only the first game of the postseason for the Canucks, it was a monumental occasion for fans. The first playoff game in four years? The first playoff game at home for nine years? This was the moment fans had been waiting for for nearly a decade. They were going to celebrate hard.

Unfortunately, the rest of the hockey world did not take it as kindly. I woke up the next morning to find my X feed flooded with accounts making fun of the celebratory feeling spread throughout Metro Vancouver. “A guy is raising a replica Stanley Cup after winning game 1 of the first round. This is how you know these people are not used to witnessing playoff hockey,” echoed one of many posts. 

Most of the comments online were mocking the fact that Canucks fans were this passionate after only winning one game, with numerous jokes from other fanbases about the Stanley Cup riots. The vast majority of us just want to celebrate in peace, and don’t want to be associated with a loud minority. Many of these social media cynics were also dismissive of the years leading up to this season’s playoff appearance, and pointed out that the Canucks had to win many more games to claim the city’s first Stanley Cup since the Vancouver Millionaires won it in 1915 — before the NHL existed

Yes, the Canucks need to win more than just one game to win the Stanley Cup. Yes, they don’t have the playoff successes of most other teams in the 2024 postseason. Yes, the celebrations can be eccentric. But that’s the point. Being a passionate Canucks fan has been hard for so many in this past decade of darkness. It’s okay to cheer, celebrate, and revel in the team’s first postseason win in years. It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Enjoy the ride.

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