. Canucks gone wild! Canada's love affair with hockey : Budget Travel Adventures

Canucks gone wild! Canada’s love affair with hockey

Vancouver Canucks fans Game 5 Stanley Cup hockey win Boston Bruins

Vancouver hockey fans celebrate!

When visiting Canada, you can’t help but fall in love with the majestic mountains of Whistler, the international flavor of Toronto, and a taste of French Canadian culture in Montreal and Quebec.  While Canada has an abundance of culture, cuisine, and Canadian Rockies, the most appealing thing about this country are the Canucks themselves.

In Vancouver, I strolled the streets of Robson and Granville, strolled along the waterfront area near the Burrard Inlet, and enjoyed the restaurant and pub scene in Yaletown.  While the people of Vancouver are like a warm handshake, hot drink, and a welcoming hug to a stranger in the cold, don’t mistake that friendliness for a lack of passion.

Without a doubt, Vancouver may have some of the most passionate sports fans I have even seen.  During my recent trip to Vancouver, I was able to share in the excitement of the Stanley Cup Finals with thousands of rabid Vancouver Canucks fans.

A brief history of the NHL in Canada

In Canada, hockey is legendary.  And many legends of the game come from Canada.  Some of the greatest hockey players of all time – Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Mark Messier – have won championships for country and NHL teams.  While the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have the most NHL titles (24 and 13, respectively), a Canadian team hasn’t won the NHL Stanley Cup since 1993 – far too long for country rich in hockey tradition and talent.

The history of hockey is rooted in the Canadian cold and ice.  The NHL began in November 1917 in Montreal during the height of World War I as it took over for the defunct National Hockey Association (NHA).  Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, and a new team in Toronto formed the first few members.  Now the league contains 30 teams and plays for the oldest professional sports trophy in North America – Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Stanley Cup is another storied part of Canada’s hockey history as The Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the award to the top ranking amateur ice hockey team in Canada in 1893.  Appointed by Queen Victoria to the position, Lord Stanley first noticed the game of hockey at the 1889 at the Winter Festival.  As his entire family fell in love with the game, he decided to create a trophy and present it to the champion.

The first team to receive Lord Stanley’s Cup was Montreal HC.  Beginning in 1915, the trophy was given to the winner of the National Hockey Association and Pacific Coast Hockey Association as the season champions faced off.  In 1926, the Stanley Cup became the winner’s trophy for the NHL champions.

From Lord Stanley’s Cup to the founding of the NHA and NHL, the history of hockey runs deep in Canada.  Many years later, those roots run deeper and wider and are as strong as ever.

Canucks gone wild!Vancouver Canucks fans Game 5 Stanley Cup hockey win Boston Bruins

While hockey can be known as a fast spaced and violent sport on ice often involving fights and blood, a different kind of blood runs through the veins of most Canadians.  With its storied history and championship lore, hockey is not just a sport in Canada but a part of its culture as well.

As an American, I understand football and baseball.  However, I’ve never really understood hockey.  While sports in America runs far and wide in a tapestry of colors and variety of plants and trees, sports in Canada is a dense forest of redwood trees with deep roots reaching high into the sky.  Unlike the wide variety in America, the sports scene in Canada is dominated by hockey.

In Vancouver, Stanley Park stands as one of the proud symbols of the city with winding paths and the pedals of pedestrians on bikes enjoying the green trees that seem to stretch for miles beneath the cascading  Coastal Mountain range.  However, the colors of green in Stanley Park have suddenly been overwhelmed by a sea of blue and green throughout the city.

On this night, the Vancouver Canucks are facing the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals with the series tied 2-2.  It’s a couple of hours before game time and the streets are already filled with Canucks jerseys and flags.  I’ve never seen so many people so excited and united over a sporting event.  From street vendors to businessman, nearly everyone is passionate for the Canucks.

Enjoying the company of new Canadian friends, I join an all Canadian celebration and party at Blue Water Cafe in the chic area known as Yaletown.  While many Canadians fill this bar and restaurant, thousands join the celebration near the Rogers Centre and on the streets of Robson and Granville to watch the game on huge screens.  A few proud Canadians stand for the national anthem and many join in the chorus belting out their national pride in unison.

As the game begins, it’s fast-paced with lots of opportunities and great saves.  Vancouver commits way too many penalties in the first period to the disgust of the crowd.  However, the first period ends scoreless as many seated in the bar begin their amateur analysis.  Meanwhile, Canada and hockey icon Don Cherry does his own analysis on the CBC dressed in another outrageous suit.  Yet not even this Canadian legend can overshadow this game.

The second period begins and ends the same as the first – scoreless.  Finally, the third period saw some magic as Max LaPierre punches in the goal for Vancouver with 15:26 left in the game.  A massive explosion of cheers and screams erupts from the Blue Water Cafe as high fives and hugs are exchanged.

The rest of the third period is an emotional roller coaster ride as Vancouver withstands a furious Boston attack.  However, as the last few seconds melt away, the eruption begins again.

As the bars and restaurants empty, Canucks fans parade through the streets littering every area of the city with celebrations and high fives.  An unusual fever spreads among people with symptoms of screams, spontaneous outbursts of joy, and a slight case of hysteria (Canadian style of course – polite and respectful).  While the fever only seems contagious among Canadians, I begin to wonder if I am getting a slight strain of it as well as goosebumps begin to appear on my skin and a mild case of high fives overcomes me.

As we make our way towards Robson and Granville streets, the crowds begin to grow.  A line of uniformed policeman walk through the city streets to make sure order is maintained.  However, even the police have been affected by this disease known as “Canucks fever” as they slap hands and give high fivesto those celebrating.  The number of people affected by this fever grows and huddled masses make a walk through the streets nearly impossible.  Throughout the streets, many take photos and videos, wave Canucks flags and towels, and join in the celebration with thousands as the party goes on for hours.

It’s fun, exciting, and peaceful.  There’s no violence or outrageous behavior but the passion of the people in Vancouver makes me proud to be here.  As I gathered with new Canadian friends to watch the game and walked  the streets with people of all races and nationalities, I understood what it meant to be Canadian and love hockey.

I’ve spent many years around some of the most passionate fans in sports – SEC football fans (after all, college football helped inspire me to travel).  And the fans of Vancouver rival anything I’ve ever experienced.  Watching the people celebrate, it’s not just about Vancouver.  It’s about a passion for hockey that transcends culture in Canada and runs deep.  It’s not a sport but a part of who these people are.

Never have I seen people be so passionate yet polite, raucous but respectful, and happy yet so honorable.  They didn’t even win the Stanley Cup – just Game 5 and one step closer.

Vancouver local Cameron Wears grew up on the east coast of Canada but went to school on the west coast where he has made Vancouver his home for many years.  While it’s hard to sum up the connection between hockey, Vancouver, and Canada, Cameron shares his thoughts.

“Hockey is religion in Canada. It’s our sport and our passion. We love a good body-check as much as a game winning goal. It’s hard to put the obession into words, but the best comparison is that the Stanley Cup is to Canadians what the Super Bowl is to Americans, or the Champions League to Europeans.”  From my perspective, it’s much more than that.

For the city of Vancouver, this means even more.  “We don’t have multiple professional sports teams in Vancouver, so it’s easy to see why we take it so seriously” Wears states.  “You have to remember, the Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup championship in its 40 years of existence. I still find it hard to imagine a Canadian team that has never hoisted the cup!? Heck, we’ve never hosted any professional trophy!”

However, this is more than just a Vancouver thing.  While a title would mean a lot to this city, all of Canada wants another title.  Wears echoes that sentiment.

“I think the recent celebrations in Vancouver are proof that professional sports bring a city and community together. Even though the majority of the league is made up of Canadian hockey players, a Canadian team hasn’t won the Cup since 1993.  The yearly disappointment has been brewing for years. Canadians are just about ready to explode, and the Canucks have the best shot at bringing the Cup back to Canada!”

If the Canucks win the cup, then all of Canada may celebrate with them.

A passionate love affair – Canada and hockey

What began as a game many years ago in Canada, now has become part of the Canadian culture.  While a glimpse of this passion has been seen in Vancouver this year, the love for the sport is seen throughout the country.

Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky may be legends in Canada but the passion shared among Canadians and hockey runs deep.  To even call it an affair isn’t accurate.  Sure, Canadians enjoy other sports like soccer, curling, Canadian football, and even a little baseball and basketball.  However, these are considered good friends – not lifelong partners.

It’s hard to believe that passion like this exists everywhere in Canada for hockey.  However, when it is as much a part of your culture as it is a sport, you bleed hockey sticks and pucks.  While this strange fever has come quite suddenly to Vancouver, it has probably been known to strike other parts of Canada as well.

As a traveler, sports and travel are a great way to connect with locals.  With my love of sports, I may not always love the game but sports and travel have a way of healing and dividing.

Yet hockey in Canada is neither a sickness or an affair.  It’s part of who you are.  Canadians are proud, passionate, and polite.  Sometimes Canucks do go wild but that’s because they can’t help being in love with the game that is so much a part of them.

If you want to experience hockey on the other side of Canada, check out cheap flights to Toronto from easy voyage for a chance to see the Maple Leafs or Ottawa Senators play!

Check out another video of the celebration as well as Cam’s video of the Vancouver Canucks win in Game 2.

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  1. Welcome home! Interesting post on the passion Canada has for hockey. You can see the passion during the play offs but I’m sure you could feel it while in Vancouver.

    It kind of reminds me of the passion most of the world has for soccer.

    • As a huge fan of soccer, I agree. Love the passion! Not seen excitement like that in many places in the US. College football is up there but the whole city was consumed!

  2. Thanks for the inclusion – cross your fingers for tomorrow night! The epic Game 7 Stanley Cup Final – winner takes all!!

  3. Nice article. Particularly enjoyed the interview with Cameron Wears. It was fun to be in Vancouver on the night of the Game 5 win. So much excitement and celebration! You got some great pics of it all.

  4. Matt Hope says:

    I like the videos. Looks like an awesome time! I love seeing sporting events and post sporting event celebrations in person. I had a friend in Spain last year after they won the World Cup, and I was in Honduras, which was of course rooting for Spain. It was a cool sight to see.

    • I had a friend that was in Spain during the semifinals of the World Cup. It was crazy! I am not a big fan of massive crowds but the Canadians are very polite and respectful! I couldn’t believe the atmosphere.

  5. Michael says:

    Canadians certainly love their hockey. I have been to Montreal a couple of times (when I was a sports commentator), and I can assure you that you would find their fans a lot less mellow than the crowd at Vancouver – particularly if they were playing the Bruins in a big playoff series. The “Habs” are to hockey what the Yankees fans are to baseball.

    Having said that, it’s is difficult to follow on TV, and I am not surprised why people in the US have never really taken to it. It certainly does not help that 80 percent (or so) of all NHL players are from Canada.

    • Yep, 24 titles in the NHL for the Habs. However, they are nowhere near as annoying as Yankees fans or their franchise! :)

      Hockey isn’t something we grew up with. Maybe it’s just a weather thing and that’s why it’s really only popular in the northeast. Even though I don’t follow it much, I definitely connect with the atmosphere and passion.

  6. It sounds (and looks) like you had an awesome time up there! Here in L.A. whenever a team wins the playoffs or something, they set cars on fire.

  7. I just can’t get attached to either of these teams, so I probably won’t watch game 7. If Vancouver wins, I hope they don’t get European soccer style crazy and burn the city down!

  8. jade says:

    After experiencing the city after they WON, I can’t imagine what it was like after last night’s loss. I pray for them on Wednesday!! haha…

  9. I equate the passion for hockey in Canada to the passion for OSU football in Columbus, Ohio.

  10. Great story and I am not a Vancouver Fan too after all the tweets and pictures and videos from the Win. Will be rooting for them to take the Series

  11. Jim says:

    An ice hockey game has got to be up there on my A list when we get back to Canada. Such a fast hard game!

  12. you definitely just one-uped me on sports related posts. that was an epic. my ice hockey experience is pretty much limited to watching highlights from the olympic games. i like its brutality! i could easily see myself getting into it with a bit more knowledge. i can totally understand the canadians passion for the game. love the writing in the post mate!

    • I think sports is going to be one of the themes of my blog. While a lot of guys may not like to travel, maybe sports can get them off the couch and see other places. I’ve always loved sports and have made it a part of my travels. And like hockey, Scottish games, soccer, and other things, I am willing to see sports that aren’t as popular or common here in the US. I think sports is a great way to highlight the culture of an area as well as the sporting event – just like hockey in Canada!

  13. Liz says:

    I of course (being from Boston) will be cheering for the Bruins, but it has been a really exciting series so far, and I never expected them to get this far since Vancouver is a superior skill team. It’s hard to judge who has the biggest fans unless you experience it all. Up here, we don’t really care all that much about college football so finding fanatical people like that are few and far between, hence why I also cheer for an SEC school because they are the best conference. However, having been to Ohio State twice for Michigan games, they are pretty insane about the O-H! Some of it can be just what you grew up with, since we have our loooooong winters, hockey is a big sport in New England, everyone I know grew up with a pair of skates playing on the pond, we have fantastic college teams (BC, BU, Harvard etc.)that are consistently in the Frozen Four so it gets a big draw. And we are very proud to be an Original 6. Boston has been abuzz over this series, so I can’t wait for tonight!

    • Boston has a really exciting history and is probably the championship capital of the country right now. Every major sporting team has won a title in the last 10 years and it’s amazing to see the success they have had there. Boston is huge for hockey but don’t think it can top Vancouver. Boston has so many sports teams while Vancouver is really passionate about hockey. Congrats on winning the Stanley Cup!

  14. If they went crazy for game six I can only imagine how nuts it will be if they win tonight. I did not know a Canadian team had not won since 1993. That is nuts. It might end tonight.

    • It’s a shame how that series ended. Sure, I was disappointed that they lost but even more saddened and disappointed at how some fans reacted. Seeing all the photos and videos of streets and places I walked past a few doors before being looted and trashed bothered me. I never expected Vancouver to act like this. Sure, it wasn’t everyone but I just hated seeing a city I enjoyed trashed like that no matter how many people it was doing it.

  15. Nice background on the Canucks and Canada’s hockey fever. It was great to experience the game on the Vancouver streets!

  16. Sophie says:

    Interesting (and passionate) post about hockey here. Can’t really summmon up enthusiasm for that game myself. Seen a few passionate American football fans in my day though, especially in Dallas.

    • I am not a passionate hickey fan either and not sure I ever will be. However, as a sports fan and huge college football fan and fan of European soccer, I can definitely understand the passion side of it!

  17. Interesting story. Great that people are so passionate but I’ve heard of violence and destruction in the streets – and that’s not cool.

  18. Scott says:

    Jeremy,

    Great post and I am thrilled you got to experience a taste of the passion that makes hockey so special. See, I grew up in St. Louis, and I actually would argue that it isn’t necessarily a Canadian thing, it’s a hockey fan thing. The lore and history of the Stanley Cup and the body-rattling war of attrition that the players have to endure to hoist that Cup bleeds over to the fans. So, while they may have a higher percentage of hockey fans in the CAN, I think you will discover that us fans south of the border share that same passion.

    • Without a doubt, there are a number of hockey fans in the US. This isn’t to say we don’t have any. However it pales in comparison to the passion and love in Canada. In Canada, hockey is their national sport wouldn’t you say? The same can’t be said here. It’s not even close really. It doesn’t mean there aren’t passionate fans but Canada takes it to a whole new level.

  19. Scott says:

    Oh yes, you are right. I wasn’t trying to say that hockey was the U.S.’s national sport (I wish), just saying that those that are fans of hockey down here are just as passionate as the ones in Canada, see the fact that 100,000 people turned out in Boston today for a parade.

    • I think hockey is 4th (at best) as favorite sport in the US. Honestly, it’s more a northeast sport as it just isn’t popular in the south or west. I can see people in the midwest connecting with it some but I think hockey is more regional in terms of its passion in the US. In Canada, I think it is the entire country.

      As for Boston, I have nothing against the city but they are a little spoiled right now. Of the 4 major sports, do you know that the Patriots are now the team with the longest championship drought? Wow!

  20. Suzy says:

    Canadians do love hockey! I didn’t know the history of the sport in the country so that is interesting to hear. I bet it was crazy to be in Vancouver for the final games.

  21. Katie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article, it’s always really interest to read/hear other people’s perspective on Canadians, lol, we can be a weird bunch!

    I thought you might like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDWdxbw2Pb4

    Tom Cochrane’s song “Big League” It paints a really good picture of the importance that hockey has to Canadians – especially rural Canadians.

    Cheers!

    • While he may not represent all Canadians, Don Cherry does symbolize everything about hockey in Canada that is both passionate and crazy :)

      As an American, I appreciate hockey but don’t really get it. However, I DEFINITELY understand being a passionate sports fan. In that sense, it was really fun to be on the outside looking in.

      I actually love experiencing sporting events when I travel. You really get to understand the culture and the people through sports.

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