I've been hinting at this post for a few days now, so I guess it's time I just sat down and wrote it. So what do I really want to say? I said the other night that hockey is "home" to me. That's true, and has been true for over 16 years now. It was nothing something that was born and bred in me, it was something I discovered on my own (with a little help from my sis, Lance Links, and Pavel Bure) and felt a deep connection to. I think I've told those stories before, but become a hockey fan was, for me at least, a conscious choice that I had to cultivate once the idea was planted.
I've been through some times as a hockey fan. I've seen my teams win it and lose it in the first round of the playoffs, game 7 of the finals, not even make the playoffs.. I've been around and changed teams a few times and found some new players to cheer for (though Bure will always be my #1 no matter what) but it all started with the 1994 Vancouver Canucks. They were my first team.. and they will forever be special. I could probably still name every player from that team (or at least come pretty darn close). I still have some of the 1994 playoff games (including dreaded game 7 which I have never watched) on tape. They were MY boys and they will always be MY boys.
When I turned 13, I asked for a Canucks jersey for my birthday. Now, keep in mind that this was 1994, way before the internet could get anything delivered to your door in 24 hours. Also keep in mind that I lived in Dayton, OH and there was no NHL team in Columbus. And I wanted a Vancouver Canucks jersey- IN AUGUST.
My parents found one.. they had to go to Cincinnati (an hour away) to get it but they found one. I loved that jersey. I probably wore it once a week on average for 3 or 4 years. No lie. I now own 10 hockey jerseys but that was my first and for a long time, my favorite. Longtime readers may recall This photo, which was one of my senior pics. I loved hockey and I loved the Canucks.
My first NHL game was a Vancouver Canucks vs. Detroit Red Wings game at Joe Louis Arena on March 17, 1995. I wore my jersey and bought a hat and cheered my heart out for the Canucks (one of about 3 people in the arena who was). One of the best nights of my life.
Over time, when Pavel was traded to the Panthers in 1999, I moved my allegiance. (it is interesting to note that Pavel Bure and Bret Hedican were the last 2 members of the 1994 team to leave Vancouver.) I left with them but a part of my heart will always belong to Vancouver.
Over the past several seasons, I have paid more attention to the Canucks. They are a fun, young team. They also have some incredibly good looking fellas on their squad. They score a lot of goals and have a great stopper in Luongo. But, since they're in the Western edge of the Western Conference, I barely see them anymore. So when I saw they were on the Sabres' schedule this season, and my brother-in-law has season tickets, I grabbed that game. I wanted to see the Canucks again, after 15 and a half years.
I'm not going to lie, the game brought back a lot of emotions for me. I felt like I should be cheering for Vancouver. I enjoy the Canucks, but it's more of a passive enjoyment, and I would never pick them over my Sabres. There were lots of Canucks fans at the game, and they were wearing all different styles of jerseys. I saw 3 people with Pavel Bure jerseys (one of them was the 1994 SCF jersey- and I could tell that from the other side of the arena. True stories, but really, are you surprised? It's me!) There were many people with the blue, silver, maroon and black with the Orca "C" on them- I remember when they debuted those jerseys.. we found some pics online (this was early internet days) and I printed them out. I wanted one of those jerseys but never got one before Bure was traded (I eventually got a Panthers one, though.)
It's hard to describe the feelings I had on Monday. I've tried to break it down into words, but there aren't really words. It was odd.. but comforting at the same time. It's like coming full circle as a hockey fan. It was facing my first favorite team while cheering for my current favorite team and it didn't feel awkward and nasty, it felt good. It felt safe. It felt like no matter what I picked, I'd be okay. It felt like home. I keep going back to that, but it's true. Hockey is home. Old team, new team, home is home.
And I absolutely adore the current Canucks uniforms. The colors are gorgeous and I want to own one right now.