I’ve been to two game sevens now. My record stands at .500, but both times, a flair for the dramatic has kept Canucks fans’ hearts pumping non-stop, clammy hands clenched, and knees and feet shaking uncontrollably. My first game seven was in 2004, when the Canucks played the Flames (the game where Matt Cooke scored shorthanded with five seconds left, only to have the Flames respond on the same PP in OT), but that will have to wait for another time. My second, was tonight.
What fans who are not at the arena live miss, is the build up, the atmosphere, the noise, the celebrations, and most of all, the jubilation when the home team wins a game seven. There aren’t very many life experiences that can compare to it, but here I go…my attempt to take you to Rogers Arena and how tonight’s crowd can be thanked for helping the Canucks beat those hated Blackhawks.
What I loved most about tonight’s game was that even though the Canucks has lost the last three games and though a collective nervousness clouded over the city, the fans at the game did an amazing job getting the Canucks ready and raring to go, no matter how nervous everybody was. Chants of “Go Canucks Go” and “Blackhawks Suck” echoed in the concourse as soon as the doors opened at 6PM, continued as the Canucks hit the ice for warmup, and carried right up until faceoff. I have been at GM Place/Canada Hockey Place/Rogers Arena many times before and don’t remember it being THAT loud…ever. I’m sure that the noise and excitement of the fans calmed the nerves of the boys in blue tonight, and you could tell. Right off the bat, the Blackhawks were rushed, flattened into the boards, and just 2 minutes in, a power move by Kesler ended in the first Burrows goal. If the building wasn’t loud enough at puck drop, it sure was after that goal.
Throughout the rest of the game, and more specifically in the third period, fans tried to keep everybody going, but you could sense the uneasiness and nervousness. Fans in section 301/302 tried many times to get the wave going, but wasn’t to be. Instead, we made up for it by cheering EVERY defensive play, whether it be a blocked shot, a puck-battle win, a defensive zone faceoff win, or even a clear. For 17:56 of that third period, things were great, and going on as good as it could be.
When Jonathan Toews popped the tying goal in with 2:04 left, you could just feel the excruciating pain, frustration, and overall “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” at Rogers Arena. Most games, that feeling would have carried over until the end of regulation, but tonight was different. As shocked as we were, we felt a responsibility to get the team going again, and boy, it was amazing. Fans stood and cheered the remaining minute of the power play and even as time expired, we knew it was just a matter of time before we would be cheering once again.
Fans willed the team through the OT penalty kill and I’m sure Burrows fed off the energy of not only his teammates saving his ass for taking such a foolish penalty, but the crowd getting jacked up another notch after a fantastic kill. The rest is all history. The building exploded when Burrows wired the game winner and the jubilation and glee flowed into the stairwells, concourse, plaza, and surrounding streets. I must have high fived over 100 strangers as I tried to leave the building (after a good 10 minutes of soaking everything in), and joined in with a bunch of drunks trying to sing my new favourite song: Chelsea Dagger. Fireworks, undoubtedly stored since Halloween for a moment like this, lit up the night sky, as fans cheered louder with BOOM and BANG.
I, having grown up a Canucks fan dating back to 1989, was always a believer that the Vancouver Canucks had one of, if not the worst, fans in the entire league. Blame gets chucked in all directions following losses, coaches’ moves are questioned negatively, and most are happier when the Leafs lose than when the Canucks win. “Fans” hop off and on the bandwagon at will, and pretenders only watch games because it’s the hip thing to do (if you are buying a Burrows t-shirt or jersey ONLY because of tonight, shame on you – you know who you are), but one thing that I appreciated after game seven this year: the fans at Rogers Arena helped propel the Canucks into the second round by sacrificing their voice boxes (and a few years of their lives from irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure, I’m sure). Props to the 18,000+ believers in attendance. You did everyone proud.