Yesterday should have been a very, very sad day in our house.
Except… it wasn’t.
Our beloved hockey team’s season ended too short once again.
Some of you are relieved. Others are happy. And a rather large selection of you so-called friends are ridiculously happy that us doomed Canuck faithful are sentenced to yet another painful ending.
I love you. But I don’t understand you.
(Don’t worry, you don’t need to explain. I will never understand you. Or, that part of you, at least.)
But there are a few who today, like me, are sad, somewhat confused, and yet… okay.
It’s only a game, of course.
But a great game.
(High fives to all who agree.)
A few years ago we sat around our dining room table with some great friends and played Settlers of Catan. We’d just come back from Disneyland, and they – having never been – were struggling to understand why we had such a good time. David and I stammered to explain ourselves. We know we’re just five-year-olds in thirty-something-year-old bodies, of course. But there was something else that had made that trip so great.
Some of our best memories happened there.
See, both my husband and I were fortunate enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth several times as children. For both of us, those days were some of our happiest childhood memories. Our parents were happy, we were happy. My dad, in particular, seemed to be extra-alive at Mickey’s house.
And I like to remember himat his best.
…which is why I love hockey.
My dad grew up in Nelson. This picturesque, unassuming town in southeastern British Columbia has produced some of hockey’s greats, and Dad grew up with some of them. In the 60’s, rumblings that Vancouver would soon get an NHL franchise permeated the left coast and raced through the province. As neighborhood families dreamed of the day their children would play for the then-unnamed Vancouver Canucks, Dad coached peewee hockey and brushed shoulders with people like Gus Adams.
You Canuck faithful might remember Gus’s son Greg – he scored one of the most important goals in Canuck history on May 17, 1994.
Dad and I were at the Pacific Coliseum when he did.
That spring day is one of my most vivid memories. I wore my awesomely-red-orange-black-and-white-colored White Hot Vancouver Canucks T-shirt (the same T-shirt that I wear as playoff pyjamas now). I had brown hair and bangs. I had light-blue jeans that came up to my waist, not hips. I was not-quite 14.
Neck-deep in multiple overtimes, my teenage friends and I whined about how tired we were. Can we go home to bed now, Dad? I asked. Dad hesitated. Just a few more minutes, ok?
A moment later the red light went on, Greg crashed into the glass below us, and the city erupted.
Dad honked the horn almost all the way home. We screamed out the windows and blew our flags in triumph. I began to put every penny of my allowance towards a coveted flying-skate-logo Cliff Ronning jersey.
Every year on May 17, I remember the unrestrained joy of that night and the people who were there with me when it happened, and I can’t help but grin.
That’s the power of shared positive experience.
So much more than sharing a cup of coffee with someone, these shared memories provide a lifelong point of connection to whoever lived them with us.
And sometimes the point of connection happens with perfect strangers.
For example, last September David and I attended a Canuck pre-season game. We landed seats in the non-alcohol section, which, we believe are some of the best in the building. Not distracted by the party, these beer-less fans can remember every stat from every one of the Canucks forty-plus roller coaster years. They are free to focus all their attention – and self-depricating humor – on the game.
I speculated with the guy sitting next to me on this year’s prospects. We cracked jokes about Vancouver sports fan psychosis and mused about coaching theories and why hockey is the best sport ever. We laughed with the guy down the aisle from us who kept yelling for Boom-Boom Bieksa to come out and show the other team who was boss.
We lost that game, but it was still like being at a great party with long-lost friends. We’d lived and breathed with this team. It was just a game, but it was also so much more than just a game.
Some people have applauded the Canucks’ early exit, claiming it teaches us an important lesson – this isn’t what we should live for. I get that. I do. But I think those of us steeped in Canuck lore know that the slogan wasn’t meant to be taken so literally. We know that this (the Stanley Cup Playoffs) is awesome, and we live to love it, but we don’t live for it, not literally. If anything, we live for the community it brings the further our team gets in the playoffs.
Or as a wise friend said, it’s a means, not an end.
Last Friday, in a brief moment of foresight, we sold our tickets to last night’s game. We said it was to help pay for Noelle’s new glasses. Or to help fund our future (ahem) playoff tickets.
But the real reason we sold them was that we’d rather watch the Canucks live out this year’s fate with our good friends. Win or lose, we knew we could make it a great night.
And that’s exactly what happened.
At seven o’clock we were all screaming for joy. At eight o’clock we were stunned into silence. I worked hard to keep the swell in my chest from spilling over into tears. But when I dared to lift my eyes from the floor, I realized everyone else was teary too.
It lasted only a few moments before one of us jumped up and said,let’s go outside.
It was a gorgeous night. The view from where we were was incredible. It was one of those nights that I paused, looked around me, and realized I was living something pretty awesome.
Do you ever have those moments? I hope so. Some days they’re so hard to remember. Sometimes they seem so few and far between. Our most painful memories are often – biologically – the most powerful.
But I believe we can do something about that.
I think that’s why last night was so great. It could have been really, really sad. In many ways, it was.
But we weren’t sad alone.
We didn’t let each other stay sad, either.
I realized then that there’s something even more powerful than shared positive experiences. There’s shared negative experiences that we choose to make positive together.
Vancouver, we have the opportunity to do that here.
We could complain about what went wrong. We could puzzle over why the hockey powers-that-be hate us. We could dream up ways to fix it. Unfortunately – or fortunately, I’m not sure what yet – there will be lots of time for that.
But I think it’s a little too early for this die-hard fan to analyze. (I admit that’s because I might still be just a tiny bit sad about last year.)
Instead, I’m going to do what I urged us to do last year…
Act like we’re still in it.
No, I’m not suggesting creepy-delusional breaks from reality. I mean this very literally: act like we’re still in it.
Be happy. High-five strangers. Talk to everyone you meet with a genuine interest. Act like you all have something in common, because often, you do, and you just don’t know it yet.
And if it takes you wearing your jersey to do it, then… wear your blue-and-green with pride. (I will too, just so you’re not alone).
If we do that enough, we might realize this is all just another chapter in our soon-to-be-epic history. One day, perhaps decades from now, we’ll muse about 2011 and 2012 and how upset we used to be, as we cheer on the team that does finally win us the Cup.
Until then, if you find yourself in one of those moments when you realize you’re living something pretty awesome, no matter what you’re doing right then, capture it – with a camera, a thought, a few words, or even just a deliberate pause. Frame that memory, if only in your mind.
And… if you’re not a hockey fan – insert whatever thing you’re really into at every point I mentioned hockey in this post. And… if you don’t have a thing you’re really into… well, you might be missing out on some really great memories with some really great friends.
Together we can build new memories. Together we can make good memories. More importantly, together we can weave memories of bad things we made good by our decision to find something to be happy about.
What a photographic memory that would be.
I get it – “This is what we live for,” as in, “We live for the sense of community that comes when we support this together.” That actually makes sense, and feels a lot better than what I had always assume they meant by that: “The Stanley Cup is what we live for.”
I’ve shared some pretty difficult times with my best friend in life, but we have turned those into “bonding experiences.” Good reminder to continue doing the same!