Blueliner Hockey Tour Part 1
This yearâ€™s Blueliner Hockey Tour was a little bit special. Never before had we travelled to 4 places each with their own importance to play in ice hockey terms.
We travelled out to Vancouver before heading down Vancouver Island through the cities of Nanaimo and Victoria and finally crossing the Puget Sound to enter Seattle.
Arriving in Vancouver was a shock. It was unseasonably warm and sunny for the end of March. Like the sun that hit us that day it is immediately obvious there is one sports team that is more important than others. The Vancouver Canucks. Posters are everywhere, team logoâ€™s are everywhere, jerseyâ€™s, caps, tshirts are everywhere.
It does not just stop in the city itself either. The ski resort of Whitsler some 2 hours or so drive from downtown Vancouver and the Canuckâ€™s home arena is the same. Skiers and snowboarders hurtle down the runs as their Olympic heroes did in 2010 in Canucks jerseys whilst even here bars advertise that nights Canuckâ€™s game.
The reasonâ€™s why the Canucks are so popular is easy. In geographical terms Vancouver is on itâ€™s own. The Rocky Mountains and US boarder separate the province of British Columbia from the rest of Canada and Vancouver is by far the biggest city and the only place capable of hosting an NHL side. Therefore there is no competition from another city as there is in Alberta or Ontario. This geography also means the population is centred around Vancouver and its suburbs giving a strong identity to the Canucks.
Also success plays a role. The Canucks have been successful. They are a constant playoff side and annual Stanley Cup hopeful even making the finals in 2011. It can also be said the Canucks do not face much opposition from other sports however this is not entirely true.
Vancouver is home to the MLS outfit the Vancouver White Caps who do command a following in the city and bars will show their games. Their t-shirts, scarves and jerseyâ€™s are also available alongside the Canucks in many of the tourist shops in the Gastown district. Vancouver also has a CFL outfit. The BC Lions however it appears that like their rivals in Montreal and Toronto are distant in popularity.
Perhaps the biggest proof of the popularity of at least hockey in Vancouver is the list of other sports franchises that have left the city. The NBA left in 2001 and the National Lacrosse League left after only 4 seasons.
The Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL in 1970 as an expansion side but the franchise can be dated back to 1945. The Vancouver Canucks in that year joined the Pacific Coast Hockey League and in 1952 the Western Hockey League before the NHL came to town as part of the western expansion.
Today the Canucks play in the Rogers Arena. It is typical of many arenaâ€™s built in the 1990â€™s. It has a two-tier bowl layout and modern improvements have kept it upto date with the modern arena found in Pittsburgh or St Paul.
Not that the Canucks are a at risk franchise but they have the fan base and the arena to make sure the NHL is in Vancouver for a long time to come.