A Visit With Lord Stanley

June 5, 2011

I grew up in Montréal, where hockey is a religion. The Habs will always be my team. However, I've lived in Vancouver for nearly 20 years, and since my East team so far has never met my West team in the playoffs, I see no conflict in also rooting for the Canucks.

I don't attend games very often, and never expected to ever get the opportunity to watch a Stanley Cup Final game in person. But yesterday, the stars aligned, and I found myself at Rogers Arena in a luxury box of all places, soaking in the hyper-charged atmosphere.

What a treat.

Two blocks from the stadium, we could hear the crowd partying. In the plaza, kids played street hockey and adults chanted "WE WANT THE CUP!". Inside the stadium, the buzz picked up when Manny Malhotra took to the ice for warm-ups. To go from almost losing an eye to dressing for a playoff game 79 days later seemed nothing short of miraculous (I'm not sure I would have taken the risk myself with my eyesight at stake), but there was no way to underestimate the inspiration boost to the team and the crowd. Every time they saw him, the crowd took up the MAN-NY! refrain.

I whirled a cloth like crazy for Towel Power. I shouted myself hoarse. The tradition of Mark Donnelly holding the mike to the crowd to join in the anthem paid off when his mike seemed to fail at the end. No one could hear his high note, but it didn't matter because we held it for him.

And what a game. Great goals. Lead changes. Tension. Drama. Overtime nail-biting (although not for long).

I had a blast. While the Olympic Gold was special, it's less personal because you don't spend years following that team. It takes 82 games to get into the playoffs, and a couple of months of hard slogging just to get to yesterday's game. The series is not over, and anything could still happen, but I'm happy. I might never attend another Stanley Cup game, but now I know what it feels like.

And I know something else: this city's going to go bananas if we win.

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