When Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis scored his second goal of the night for a 3-2 OT win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, the building erupted. Canucks fans jumped out of their seats and celebrated their team’s third win in a row.
Thing is, this wasn’t a home game for the NHL leading Canucks – far from it. Over 1,200 miles from Vancouver, Canucks fans literally had to cross the desert to get to Tuesday’s game in the NHL wasteland that is Glendale, Arizona.
Let’s just say there was a lot of blue and green in a building where the fans usually come disguised as red seats.
“These last three games we’ve been excited – no, ecstatic – about the support,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. “They’re like home games.”
The Canucks began their five game road trip in Los Angeles on Saturday, and a massive exodus of Vancouver fans seemed to meet them there. It was estimated on Team 1040 Radio in Vancouver that over 8,000 Canucks fans crowded the Staples Centre last Saturday and outcheered their L.A counterparts.
“Vancouver fans stood 10 to 12 rows deep when the Canucks charged on to the ice for warm-up before Saturday’s 3-1 win against the Kings,” wrote Iain MacIntyre from the Vancouver Sun. “There didn’t seem to be any fewer at Sunday’s game, when Canadians in the crowd bellowed out O Canada, mocked Anaheim goalie Dan Ellis and sang ‘Hey Hey, Bye, Bye’ to the Ducks” MacIntyre wrote.
Sports radio in Southern California took note, with nationally syndicated hosts like JT the Brick talking about this invasion by Canucks fans. In Phoenix, even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took note of the Canadian ‘snowbirds’ in the crowd – remarkably doing so while fending the vultures off his moribund desert franchise.
Around these parts, some are calling it the Canucks Nation. Others are calling it Canucks Fever.
Whatever it is, it is spreading. Fast.
From fans scooping up all-inclusive packages to follow the team, to smaller groups banding together to plan their own route – Vancouver hockey fans cannot seem to quench their thirst for all-things Canucks.
“It’s huge,” said Bobby Atwal, President of Vancouver sports memorabilia company The Fan Zoo. “Almost every guy on the team has a huge following,” said Atwal.
The Fan Zoo, which connects fans with signature pieces of their favourite professional athlete – no matter the sport – is being inundated with requests for Canucks gear from “people of all ages and both sexes asking for different guys all the time,” Atwal said.
The team is in first place and the fans are quickly catching up. Over the last week, the Vancouver hockey fan has shown the NHL they are as rabid a fan-base there is in the league.
And with the Canucks now upping their lead over the second place Flyers to seven points, it is apparent this team will have home-ice advantage for the duration of the playoffs.
It just doesn’t really look like they need it at this point.