by Tyler Rowe
If there is one thing I would like Vancouver Canucks fans to be known for, it’s that they are good people who don’t hold grudges. So it was no surprise when, as soon as Joel Ward scored in overtime for the Washington Capitals to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, my Facebook and Twitter accounts, cell phone, and forums I lurk/post in all erupted as one in spiteful elation. It was an earthquake of smugnacity, and I was so proud. Vancouver fans have very few reasons to like the Washington Capitals more than any other team. The most compelling thing about cheering for Washington, all other things being equal, is that we never play them and we have no shared history whatsoever. Sport is about tribalism, or as Jonathan Haidt said, “Sport is to war as pornography is to sex”, which is to say it replicates something basic to the human condition without the danger of that thing entailed. It is hard to raise one’s hackles about a tribe he has no dealings with, fair or otherwise. And if you look a little closer, it might not be that hard for the Canadian Pacific coast to rally behind this alien group far to the east.
As they say at passittobulis.com, the internet is for lists. The first argument about 1) Tribal indifference is already made, as is the fact they 2) Beat the stupid Bruins, so check out this sweet baby of a list of reasons to pull for Washington going forward in the playoffs:
3) They understand futility, and they’re a lot like the Canucks in some ways. Washington has seven division titles, Vancouver has nine. They have lost in the finals once, Vancouver thrice. They have one President’s trophy in the past three years, Vancouver has the other two, and when they won theirs they were also ousted by an eighth-seed with a hot goalie (Halak and the Canadiens). They too have a European captain who is unfairly targeted by the media even though he is still elite. They have no Stanley Cups to show since 1974; for Vancouver, the same has been true since 1970.
4) Unlike Florida and New Jersey, they are sexy. Offensive punch and bona fide superstars? Check. Young nobody goalie coming out of nowhere? Check. Underdog appeal? Check. Reasonable chance against any other team in the east? Sure. They did just finish off Boston, who are pretty darn good.
5) Who else? Lets assume right now that we really shouldn’t cheer for any teams in the Western Conference; we have to play against them too often, and we don’t want them to have any of the smug for themselves. Plus, there are other good reasons… How about a list within a list? You like that?
A) Los Angeles Kings – They just beat us. Jerks.
B) Nashville Predators – We want them to lose to they have a tougher time retaining the players they have that we want (specifically a certain B.C.-born defenseman known for his world-class beard). Plus they’re scary good.
C) Phoenix Coyotes – Boooooooring. Plus that team is moving soon anyways and rightly should considering the attendance figures. Plus Gary Bettman.
D) St. Louis Blues – The only likable group in the West, especially after Ken Hitchcock’s kind words about Vancouver earlier in the season. But they’re only likable right now, while they’re young and cute. Give it a year; that bear cub of a team will be a full-blown grizzly that gives Vancouver fits.
E) Ottawa – If they make it through, good on them. Its a great story, and they’re full of young talent. They’re Canadian, and they gave us Sami Salo. But midnight is coming for this year’s Cinderella, and we want a team that has a shot.
F) New York – I’m old enough to remember 1994, and I’m not over it. If you aren’t old enough to remember the little crossbar that could, trust me, you aren’t over it either.
G) Florida – You always want to see the farm team doing well, but they’re not sexy enough to get the ‘Nuck Bump.
H) New Jersey – Unlike being away at a conference with Mindy Simmons, you never have to think unsexy thoughts when you’re with the Devils. This may be less true in a few years, but right now, no thanks. That is unless they give us Adam Larsson in the Luongo trade. Then we’ll tell them they look great even when they don’t.
6) They actually have a pretty solid fan base. They’re working on almost two years of home sellouts, and although things were a little lean from ’05-’07, that’s to be expected after a lockout in a non-traditional market. Like a lot of hockey markets who are more than a few hundred kilometers from the Canadian border, there aren’t that many fans per capita if you were to compare it to Detroit or Toronto. But even though the Redskins are king in DC, the futility of the Nationals and the Wizards has left the door wide open for Ovechkin and the Caps, and I deem that fan base legit. Having an HBO show about your home team probably didn’t hurt.
So there you have it. Six good reasons to cheer for the Caps in the NHL playoffs, though big dumb Brian might foolishly tell you different. It was a weird article to write, and probably to read, but I think I’ve talked myself into it. Go Caps go? No, that’s too much. Washington Capitals, I wish you no specific harm.