posted by Chad on 5/21/03
“The times they are a-changin’.”
It wasn’t the last day of classes, but it was the last day I’d be going. This class laid out everything that was going to be on the exam, my final exam, my final of final exams. I drove the car up Burnaby Mountain for the last time, and parked in the pay lot. I could feel the upcoming storm in the air as I rushed across the SFU campus. As my last class kicked off, the sky violently pelted down hail. The small fish pond outside our class began bubbling like boiling water due to the sheer strength of the frozen rain, the slicing dirty white stripes cutting the horizon into panels. My final two hours of formal education was scored by ice balls collapsing from the heavens and colliding into everything around us.
The hail ended before the class did, and when I stepped outside, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. The only reminder of the earlier balls of hail was the wet pavement, which was rapidly drying by the second. I stopped halfway through the parking lot to peel off some layers of clothing, noticing in the shadows of the parked cars something ... something I’ve never noticed before. The hail had transformed to water, and was currently altering states to steam, swirling and sweeping violently back and forth, twirling, cycling, lifting out of the shadows, up up up and disappearing into the sky.
I started the car, and out from the speakers leapt “GO JOHNNY GO, GO!” I shot off Burnaby Mountain like a rocket.
“My name’s 50 cent ‘cause it’s a metaphor for change, yo.”
There’s something special about playoff hockey in Canada. When a Canadian town’s team is a part of the playoffs, community unity makes one of its rare appearances. In Vancouver, the Canucks’ postseason participation is an undeniable presence throughout the city. Open your doors and you can’t miss it. Windows have “GO CANUCKS GO” signs showing, many cars carry Canuck flags from the local Canadian Tire, kids are on street corners holding homemade signs asking for “honks” for the team, and every now and then, you’ll see an old beater painted with all the team logos from over the years. The bandwagon and the bars are jam-packed each night the ’Nucks hit the ice, with emotions and expectations constantly on the rise.
I’ve been a Canuck fan ever since I can remember remembering. Some years I’m more attached than others, but when my Dad bought himself a big-screen and gave me his old 32 incher last year (no, not that old 32 incher), hockey became a staple of my evening programming. Hockey really requires a larger television to enjoy, simply because the puck is impossible to see when the boobtoob is small and the beer goggles are on. This season was the most successful in Canucks franchise history, and I, like everybody else in Vancouver, was jacked as the post-season approached. And the whole pot got that much sweeter when my buddy called with a line on playoff seats.
All dressed up with a game to go to!
The only downside of me going to the game was the Canucks’ record with me in attendance. I’ve been to about twenty Canuck games in my days, and I can only remember seeing one win. This season was no different with the team posting two losses and a tie for the games I took in live. But despite the curse that seems to come with my attendance, I couldn’t resist a shot to take in another playoff game. My only preceding playoff game experience was a 7–2 embarrassing home-ice massacre dealt by the Blues to the Canucks in 1995. It was still a great experience though, mainly because most of the building emptied out after the second period due to the 5–1 score. We moved to the front row of the balcony for the final period, which featured the Canucks drunken enforcer and B.C. Native Gino Odjick beat up four of the five Blues players on the ice. The only guy he didn’t destroy was Glenn Anderson, simply because Anderson could skate faster backwards than Gino could forwards. I still don’t know what I enjoyed more: the inane violence or the cat-and-mouse game as Gino swung desperately while trying to corner Anderson. Despite the one-sided score of the game, Gino’s one man brawl swung the momentum in the Canucks favour, and they went on to win the decisive Game 7. After that season, Gino sobered up, got traded, and finished his career in the minor leagues.
The call came and the details were cemented: two tickets for the third home game of the opening round. Tensions mounted as the game approached, mainly because the Canucks were on their worst skid of the season. The Canucks are a young team, and as such, their play is dictated by momentum. A 10 game winning streak and a separate 14 game unbeaten streak attest to the possible highs, but the current performances were the flip side to that streaky coin. They lost the division title in the final game of the regular season and became seeded against, déjà vu, a very strong St. Louis Blues team. The Canucks top line wasn’t scoring, the Blues’ powerplay was unstoppable, and the Blues took a 3–1 series lead with great ease. Things looked bleak, and my tickets were for Game 5, a must-win game if the Canucks were to starve off elimination. Seemingly, the death sentence was in, and the axe was about to fall on what was supposed to be such a promising postseason.
Canuck’s coach Marc Crawford’s response to a reporter
who stated the Canucks needed to turn their play around.
It was something I had not seen live before. The Canucks dominated the game, with Coach Crawford calling their second period play “the best they’ve been all year.” The team took a 4–1 lead into the third period, but when the Blues made it a one goal game with a minute left to play, there was a collective “aw fuck” murmured throughout the building. The energy dwindled for about 20 seconds… until a Canucks’ defenseman drilled an 80 foot slapshot past an overeager Blues’ goaltender and sealed the fate of the game. The foghorn and the crowd blew the roof off the building, and the Canucks lived another day. And for that matter, they lived for another series, as they came from a 3–1 series deficit to win the series in seven games.
Of course, the Canucks lost the game I went to in round two. In that series, the Canucks took a 3-1 series lead… only to lose it in seven games. For a season filled with so many highlights, Canuck fans will only remember losing the last three games. And I must say, the shoe doesn’t fit so well on the other foot.
“What does not change / is the will to change.”
On the TV was a Dove soap commercial with the clichéd bare-bottomed baby running around. As the 30 second spot closed, my girlfriend looked me straight in the eye and said, “My biological clock just started ticking.”
Despite not being able to afford to go to Wrestlemania 19, I bought two floor seats anyways, as a graduation gift to myself. I was planning to take my youngest sister down to Seattle with me, as she and I used to watch wrestling together twice a week when I lived at home with my mom. But the plans changed when four of her friends died in a car accident days before the event.
So my best friend came, and we spent the day being tourists in Seattle, unable to score weed and passing on the crack offered. While my personal favorite match was Jericho/HBK, everybody was waiting for the headliner of all headlining matches at Wrestlemania, Kurt Angle versus Brock Lesnar for the WWE title. The match was almost pulled from the card because Angle’s neck was as scrambled as eggs. One blotched spot in the match and Angle would be paralyzed. All of Safeco Stadium watched in paranoia with every second of the match, this dream encounter made that much more surreal due to the high risk involved.
Finally an F5! Angle kicked out! Nobody’s kicked out of the F5! Another F5! Why isn’t Lesnar going for the cover? Why is he going up top? What in the fuck is going to do from up th… holy shit!
Lesnar and the crowd looks on just before he attempts the Shooting Star Press
Despite the physicality of professional wrestling, you can always tell when something goes wrong. And that shooting star press Lesnar attempted, a move where the wrestler essentially does a back flip from the top rope down onto his opponent, went horribly, horribly wrong. Lesnar jumped with wobbly legs and landed right on his head, spiking his skull straight into the canvas. A blown spot, a blown finish, and possibly, another blown neck in the ring. The wave of energy ebbed, and the concern of the crowd shifted completely.
The match finished with another F5. It was a long time before a noticeably groggy Lesnar was finally able to stand. We left before Brock was able to raise his championship belt in victory.
I closed the door behind me, and let go a “WHOOOOOOO” that would have made Ric Flair proud. I finished my exam with a stroke of good luck, as the exam essay was on the exact same topic I wrote my final paper on. The last exam was signed and sealed, and I now only had to wait for the good word to be delivered.
The next day, I took a new desk at work amidst a rather foggy hangover, and a stack of paperwork came with it. I had taken seven years to finish university, and within 24 hours, I already wished that I could be back. I didn’t need this work, this responsibility. Normally, I could have just blown classes off and snoozed the morning away. But those days are behind me now.
“Ch-ch-Changes / Just gonna have to be a different man”
How long had it been since the three of us drank together? So much had happened since the last time we shared drunken hijinks. Last time we did this, Craig had just finished university and lost his first love. That was… two years ago? Feels like a lifetime ago. For three guys that used to carpool together five days a week when we all started university so long ago, it certainly had been two years too long. One’s been to Australia, started his career, and is now preparing his new place for a new lady. The other is still in university, but the ring on his finger makes him the first of my close friends to be engaged. I’ve moved in with my girlfriend, finished school, and lost myself in my indulgences. It has been a lifetime.
While the context of our lives are different than they once were, we’re pounding highballs like we haven’t missed a beat, or at least allowing the drinks to put us in the same rhythm. We’re still the same people, but time does bring change. Whether it’s for better or worse depends on the perspective. We’re all happy, and that’s a good start. But it certainly has been too long since we’ve been together.