Did you see us last night?
More importantly, did you hear us?
The atmosphere at Canucks games has been brutal for a long time. What was once a building filled with energy during the Bertuzzi-Naslund era and rocking during the team’s Presidents’ Trophy seasons is now a library.
The Canucks have done a lot to improve their game experience in the last couple of years. The food’s better. The music is good. The in-arena host is full of energy. Video montages are on point.
But it hasn’t worked. Fans are still painfully quiet.
As a writer, this is something I have criticized. As a Canucks fan and a Vancouverite, this is something I’m embarrassed about.
Canucks home games have become our quiet shame.
Sure the team is bad, but do you really want to buy a ticket and hear silence?
Tuesday night’s Canucks-Jets game was the culmination of an idea that we’ve been working on quietly (ironically) for months.
Back in March, I wrote a story about the Canucks’ interest in creating a Whitecaps-style supporters’ section and why I thought it was an idea that could work.
Here’s what then Canucks COO Victor deBonis told us at the time:
“Some of our fans have told us they’d embrace the idea of creating a special section in Rogers Arena where they can potentially stand, cheer, and show their passion in greater ways. It’s definitely something we’re interested in and we’re exploring ideas about what we could possibly do in the coming years.”
Shortly after my article was published, I was contacted by the Canucks Senior Director, Game Entertainment & Content. He agreed with a lot of what I wrote. Along with Daily Hive soccer writer Mark Dailey, who is familiar with supporters’ groups in that sport, we began brainstorming ideas for how this could work for hockey.
A supporters’ section needs to form organically, so the Canucks sales department can’t start it. It can’t be a Daily Hive initiative, either…
“Canucks supporters’ section presented by Daily Hive, RT to enter!”
Not going to work.
It needs to be a fan initiative, with buy-in from the organization, or else it will fail.
I’m a member of the media now, but I’m not going to lie, I’m still a fan at heart. I don’t ever want to become a sports writer that stops loving the game.
I’ve complained about the atmosphere for years. We all have. Two years ago I called for a fan revolution. This was my chance, as a fan, to actually do something about it.
After months of spitballing ideas, the team gave us the December 20th game to give it a try.
Now all we needed were some fans to fill up the section. So what do you do? Create a Facebook Group, naturally.
On December 5th, the secret Facebook Group called Make Canucks Games Great Again was born. Invite only. I invited about 30 friends that I thought would be a good fit, and encouraged them to add fans they knew as well.
Within two days we had over 100 members. Within a week, the 100+ tickets in our section were sold out. Unbelievable. I thought I’d be able to find maybe 30 people that would buy tickets.
The rules were relaxed for us on Tuesday. Ushers in our section were warned. We were rowdy, but respectful.
We came prepared with big heads…
…and other signs…
And we stood up… for the entire game.
We were asked to take down one sign because it was too crude, and we obliged (they were right). At one point, a fan in our section began swearing loudly, and people from our group told him to clean it up (he did).
That was the extent of anything negative.
We didn’t sing soccer songs. We were true to ourselves as hockey fans. One guy wore a hockey helmet.
We yelled, we chanted, we made noise. We supported our team. We had fun.
The feedback I’ve received from people in our section through text and email has been amazing:
“I’ve been to a lot of Vancouver Canucks games, but this was by far the most fun I’ve ever had!”
“This has been everything I dreamed sign me up for life.”
“That was the best experience I’ve ever had at a regular season Canucks game, hands down!”
“Best hockey game of my life.”
“Most fun I’ve had at a Canucks game in a long time.”
“Probably the best time I’ve had at a regular season Canuck game in a long long time!”
“It’s been a while since I had that much fun at a Canucks game.”
Let me remind you that this was a Tuesday regular season game against Winnipeg.
I’m not going to say we were the reason why the Canucks won the game 4-1, but it couldn’t have hurt their chances.
Going into this, my only worry was pissing other people off. A supporters’ section isn’t for everyone. How would we be received by other fans?
They loved us.
@Canucks can we please give them season tickets?
— Cody Peterson (@cody_p24) December 21, 2016
.@Canucks let's get those lovely folks in the lower bowl!
— nikki (@Rad_Nikki_17) December 21, 2016
@Canucks thank god finally some atmosphere
— Dexter Beaumier (@dexterbeaumier) December 21, 2016
The reaction on Twitter was matched by the reaction of the people we met in the arena. Even Jets fans loved us.
Midway through the game a Canucks staffer in a suit walked up the stairs towards us.
Uh oh, right?
The man in the suit turned out to be Canucks Sports and Entertainment Fan Experience Supervisor, Stephen Mula.
He thanked us.
“Our goal is to always bring fun and energy to the bowl so we’re excited to support any initiative that helps to do that,” said Canucks Senior Director, Game Entertainment & Content, Ryan Nicholas. “The fans here on Tuesday night were amazing and their energy was totally noticeable and infectious. And it wasn’t just other fans that got caught up but also our staff who really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see it happen again.”
We still don’t really have a name for ourselves, but this isn’t the last you’ve seen of us.