Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dodge, Chrysler Commercials Debut During Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final Between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks

I watched Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks last night with an interest that I can almost guarantee was shared by no other individual currently residing in Western North Carolina (though if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section).

I offer one of the more unique perspectives you'll find on this game which left one city celebrating its 7th major sport's championship in 10 years, and the other with a tarnished image that had been so well cultivated following the wildly successful 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Before delving in, I'd like to express my surprise at the Super Bowl-style commercials NBC ran during the game.  Each one was immaculately produced and, for the most part, so entertaining that I was hard pressed to change the channel.  As an employee of Egolf Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and RAM in Hendersonville, North Carolina, I am compelled to mention the Dodge, Never Neutral commercial I saw and also a great Chrysler commercial which I can't seem to find online (if anyone knows where I can find the link, it would be much appreciated).

Anyway, I grew up in southern Maine and have been a Boston sports fan for 20 years.  While more of a baseball, basketball and football fan and less of a hockey guy, I always root for the Boston teams, no exceptions, no questions asked.  Hell or high water. Unconditional allegiance. 

Until last night.

Hockey in Vancouver is a lot like baseball in Boston, high school football in Texas, and basketball in Indiana.  In Canada, hockey transcends sport. It is so deeply ingrained in the culture that despite Vancouver's devastating 4-0 loss to Boston last night, one could safely bet there would have been some kind of riot even if the Canucks had been victorious.

Why would a guy from southern Maine, now living in North Carolina, care about the particulars of a championship losing team in a sport that is barely hanging on in the United States?

I moved to Vancouver in 2007 and lived there for almost 4 years while my wife went to the University of British Columbia.  I absolutely fell in love with the place, especially Vancouver Island.  I was there for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and grew to know the city inside and out.  Vancouver got a tremendous amount of press during the Olympics, so I won't bore you with the details on how it's Canada's warmest city and was voted Greatest Place to Live in the World.  It is one of the most strikingly beautiful cities in the world, albeit it riddled with homelessness, socioeconomic imbalance and other problems that plague many big cities.

Watching the game was the most surreal, bizarre and bittersweet experience I've had as a sports fan.  My Facebook has been riddled with Bruins and Canucks banter all week.  Never much of a Bruins fan, I grew to adopt the Canucks as my hockey team.  I attended a game where I got to see Mike Modano, one of the greatest American born hockey players of all time, lace up for the Dallas Stars (a 5-4 Vancouver loss).  I rooted for them during the playoffs the last two seasons and while not devastated when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks last year, I was decidedly bummed out.

When Vancouver went down 3-0 in the second period last night, I've never in my life heard a professional sports arena so quiet.  The I-can't-believe-this-is-happening vibe emanating from Rogers Centre was the most palpable I've ever felt through a television screen.

By the middle of the 3rd period, what faint hope remained had all but been extinguished.  It was supposed to be a grand scale celebration 40 years in the making, but instead it was, just like in 1994, an American team from the Northeast hoisting the Greatest Prize in Hockey.

To their credit, most of my Vancouver friends were quick to lambast the rioters who destroyed wide swaths of Downtown Vancouver.  Friends of mine breathed teargas from riot police and watched the carnage unfold from downtown rooftops.  Some were even congratulatory of the Bruins, saying that they fought hard and deserved to win.  Rogers Centre even played Beantown staples "Tessie" and "Dirty Water" over the loud speakers, and allowed Boston to celebrate on the ice for over an hour following the game.  The Bruins remind me a lot of the San Francisco Giants who won the 2010 World Series over the Texas Rangers last fall.  They did deserve to win, and overcame a lot of adversity and long odds to win a deciding playoff game in the most hostile of locales.

Boston rallied behind the Bruins during these playoffs, as they always do when the team makes a run.  But this meant a lot more for the people of Vancouver and their fans.  I am truly devastated for their loss.  Boston wanted to win this game.  Vancouver NEEDED to win, and they didn't.  I can't imagine the burden they'll be carrying for weeks, maybe even years, to come.

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