Top 10 Stories From My Freshman Season

It has taken me forever to write my Canucks season wrap-up because it’s only recently that I’ve moved through all five stages of grief after the LA Kings bounced the Canucks out of the first round of the NHL Playoffs. But for some reason I keep veering back to Stages 1 and 2: Denial and Anger. I’m hoping that increased doses of Cabernet will help dial that down a few notches.

After weeks of sitting quietly on the couch under a faux-fur Snuggie while teams of other names and colors played vigorous hockey with each other, I began to think about some of the memorable things that happened during the Canucks truncated season. You see, this was my first full season of hockey as a Canucks fan! I didn’t think it would end so soon, but, we still got a full season of good hockey and, of course, drama and gossip. Because the first thing I’ve learned about the NHL is that it’s like TMZ on ice.

Here are the Top 10 stories from my first season of hockey, most of which have little to do with actual hockey:

1. Nude Kesler

It’s almost as if Mike Gillis said to Ryan Kesler, “There’s this new, gay Canucks fan who is starting to take Twitter by storm, so, you will strip naked for ESPN Magazine to be sure he stays a Canucks fan for fucking life! Do you hear me, Ryan? And enough of that photo-bombing bullshit!”

As if a phoenix rising from the ashes of a burned-out cop car, Ryan’s naked, muscular body appeared in a two-page spread that caught the attention of everyone who was paying attention to hockey in October. Including his teammate Kevin Bieksa, who said during an open practice on an open microphone, “I hope you enjoyed the practice as much as you enjoyed Kesler’s nudes,” to loud cheers from the largely female crowd (and me) in attendance.

If I wasn’t already completely hooked on this game and team before that, I sure was now! Nice play, Gillis!

2. You Can Play

As lovely as Ryan’s heavenly body is to look at, the icing on the wedding cake for this gay hockey fan was the creation of the You Can Play Project by Patrick Burke in memory of his gay brother, Brendan Burke, who tragically died in a car accident in 2010. The purpose of You Can Play is to combat homophobia in professional sports and to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

It has already attracted some of the top names in the NHL who have lent their names and time to the cause, including many of them filming PSAs that are continually being released. Ryan Kesler is representing the Canucks, and the PSA he filmed will finally be released this week!

The media attention that You Can Play received after their launch in March really helped to open the dialogue about the “casual homophobia” common in most locker rooms. Some of that dialogue was awkwardly amusing, such as the time when Scott Oake asked Chris Higgins a question I submitted on Twitter about You Can Play. It wasn’t the question that was so awkward, it had more to do with saying my Twitter name on TV. You can see the video here.

3. Chris Higgins’ Abs

To complete the Gay Hockey Trifecta, enter Chris Higgins and his rippling, muscular abs. Earlier in the season I learned that Chris prefers to wear nothing under his hockey armor. So every time he pulls the front of his jersey up to wipe the sweat off his face, he exposes those abs and large swaths of the Twitterverse goes wild. Even the straight guys have a hard time not talking about them. That’s how awesome his abs are.

During a game with the Columbus Blue Jackets in March, Chris had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction that once again exposed not only his abs, but also his matching blue protective cup while he adjusted things down there. I couldn’t WAIT to see how much more he would peel off in upcoming games! Unfortunately, that was the peak of getting a peek at Higgins’ abs. Sightings after that fell off considerably.

Oh, wait! There’s MOAR!

4. Cody Hodgson

Cody Hodgson’s brief time with the Canucks was a bit of roller-coaster due to injuries, some unkind words said by Coach Alain Vigneault, and his desire for more ice time. I really felt Cody was making a valuable contribution to the team and could become an elite player that had the potential to help the Canucks go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals again this year. But on February 27th it was announced that Cody had been traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian, Samuel Pahlsson and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Many Canucks fans, including me, felt this was a big mistake.

There was speculation that Cody requested the trade to Buffalo. We don’t know the real reasons why, but, it became clear that Hodgson was not the best of friends with Alain Vigneault or Mike Gillis. In fact, during Gillis’ season-closer press conference he was asked about the Hodgson trade. And after months of silence about it, Gillis finally said that Hodgson was a chronic complainer who’s issues were consuming the entire coaching staff’s valuable time. Ouch!

I guess it’s appropriate that Cody’s nickname — CoHo — is also a type of Pacific salmon, because he probably felt like he was swimming upstream during his entire tenure with the Canucks.

5. Ginger Jesus

As you may know, another question I submitted to After Hours was read on TV to Cory Schneider. I asked which of the two nicknames popular with fans he preferred: Ginger Jesus or Ginger Bricks? But, Cory was offended by my question and said that he and the Sedins don’t like being called ginger. I was horrified! I just offended our backup goalie on national TV without meaning to.

On Twitter, a sports writer named Dennis Bernstein compared me to a racist for submitting that question, and called for the producer of After Hours to be fired for allowing my question to be asked to “Corey Schneider” on the air. And I thought I was a drama queen!

I did discover, however, that not all red-haired people are offended by the term “ginger.” In fact, I had quite a few people write me on Twitter who use the term “ginger” in their  handles and prefer that term over “red-head.” So, the moral of the story is, don’t call a red-haired person “ginger” unless you know they are okay with it, or they are playing a certain character role on Gilligan’s Island. [Ed. note: One of the benevolent overlords here is a ginger and he loves the term].

6. David Booth

I don’t think Canucks fans realized what they were getting in David Booth when he was acquired by the team in late October. On the ice, Booth has had hits and misses during his first season with the Canucks. But it’s what he does off the ice that has received the most attention, such as his penchant for hunting large game, like antelope, alligators and bears, oh my!

At first, it was Booth’s religious tweets that got some people’s knickers in a knot. But when he tweeted a photo of a bear he had just killed with his crossbow in Alberta, all hell broke lose. Some Canucks fans were not very happy to see one of their new star players killing an innocent animal and then glorifying it with a photo on Twitter. That was bad enough. But a few days later, Booth posted a video showing the entire hunt and kill, and that’s when the bear shit really hit the fan. After outrage and jokes about working on his shot in hockey games instead, he eventually took the video down, but didn’t remove the tweets.

I’m sure Booth is baffled by the attention his personal life receives ever since he arrived in Vancouver, even in the off-season. But if he starts scoring more next season and really shows what he’s apparently capable of doing, I’m sure Canucks fans will forget all about those poor dead animals.

7. @strombone1

Roberto Luongo is a celebrity in Vancouver. He’s also an enigmatic figure who apparently has a wry sense of humor. Something you’d be hard pressed to guess by watching him talk to the media. But his Twitter account is another matter.

Lunongo is on Twitter? Well, yes and no. When an account appeared on Twitter called @strombone1, which was immediately followed by a few other Canucks players, the rumor that Luongo was behind that account quickly spread. On Facebook, Luongo is known to have an account using the name “Lou Strombone.” That’s how Canucks bloggers, media and fans linked the two and, after scrutinizing every tweet, came to the conclusion that, yes, indeed, it must be Luongo.

Being the Doubting Thomas that I am, I didn’t believe it. And let me tell you, people don’t like it when you don’t believe something they fervently believe. I continually asked if anyone had any real proof that it was Luongo, and all I ever got back was “so-and-so said it was him” or “trust me, it’s him.”

Ellen did tell me some information on Twitter that makes me less doubtful. In fact, I’ve just decided to give in and Believe. Even after he apparently sent out a tweet saying “pumping someone else’s tires is gay.” And then deleted the tweet. And then apologized for it. But, if he’s not trying to be Luongo, why apologize? Would Luongo actually say something like that on Twitter knowing everyone knows it’s actually him? This is one of those conundrums wrapped in a riddle. And it’s very possible the joke is on us.

8. Roberto Luongo vs. Cory Schneider

The reason Roberto Luongo’s alleged Twitter account has become so much more popular lately is because of all the rumors about trading him, which has prompted a dramatic increase in activity from that Twitter account. This past season saw our stellar backup goalie, Cory Schneider, playing a larger and larger role as the season progressed. Murmurs about Luongo being traded began immediately after it was announced that Cory would start for the games against the Los Angeles Kings. And now it’s a hotly-debated topic among Canucks fans and hockey bloggers.

The latest is that Luongo could be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs (GASP!), or possibly go back to the Florida Panthers. There has also been chatter that Gillis plans to keep both star goalies on the team for another season, although many hockey analysts believe that is unlikely due to the costs and something about “cap hits,” which I don’t understand yet.

And all this Luongo trade talk couldn’t be more polarizing within the Canucks fan base. Some would prefer to see Cory traded because Luongo was the savior who took the Canucks from floundering to flourishing. Others would prefer to see Luongo traded because they feel he’s past his prime at 33 (whereas Martin Brodeur is 40) and is too expensive to keep on the payroll. Only Mike Gillis knows, and he’s denying everything so far.

9. While The Men Watch

What do you do when your husband is an ardent hockey fan, and you could care less about it? Start a talk show commenting about hockey! That’s the basic premise to While The Men Watch, which is dubbed as “Sex And The City meets Hockey Night.”

When CBC decided to turn this podcast into a full-fledged TV show and call it a “live sports talk-show for women,” lots of people became outraged, saying the show sets women’s rights back 40 years and degrades real female sports fans. That spawned dozens of articles about it, most of which criticized CBC for putting in on the air and giving it a platform.

When I offered my own opinion on Twitter, I was essentially told, “you’re a guy, you can’t have an opinion about this.” But, I can totally relate because I don’t know much about hockey and talk about essentially the same things both hosts talk about: hot hockey players, how fashionable team uniforms are, dirty-sounding player names, funny hockey terms, etc. And I’ve experienced a modicum of the same kind of backlash from people who are appalled that I’m flamboyant, I don’t know everything they know about hockey, and I blog about hockey!

I think what gets people mad is playing to a stereotype. A popular sketch comedy show in the early 90s called In Living Color featured a skit called “Men on Men,” about two prissy gay men who review movies, TV shows, books and art. Some of my friends HATED how that skit portrayed gay men on TV. However, I thought it was hilarious and loved it, as did others.

So perhaps it was the way CBC marketed the show as “commentary that women actually want to hear” which set people’s hair on fire; that this show is representative of ALL female sports fans. I get that. But, if the hosts are smart and witty, which they appear to be, they might actually be entertaining to some people who are just not into hockey as much as you are. And like the “Men on Men” skits, I think this show is basically harmless, light entertainment that’s not meant for all hockey fans. In fact, I’m jealous CBC didn’t ask me first!

Ironically, when a large-busted porn star appeared at a recent Kings/Devils game in a tight, skimpy t-shirt which the media jumped all over with tongue-wagging TV interviews for days afterwards, I heard little from the same people outraged by this show. Isn’t that more degrading to women than getting your own show on CBC? [Ed. note: Taylor Stevens says she will be back behind the bench for Monday's Game 6].

10. Twitterverse

I first arrived on Twitter on April 16, 2011, just as the Stanley Cup Playoffs were starting last season. As a new, openly-gay hockey fan, I had no idea how I would be accepted by other hockey fans. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most didn’t care whether I was gay or not. All that matters is that I’m a Canucks fan or a hockey fan.

Because of my Twitter name, I tend to occasionally attract a homophobe who likes to inform me that their bible says people like me are an abomination and deserve to die. I politely inform them that it’s very likely that they are gay, too, and then send them a link to this article.

But mostly my experience on Twitter has been amazeballs! I’ve met so many wonderful hockey fans from around the world who’ve patiently answered my “noob” questions about the game and shared a lot of laughs with me. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few in person. Such as Mary, a longtime Canucks fan and prolific food blogger, who kindly invited me to several Canucks games this season. I also got to meet Andrew — a fellow PuckBuddys writer for the Toronto Maple Leafs — during his visit to Vancouver where he dropped serious coin at the Canucks Store (yes, he’s actually a closet Canucks fan). And the very first Canucks fans I met were Ellen along with her daughter Alex and a few of their family and friends during the off-season last year.

Becoming a hockey fan has opened up a whole new world I never thought I could be part of. And I had no idea when I started a year ago that I’d gain so many new friends. I love you all! XOXO

So thanks for the memories! As this season of hockey winds down, I wish both teams in the Stanley Cup Finals luck, and I hope it goes to Game 7, Triple Overtime!

About GayCanuck

A sassy gay Canucks fan who, when not swimming in his Fantasy Hockey Pool with Chris Higgins, Tyler Seguin and Gabe Landeskog, is making general mischief on Twitter: @GayCanuck
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