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A Call To Believe In Blue

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Believe. It's that simple feeling that got you through the four overtimes of game 1 of round 1. That undying support that got you through seven tight fought, nail biting close battles that saw Vancouver, donning their home blues, win round one of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Dallas Stars.

It's that belief that kept you as awake as 12 cups of coffee as the Canucks won 2-1 against the Ducks on April 27 in double overtime.

With the Western Conference Semi-Finals against Anaheim returning to Vancouver tied 1-1, the Canucks are calling our fans to action and asking you to come to General Motors Place wearing blue. A statement will be made - you believe in your team, your city and your fellow fans.

Vancouver has had some of the best playoff traditions from the waving of the towel to serenading the visiting team with the timeless tune of "Na-na-na-na hey hey goodbye." It's time to once again show the league what team has the best fans in hockey. Believe in your Canucks. Believe in Blue.

Will it really matter if I wear blue to a game?' you may be asking yourself. Well, all you have to do is look to teams like the Winnipeg Jets for your answer.

There it was, in 1985, Winnipeg was covered in white. Was it a blizzard? No, it was the beginnings of one of the most memorable playoff traditions in hockey history.

The white out, as the tradition affectionately became known, was devised in the front offices of the Winnipeg Jets. At that time, the home team wore white, so in a "seventh man" approach, fans were encouraged to attend all games in white showing their solidarity and support of their beloved team. Of course, one can't help but wonder if the infamous Winnipeg winters helped to encourage the choice of white.

"A lot of people were unsure if the white out would work but it ended up taking off immediately," says Curt Keilback, the voice of the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes for nearly three decades. "I remember a lot of people showing up in all colours but as they saw their fellow fans in white, they too took off their top layers and everyone was in white."

The tradition evolved and fans were no longer simply wearing white at home games. When the team was on the road, fans gathered at various establishments, all wearing white. Keilback would be driving to the Winnipeg arena and see people walking to bars, restaurants and the arena decked out, head to toe, in white. It had struck a chord with the city and camaraderie amongst all fans and the team had been built.

When looking into the stands, the fans choosing to not wear white stuck out like a sore thumb. Keilback remembers back to the sixth game of the first round of the 1987 series between Winnipeg and Calgary. The Winnipeg Arena was blanketed with white, except for three red sore spots - three fans in Calgary Flames jerseys.

It was a game that Winnipeg ran away with, winning 6-1, taking the series 4-2. "At the end of the first, the first Flames fan removed his jersey," recollects Keilback. "The second fan followed at the beginning of the second and by the conclusion of the period that last jersey came off." Nothing had to be said - the Flames' fans had surrendered.

When the team relocated to Phoenix in 1996-97, the tradition continued. In their first year in the franchise's stay in the desert, the team appeared in the 1997 playoffs.

The Coyotes were down 2-0 to the Ducks with the series returning to Phoenix. Fans had come out in droves of white clothing for game 3 of the series. "I remember one guy coming up to me and asking was it like this in Winnipeg?'" Keilback remembers. "I responded this is great but it doesn't match Winnipeg."

The Coyotes won the game and for game 4, even more fans came donning their white clothing. The individual approached Keilback again and posed the same question. "It's better," Keilback responded, "but still not quite like Winnipeg." The Coyotes won that game 4, played game 5 in Anaheim and returned to Phoenix with a 3-2 series lead for game 6. The crowd was covered in white and the atmosphere had grown louder each game.

The question was once again posed to Keilback. He turned to the individual and replied, "Yes. This is just like it was in Winnipeg." While the tradition had its roots in the Peg, it continued to play a strong force amongst all its fans - new and old.

Keliback speaks with fondness about the tradition remembering great stories and events that took place because of the white out. You get the quirky - one female fan came to a game in a white wedding dress holding up a marriage proposal to one of the players who had been stellar in a series - to the diehards looking like they dipped themselves in white paint. It's from these traditions that fans participate in that great hockey memories are born.

Now, it's your turn to create a new playoff tradition. Believe in you Canucks. Show the Ducks what it means to have home ice advantage by creating an ocean of blue behind the boys. Believe in Blue.

For official Believe in Blue merchandise, please visit Authentix, the team store for the Vancouver Canucks.
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