I have 15 minutes to pack my bag and get on the road before I miss my flight: Passport? Check. Blue paint? Check. Canucks retro-jersey? Check. Everything else? Unimportant.
The next night, I am in a “sports bar” in South Beach, Miami, trying to explain to our server and then the manager what hockey is and asking if we could please tune one of the ten TVs to an ‘NHL’ game. After a thorough explanation, we manage to catch the end of the Tampa game. The reality sinks in that the day we have been planning for almost a year is about to arrive. POOLSIDE - THE NEXT DAY
One by one, and in small groups, the fans trickle in. Hugs are exchanged and the energy continues to build. Some of us haven’t seen each other since the legendary Buffalo road trip last January. Born and raised in Vancouver, we make the journey to Miami from all over North America and as far as London England to share the dream, the game, and the night.
A blizzard in Toronto has us a bit worried - 15 cms of snow overnight is making travel incredibly difficult - flights are being cancelled, planes are being diverted, loyal Canucks fans are watching seconds tick by. But each member of our group is finding alternative solutions to ensure a timely arrival as directed by our group leader, The Legendary David Jagger. We know we must all be at the hotel lobby for 5pm - the bus waits for no one.
The group continues to roll in, some subtle, others make an entrance. Two members fresh off the plane do not have time to exchange greetings. They rush to throw on their speedos, cowboy boots and of course retro V jerseys and launch the first double stack of hundreds in the hotel pool. Hilarious.
Five o’clock rolls around and we can no longer contain ourselves. We wreak havoc on the hotel lobby patio - body paint everywhere, jerseys, wigs, and even a man dressed up as a life size T bone steak. (The stakes couldn’t be higher). I am halfway through painting a man’s chest when he introduces himself “Hi I’m Dave by the way” A documentary film company is traveling with us and some people have to avoid the camera because they had lied to their bosses and significant others to leave early for the weekend. Don’t know how they are going to explain arriving back at work permanently blue and a little sun burnt Monday morning. As tourists on the South Beach strip stop to take pictures of the spectacle we have become, we chant even louder.
The busses arrive and its time to leave. With seconds to spare the very last one in our group rolls up in a cab, numerous diversions later including an unexpected train ride. It couldn’t be tighter timing.
There are so many of us, it takes two busses and we can practically hear each other along the freeway as the anticipation and pure adrenaline builds with each mile closer to Sunrise. After what seems like an eternity, we arrive. Pure madness. Our voices get louder and the energy builds as we enter the stadium chanting “Go Canucks Go” 83 fans strong. SECTION 108
We make our way to section 108, our home for the night. We send “peacekeepers” to introduce ourselves politely to the ushers and key stakeholders in the area but no warning could really prepare them for what is about to happen.
We find our seats, which will go the entire game unused. The Canadian national anthem plays first and the singer struggles to hear himself. We sing the American anthem just as loud, glad to be here, thankful to the country who is giving us sun and a team who gave us Luongo.
The puck drops and the crowd breaks-out with the chant “THANKS FOR LU- ON-GO!” Chaos ensues - body surfing, loud chanting, white towels spinning, beer and people flying everywhere. Canucks fans from all sections of the arena come to join us and we overflow into the aisles of section 108.
On the way to the “restroom”, I meet a woman in a Panthers Bertuzzi jersey. I can’t resist introducing myself and complimenting the choice of player on her back. I shouldn’t be surprised that she has no idea who he is. The panthers have an in-game promotion to reward their ‘loyal fans’ - a random seat selection determines the winner of a flat screen TV. Section 108. A new chant begins - “WE WON YOUR FLAT-SCREEN”.
By the end of the third, section 108 is getting more attention than the game itself. Florida fans are throwing popcorn and confetti at us, stopping to glare at us instead of cheering when their team scored. We are still on our feet, delirious and proud. With every save, we continue the chants “BEST TRADE EV-ER” - oops, we chant so loudly we miss the fact that the panthers have just tied it up. Its time for a new chant “LETS GO SHOOT-OUT”.
We all know how the game ends - not going to go into it. I will say I still don’t know if I could have been any happier or had a better night either way.
We take the party, and the flat screen, back on the bus to invade the clubs of South Beach. Luckily we had made a reservation for 83 and a few. The rest of the weekend is a bit of a blur…sunshine, pool jumping, numerous double and triple stacks, and some of the best times shared amongst all.
We part ways just as gradually as we had arrived: some leave the next morning, some of us stay for poolside Miami style superbowl and some yet longer…but there are no goodbyes because we know we will see each other at next year’s Canucks Nation Invasion. The traveling fan base will have grown by then, and we will be louder and stronger. We will make it happen again. We love this team - we are all Canucks.