Parts of the commute were beautiful. From the bus on the highway you could look over the flatlands of Mud Bay, and see the ocean and the islands farther out. I used to notice eagles in the tall trees and hawks sitting on the light posts by the road. Earlier that week I saw a hawk on a telephone wire.
The Washington Capitals only play in Vancouver once a year, in late October, and I haven’t seen them play here before. After missing last year’s game, I vowed not to miss another.
Two years ago I remember watching the game between the Capitals and the Canucks on TV and the next morning running ten miles in the pouring rain up the hill on Canada Way in Burnaby. Normally, in late October, it starts to rain a lot here. Sometimes it waits until November. This year it waited, and the week of the game it was mild and sunny.
I was working in Vancouver, but living temporarily in the burbs, so I booked into a hotel downtown gamenight, and checked into the hotel after work. I convinced them there was no way I could go through $200 worth of room services in one night. and talked them down to $100. There was a line forming behind me and the manager sort of said “let her have the $100” out of the side of his mouth.
It was a nice enough hotel room, but it had a broken ceiling light that flashed on and off and made a loud buzzing noise like one of those electric bug zappers. I used the lamps instead and watched the clock as I got ready. I guessed how long it would take to walk to Rogers Arena from Howe Street. I was going to miss the warm up before the game.
As far as rinks, I had only been in Madison Square Gardens before to see hockey. I saw the Washington Capitals play the Rangers there in December of 2013. At that game I sat behind the Capitals bench. Philipp Grubauer was in net and Holtby didn’t play.
My Capitals gear was the remnants of a t-shirt I had bought in New York. I didn’t like the way the t-shirt fit after I first bought it, so I had cut the Caps emblem off the front, and sewn it onto the front of a black t-shirt that I liked, which I then wore to pieces. It had a rip right across the back, and I knew it would not be suitable for wearing around the arena, I would look like a nickel-less vagabond. I threw an oversized tank-top underneath it. Wore my black cardigan overtop, and plaid leggings (they are not from the ‘80s – I bought them at Sport Chek a few months ago) and my black leather boots made in Bulgaria, that are past the replacement stage, but still wearable if you don’t look too closely at them. I didn’t have a jersey.
The Capitals had not won in Vancouver for a long time. Not since Valentine’s Day, 2001.
On the way to the game, Rogers and BC Place disappeared behind the high-rises. I walked past a bar and music drifted outward. They were playing Neil Young, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. The smell of musty beer mats and fries and burgers wafted out of an open door. I saw people walking one way, and wondered about following them, but they could have been going to Yaletown for drinks, so I didn’t. I found the way to Rogers on my own.
At the arena I located my gate. When I got up to the door, I held my open purse out to the guy working. “No,” he said. “I check your ticket. He checks your purse.” He pointed to a man inside.
My seat was in the front row by the glass. I was in a row that seemed to fill with men of various ages attending the game on their own. The next woman I saw in the front, was nine seats down from me.
A fellow sat in the seat next to me and asked me what team I was following. I explained I was from Vancouver but I was a Capitals fan. He said that was fine. Then he said, “Ovi is fun to watch, but he’s a dick.”
I have a thing that happens when I talk to my mother on the phone. I will tell her something, and then the line suddenly goes silent because she says nothing, and I say, “Are you still there?”
I think I went silent after the “dick” comment. Though, I don’t think the man was expecting a response. I am still getting used to hockey culture, but I was surprised this fellow would say this to a Capitals fan. I concluded his definition of a “dick” was someone who scored lots of goals for a team that was not the Canucks.
Five minutes into the game Nate Schmidt was “boarded” by Derek Dorsett right in front of me and disappeared from sight. I leaned forward from my seat and peered through the glass down toward the ice. Then he reappeared, crawling up onto his knees. Seconds later a fight started against the glass four feet away so I sat back down again.
By the end of the second period, peanut shells covered the floor one seat over from me, some of the shells being kicked into the gap between the floor and boards.
I didn’t want them to win, but I still liked seeing the Canucks play. I grew up in White Rock, and I am Canadian, but the Capitals are my team. When the Caps won, and the game was over, everyone around me was quiet, and I was quiet. But I was a visitor here at the game and my quietness was one of winning.
I weaved in and out of Canuck fans, making my way back to the hotel, as I passed the greasy late night food places.
In my room I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch. I opened the mini-fridge to see the Toblerone, the mini-bottles of alcohol and the three packs of cigarettes, but I didn’t smoke. I would have to go back out for food. It was a bad decision not to go to Tim Hortons. I went into the pizza place and felt the risk factor increase when she put one slice under the warmer.
Then back at the hotel, I looked out the windows at how the hotel was wedged between a couple of bridges, thought about why hockey games are so good, and threw most of the second slice of pizza into the garbage. Those pieces of eggplant on top had spent too long on this planet, but I was already thinking about going to the next game.
By Wendy Stewart
You can read more of her writings at her blog: Generation-XToday