By Avalon Doyle, Bruins Fan
The Boston Bruins have had an incredible start to their shortened season this year—the best since 1978—but as a Vancouver resident, I’m having a hard time finding people to celebrate with. Vancouver is a fierce hockey town that loves, and sometimes loves to hate, their precious Canucks. But I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and cheering for them feels, unfortunately, like cheating.
Until two years ago, no one cared that I was a Bruins fan—other than the occasional “oh, that’s weird.” Then, in 2010, Boston and Vancouver found themselves in a bloody battle to the finish line and I found myself ostracized from the hockey community in Vancouver. It didn’t help my cause that I was a loud supporter of Brad Marchand—unarguably one of the games most-hated players and the centre of controversy in the championship round. But growing up as a fellow athlete in Halifax, I crossed paths with Marchand on occasion, and once a Maritimer, always a Maritimer. We stick together.
Give me five minutes with a Canucks fan and I’ll have them sympathetic to my cause. The reason I’m such a dedicated fan goes back to my roots. As mentioned before, I’m a Maritimer. I was born in Halifax where in 1917, we faced the most devastating non-nuclear explosion in North American history. Two ships collided in the Halifax harbour and the SS Mont-Blanc—full of wartime explosives—detonated, flattening our entire city. It was just before Christmas and thousands of people were killed, injured, or left homeless in the coldest season. It was at that time when Boston, a sister city of sorts, came to our rescue. They provided Halifax with medical relief and helped us to rebuild. To show our appreciation to Boston for their help, we send them a giant tree every year in December to be set up in their city centre for their Christmas ceremony. My father, who spent 20 years in the navy, volunteered with his crew to take down the tree a few times while I was growing up. It’s a mutual love that bonds our two cities and since Halifax has no professional sports teams, many Haligonians choose to continue to support Boston by supporting Boston’s professional teams.
But it’s not without conflict. Since Boston won against Vancouver—stealing away Vancouver’s chance for glory of a Stanley cup they have yet to feel—I have become a monster in the eyes of Vancouverites. Working in a sports bar doesn’t help, where patrons and coworkers alike team up to throw coasters at me every time Boston wins a game.
There’s also the awkward family dinners with my West Coast aunts and uncles, which hit an all-time low this Christmas when my uncle (an executive with Rogers Arena) gave me a really nice Canucks sweater, knowing where my loyalties lay. I was faced with the challenge of either choking down my pride and trying it on for everyone, or looking like an ungrateful child. I looked down at the green, white, and blue fleece sweater bearing the Canucks logo with it’s cute little drawstring hood that ended in pompoms, as my roommate whispered in my ear “Grin and bear it, Avalon. Just grin and bear it.” So I did. I stood up before 12 family members while my mother did her best not to laugh at me and I tried it on. They even took pictures, leaving me haunted by the evidence of my betrayal.
Though it’s just a game and supposed to just be about entertainment, hockey is a sport that brings people together through camaraderie and a mutual love for the game. Teams bring to their cities pride (or shame) and it’s about community coming together. My support stays with Boston as a continued homage to the support they showed my community members in Halifax that came before me, and nothing can ever change that history.