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Jersey Foul

Jody Vance: Deserved or not, Canucks fans have a bad reputation. Petulant, disrespectful acts like throwing a jersey on the ice not only don’t help – but set the wrong example for younger fans.
Agony must come before true ecstasy. (Sergei Bachlakov /

Changes behind the bench and at the helm of the Vancouver Canucks offers a fresh whiteboard for players – but also for the fans who may have strayed.

Millions love this club in an ironclad way, through turbulent changes and challenges thick and thin. We ride the rollercoaster, and hold on tightly to hope. The payoff, when it comes, is ever sweeter because we suffered.

My travels in both covering sports as well as leisure have taken me across the NHL, and I can tell you this: we are not loved. Growing up loving the Canucks through the good times and bad, is often mocked by rivals. We are not just disliked across the league, we are hated.

To proudly wear Canucks allegiance takes a thick skin. While I was working for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, covering Toronto’s NHL team, you would laugh if you could hear when I would tell hockey fans and colleagues about being a proud Canucks fan. I took more than a few shots to the chin.

Our reputation of rioting and the lack of Stanley Cups don’t help — but add tossing jerseys onto the ice? No. Draw that line right here.

The act of frustration is not new. During an epic losing skid in 2015, three Maple Leafs fans pulled off their sweaters in disgust and tossed them onto the ice. The trio were tossed from the building, banned from all MLSE buildings for a year – plus ticketed by the police.

When I saw that Canucks sweater hit the ice the other night, I hoped for all of that. Then, I wished Pat Quinn were still here. The Big Irishman would set fans straight about that level of disrespect.

This Middle is a message to the frustrated fan: when the team is losing, no one is more frustrated than THE TEAM.

You are not helping. This is not loyalty.

In fandom, staying loyal is vital. You may think they don’t, but the team hears you, they see you. The players, coaches, front office – not to mention their families – they see it all.

Being a true fan is about faith, devotion, and allegiance. Because to truly rock the highs, you must endure the lows.

There are teams in the NHL who’ve never made The Stanley Cup Finals in their franchise history. I know, I know: winning The Cup matters, but not so much that you disrespect your club.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience three trips to the Cup Finals. Once as a pre-teen, once as a young broadcaster, and once as Host of the postgame show on CBC. I’ve had the honour of witnessing the effort up close.

Two of those three teams were full-blown Cinderella Story squads.

Both were .500 hockey clubs who made the postseason with low expectations beyond the first round – and both made Game Seven of the Cup Finals.

In 1982, the team’s regular season record was 30-33-17, including an abysmal 10-25-5 on the road. They made it to the Finals, and the mid-dynasty New York Islanders.

In 1994 the team went a flat 41-41-3 – and made it all the way to Game Seven, losing to the New York Rangers.

Both delivered some of the most thrilling games in team and even league history.

The 2011 team had much higher expectations, but that run was epic in its own right – I just wish the riot hadn’t added to Canuck Fans’ reputation. We should effort to erase that rep, not feed it.

Once again, we’re being judged for a minuscule slice of the fanbase. If frustration cannot be managed without taking disrespectful action, stop. To become so enraged by entertainment built to be an escape is just not right.

Having had the privilege of working in NHL inner circles of pro sports,  I can tell you the drive to win is consistent and constant. Your anger is unhelpful.

Here’s a reminder to recognize the human beings behind the titles of Player, Coach, GM, or Owner. All are people with families and friends.

Cover any team and you will see the youth that wears the weight of our hope. Yes, they get paid huge salaries, but they are young and doing everything they can to win.

From me, a big round of applause to those who have stood by for decades and cheered through every portion of the hockey rollercoaster - good, bad, and ugly. Those fans are invested enough to be part of any successes, earned through unwavering loyalty through tough times.

To those fans are The Middle to be modelled after. To point out to our kids as the example. Let’s wipe the slate clean and set the tone for youngsters just discovering their hockey heroes.

Everyone wants to cheer for a winner. But to have stood firm through every bump in the road makes victory ever sweeter. And hey, you still have your sweater.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.