Diehard Canucks fan elated about hockey’s return

 

Vancouver man’s love for team dates back to childhood, when tough losses prompted tears

 
 
 
 
Edgar Mujica-Velasquez, from left, Carly Wenner, Dave Heikkila and Kalenne Thors (Heikkila’s girlfriend) are looking forward to the start of the season.
 

Edgar Mujica-Velasquez, from left, Carly Wenner, Dave Heikkila and Kalenne Thors (Heikkila’s girlfriend) are looking forward to the start of the season.

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Dave Heikkila can still remember the first time the Vancouver Canucks made him cry.

“I was seven when the Canucks lost to the Rangers in 1994, and after Game 7 I ran behind my couch and bawled my eyes out for an hour,” the Nanaimo native said. “My non-sports-fan parents had no idea what to do. This has pretty well shaped who I am since then.”

Heikkila, a 27-year-old chemical engineer and diehard Canucks fan, hasn’t shed physical tears for the team since that day, but mental ones came all too quickly with last September’s lockout.

“That was devastating ... In the past year I’d say I’ve watched more NFL football than I ever have in the past,” he said. “That helped fill the void, but all that time I would rather have been watching hockey.

“To be honest, I was getting pretty tired of all the negotiations. I’m glad they finally came to a deal.”

Unlike some hockey fans, Heikkila, who lives in Vancouver, harbours little resentment toward the NHL for the nearly four-month-long lockout that ended last Saturday. “I personally am going to get right back into it,” he said.

Heikkila isn’t a face-paint-and-bared-chest kind of fan, but he rarely misses a game on TV and attends about four per season (“I’ve only recently started making a salary.”

Heikkila’s love for the game goes back to the early 1990s when as a five-year-old he used to watch Hockey Night in Canada with his grandfather. His passion was nurtured in the classroom too.

“When I was in Grade 2 my teacher was a really big Canucks fan. So our classroom always had Canucks stuff around it, and Ms. Bell was always happy to talk about Canucks stuff,” he said.

Heikkila was a big fan of “Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure in the 1990s. “Growing up, that formed a strong allegiance just because he was so fun to watch.

“Also, I was a big fan of Trevor Linden, for the same reason most Vancouverites are: the work ethic and the determination. In 1994 it almost seemed as though he willed the team to the finals.”

There is much to love in the current team’s roster, he said. From Daniel Sedin to Henrik Sedin, it’s a “talent-heavy team.”

“At the same time, there are a lot of heart-and-soul guys like Burrows and Kesler and Hamhuis, who ... put it all out, never take any days off and are hard workers.”

Heikkila even dares to voice support for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, whose lucrative contract, questionable playoff performances and sometimes standoffish relationship with the media have made him a regular target for fans and journalists alike.

As a redeeming factor, Heikkila points to Luongo’s humorous tweets, like this one from New Year’s Eve: “Juste (sic) wanted to congratulate Kim and Kanye on the creation of their newest cast member!”

For the Canucks’ season opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night, Heikkila plans to watch the puck drop with friends at a pub downtown.

As for the team’s prospects in the coming 48-game season, Heikkila speculated at the risk of jinxing the team that “they’re certainly going to make the playoffs.”

Still, “there’s a reason they call the Stanley Cup the hardest trophy in sports to win.”

creynolds@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Edgar Mujica-Velasquez, from left, Carly Wenner, Dave Heikkila and Kalenne Thors (Heikkila’s girlfriend) are looking forward to the start of the season.
 

Edgar Mujica-Velasquez, from left, Carly Wenner, Dave Heikkila and Kalenne Thors (Heikkila’s girlfriend) are looking forward to the start of the season.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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