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COLUMN: Fan support reaches a serious level

Reporter's Viewpoint

It’s the time of year when wearing your heart on your sleeve brings out the true colours in people.

It’s the time of year when I’m never alone, but also never more lonely.

It’s the time of year for my annual rant/vent about what it’s like to be a Boston Bruins fan deep in the heart of Vancouver Canucks country.

That’s right folks, it’s National Hockey League playoff season.

I know it’s just a game, but every year it seems to get a little more intense.

Two seasons ago I felt almost overwhelmed by the sea of green, white and blue surrounding my little island of black and gold. But I cheered just the same.

Last year the stakes were raised as my daughter bought me a Bruins’ car flag even though she will always be a Canuck fan. And a disbelieving co-worker, hearing how I promised myself a leather Bruins’ jacket if my team wins the Stanley Cup, said he would buy me the leather jacket if Boston won the Stanley Cup.

I know he was sweating up until Boston joined two other teams in NHL history to blow a three games to none lead to lose in Game 7.

The only consolation to those past seasons was Vancouver fared no better in the playoffs and was perhaps a bigger story with back-to-back eliminations by the Chicago Blackhawks.

But the 2011 hockey playoffs is turning into a whole different ball of wax.

Boston redeemed itself by dispatching the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight games in the second round and is in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

The Canucks slew the dragon that was Chicago in the first round, and at the time of writing this column, were battling Nashville for the right to head to the Western Conference final.

At the risk of putting the biggest jinx on the teams, it could happen – Boston and Vancouver could meet in the Stanley Cup finals.

It’s not that crazy. A number of hockey pundits have predicted it. Even EA Sports with its computer simulations have the teams meeting in the final, although I read one report where Boston wins in seven and another has the Canucks taking the cup.

Nevertheless, that would be something.

I would soon find out just how a Bruins’ fan would make out in enemy territory.

I have had a taste of it this year. Things that never happened when my car flag went up last season.

It started with my wife claiming there was a fly in the cab of the truck and rolling down her window and sending my flag down the highway. It was run over by one truck and another towing a boat just missed it before I dodged traffic to retrieve it.

I was booed by one kid in the backseat of a car and got the thumbs down by a passenger in another. Of course both vehicles were flying the Canucks colours.

The day after Boston finished off the Montreal Canadiens, I was snarled at by a woman in a Tim Hortons parking lot. I started to laugh it off, but when she kept on glaring, I felt a little shiver run down my spine. The next day a fellow flipped me the bird while his Johnny Canuck flagged flapped in the breeze.

But, the worst was yet to come when I discovered someone had stolen my car flag. Why would someone do that?

If the Bruins were up against the Canucks, maybe I could see it. But Canuck fans have a lot more to worry about before Boston ever becomes their problem.

When you get down to it, it’s just a game, and cheering for your team is what makes it fun.

So snarl, boo and flip me the finger to your heart’s content – a new flag will fly again with pride. It will just be locked away a little more often.