Written by Ryan Goldade
Edited by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Alan Ng
The recent playoff success of our home team, Vancouver Canucks, has left us with an interesting case study. What exactly is the bandwagon effect? Who does it include? Why does it happen? And finally, is it really as bad of a thing as the true fans make it out to be?
For those that were born and raised in this city, we’ve seen the highs and lows of the Vancouver Canucks. Being 25 years old, I am old enough to distinctly remember our last shot at the cup in 1994. The entire city went crazy, for better and for worse. I still remember footage on the news of the riot that took place the night that we lost to the New York Rangers in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. That year was a huge moment in Canucks history, but the years following the 1994 run were rather forgettable. The mid-90s proved to be a difficult time for the team as they were rebuilding. This rebuilding process is when the team trades their aging star players for draft picks in hopes that they can build young talent and eventually have another contender. The problem with this process is that the rebuilding means losing games. It’s just unavoidable as the young talent is learning and improving but the team doesn’t just lose games, it loses fans. Our beloved Canucks experienced this in the mid-80s and 90s, but those days seem long gone. There are a few exceptions to the rule of rebuilding and losing fans. The Toronto Maple Leafs are often lampooned by Vancouverites as a losing team but you wouldn’t know it by the strength of its fan base. They might not win often but they always sell out.
Fast forward to this year’s season, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy and (at the time of this article) one win away from the Stanley Cup… and the bandwagon has long been running low on space. The bandwagoners are considered by true fans as “fair weather” fans – a.k.a those that only support when the going is good and drop the team at any sign of adversity. It is a frustrating thing for the true fan because they’ve invested emotional support for the team through thick and thin while the bandwagoner puts down the team at any sign of weakness. We’ve all heard the cries to trade Luongo.
The easiest way to explain the bandwagon fan is some who is just joining a trend. The city buzzing and everything right now is about hockey, if you want to fit in right now, knowing something about the team is the best way. This is also another source of frustration for the true fan because the bandwagoner starts giving advice about the team when they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. In all honesty, everyone is a critic so nobody is really right or wrong, but not knowing the history of the team somehow makes the new fan’s advice null and void.
I’m a true fan. I know all the players, I know their stats… and probably most of the players on the other teams too. Why? Because I love hockey but I also love to see so many people in this city becoming excited about hockey too. I think it’s great to have so many bandwagon fans. People don’t become true fans over night; they start on the bandwagon and slowly convert over time. There is no better example of this than looking at how diverse the fan base is in this city. The fans in this city come from all different backgrounds, it’s not just a white Canadian sport anymore. How did this happen? It started with new immigrant children growing up watching hockey because their Canadian friends watched hockey. These children passed it on to their parents, and now we have just about everyone in this city experiencing hockey fever. Is the bandwagon fan really that bad if it means more and more people are learning to appreciate and love hockey? I’m willing to take trade.