Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/4/2015 (2367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
We all know how it ended now, not with a bang but with a Kesler and a five-pack of goals that put Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup dreams back on the flight to next year.
Or rather, that’s how it is recorded in the box score, which has the excuse of being quantifiably objective: the balloon-popping pins of Ryan Kesler’s two strikes for Anaheim and, finally, an empty-netter that didn’t really matter. Time runs out, game over.
For us, merely human, our data inputs more varied and more drawn to the transcendent, one suspects in 10 years we’ll still be telling a far different story about how it ended. This one will be richer and more vividly inflected: its heroes will be the night, the white, the way the crowd stood vigil over the fractured proceedings on the ice.
"If that crowd could have willed them to win," someone has surely said by now, "they would have."
It’s a beautiful wish, if only fans could pray-to-play. Unfortunately, even the most starry-eyed (myself included) know time and space can’t work that way.
Instead, it was the third period, it was Kesler, it was the guts slowly sinking in the face of insurmountable insurance. Then the whole overture was done.
So farewell, then, to this truncated run, more glorious in the libretto than it was on the frozen stage. For 14 days, the thing was documented from nearly every angle, translated for screen and speaker, and for fibrous or figurative page.
Aiding in this curation, a troop of mercenary hockey scribes marched on Winnipeg to describe our spectacle. Some didn’t try to hide their love affair with the story, so easy to romanticize: the small market, the NHL playoff drought so long that Jacob Trouba learned to talk, then to skate, and then became a million-dollar man.
Most of all, it was the noise they hunted, the castle walls made of sheer sound. "Roars like you never heard before," Yahoo! Sports writer Nick Cotsonika reported; The Canadian Press’s Stephen Whyno compared it to a jet plane taking off. (Too literal? Nah, all good sports-team names must hold triple their weight in puns.)
Grantland writer Sean McIndoe, as talented a narrator of the sport as you’ll ever read, revelled in the cacophony, and noted, too, the return of the "real" whiteout. "In the years since the last playoff game in Winnipeg," he wrote, "the concept has been borrowed and repackaged by dozens of teams in various sports, almost always supplemented by free T-shirts left on seats by corporate sponsors. Not in Winnipeg. They don’t do freebies here."
It’s so true, and yet, a niggling thought. In the fuzzy-focus days of yore, on the VHS cassettes labelled with yellowed masking tape and Sharpies (mini Manitoba museums in our closets, all), didn’t the whiteout look a little more... ad hoc? A little less branded, a little more random, a little bit less freshly bought?
Hey, no foul on TNSE for churning out occasion-ready shirts. "Our team, our tradition," and the tradition of business is to sell customers what they want.
Besides, the whiteout was beautiful, no matter how it was made. It will be beautiful someday again. (Next year? Or, as The Hockey News prophesied, will 2019 be the one in which Winnipeg wears white straight through to June?)
That’s not only because it’s the rare pre-digital esthetic that still looks sharp in hi-def. It’s also because it stubbornly remains one of the few urban behaviours that enables that many individuals to act as one, to knit 15,000 varied choices into a single vision, driven by the power that comes from a shared mission.
There is strength in this; it can flow through cities on its own momentum — so now, a wish, that shared urban lives could unite around these things more often.
Last week, we (OK, me, but I like to pretend this column is a boat, and we’re all just bobbing along) mused over the nature of public space, after musician Eric Pyle was ticketed for busking outside a Jets game.
I thought of that again on Monday. It was before Game 3 had even finished; before Rickard Rakell (a young man’s journey from Stockholm to Manitoba: Rakell, Rakell) plunged a stake into the series, back when it still looked as if the Jets would actually win it... at that moment, while the MTS Centre was popping off, police were already preparing barricades in case they had to block off Portage and Main.
A week before, police spokesman Jason Michalyshen told Metro Winnipeg’s Shane Gibson they don’t condone the practice, but knew after a win it would likely happen. It was the right message and approach from police, practical and safely balanced. Sometimes, people are going to collectively define the use of a space, and the smartest thing to do is simply prepare the way.
But would there have been griping then, that some people should shut the streets? Would there be sniping from blocked motorists, venting that young revellers should give it up and get a job?
There’s no way to know for sure, but... I think not. Because, to strip it to the simplest possible level, too many of us shared the same emotions.
Enough people held enough in common that there would be little resistance to allowing potential celebrants to own the streets unchallenged.
That’s not a bad thing. It’s beautiful. It’s roughly how communities across the world have strengthened themselves for hundreds, thousands of years.
So now, a mission: to imagine a non-consumerized condition that can accomplish the same effect. What other shared references could there be to bring Winnipeggers together that way, without anything having to be bought or any services exchanged? How can we create a city that is less divided by relative atomization, but more energized by the shared hopes of the people in it, living?
Oh, well. Call it optimistic, and also sort of trite, but at least these playoffs delivered us a new rallying cry for politics, society and for life: As long as we stick together as a team, we’ll be all right.
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.