News Local

Southsiders stand firm on stadium behaviour

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

On the ice, the Vancouver Canucks played to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. In the stands, a group of fans were told to not stand (and cheer) during the game. REUTERS

On the ice, the Vancouver Canucks played to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. In the stands, a group of fans were told to not stand (and cheer) during the game. REUTERS

Standing up in support of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena is apparently frowned upon.

Or at least that's what several members of the Southsiders, the Vancouver Whitecaps main supporters group, found out during Tuesday's hockey game between the Canucks and the Minnesota Wild — just 12 games into the NHL season following a 113-day lockout.

Attending the match together to cheer on the hometown team while providing a lively soccer-style atmosphere, the group of about 75 — seated in the last four rows of the upper bowl — were told by a "Canucks rep" they were not allowed to stand while action on the ice was underway. It eventually led to the ejection of two fans after the first period, and turned a night of celebration into a sour situation for the select section of supporters.

"At the first intermission, they (Canucks staff) came up to us and told us, 'You can't stand, you can't block the view of the people,'" Kristjan Aug told 24 hours following the Canucks 2-1 win. "We were in the upper nose bleeds, just nothing to block, no box suites, no group of guys on their Blackberries or stuff like that.

"They thought by standing we were either going to block people's view, that was their first argument, and then when we pointed out everybody was standing, they said, 'Oh, you'll fall over the railings.'"

A third fan a few rows down was later ejected for reportedly taking his shirt off, but the Southsiders deny he was with the group.

Throughout most of the game, especially in the first period, the small vocal contingent in section 301 serenaded the typically quiet crowd with songs and chants — a similar approach to what they regularly do at Whitecaps games. They got their tickets, worth about $60 each, through a charter bus line group.

"We really wanted to be pro-Canucks, pro-atmosphere and support the team beyond imagination," said Aug, who led most of the organized ovations. "There really wasn't any negativity until the security guards started hassling us in the first intermission."

Despite a concrete wall behind them, the 24-year-old Whitecaps season-ticket holder claimed he was told by team personnel that they were obstructing the view of those near them. He, along with other Southsiders, offered to switch seats, allowing anyone who preferred sitting to move to the front of the standing section.

Kyle Gower, who was one of first the two fans kicked out, said in an email he also suggested moving to accommodate those who complained. But security wouldn't oblige.

"I then said I paid for this seat and am free to support the Canucks how I want," he wrote. "He then asked how much I had to drink which I responded one. He said I think you've had enough and asked if I would sit down for the remainder of the game and not have any more to drink. I responded by saying possibly and he said, "you're done, you're out of here." I then got escorted out of the building and my ticket revoked."

Victor de Bonis, the Canucks' chief operating officer, said Wednesday that he personally enjoyed the atmosphere the Southsiders brought — noting the majority of the group was very respectful.

But with no prior awareness that they were going to be at the game, "senior people" were told to pay attention to the section.

"For the most part, that worked out fine but there were some locations that had some sightline issues for other fans," de Bonis said. "We asked four or five times to have those folks respect that, and they didn't seem to work out and it got a little bit aggressive and we asked them to leave. It was unfortunate, but at the end of the day you got to do what is the best for the interest of everybody there."

When asked whether there was a policy on not standing up while play was going on, de Bonis said he was unaware of that but added there were people "in other angles that couldn't see the ice surface."

Daniel Hiltenkamp, who sat in section 302, said the Southsiders helped liven up the spirit and he didn't see anyone act abusively or obstruct others' ability to watch the game.

"We were sitting basically right next to them, there was nobody behind them. It didn't really affect anybody's view," the 27-year-old said, adding the cheering was creative and fun. "It was a little different, it didn't throw the game off for me. It would have been cool if more people got involved in the chants, but some people weren't used to it and didn't know how to react."

Ironically, a Southsiders member was later named "Fan of the Game" and won a free Canucks jersey.

As for Aug, he said he will never attend another Canucks game and called the situation "beyond disappointing."

"This has been the worst experience I've had as a fan, absolutely," he said. "This completely destroyed my faith in the entire organization. It's just awful the way they treat their fans, the ones that actually create an atmosphere. I met two ushers that came up to us and said we were doing a great job. Then there were the guys who were … trying to get us to sit down, trying to get us to shut up. It's just terrible."

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