Who’s cheering for who?

John Devitt

Recently I was invited by a buddy of mine to join him and his friends at a Revelstoke Grizzlies game.  Originally from Australia, Daniel has been in Revelstoke for the better part of a year.  He and a large contingent of fellow Australians have been regularly attending Grizzlies’ games and are amongst its most vocal.

The Grizzlies are currently ranked 2nd in the Okanagan Shuswap conference with a record of 15-4-0.  The game in question was purported to be a good old-fashioned slobber knocker, as their opponents were known for their large, physical size and propensity for violence.   Any self respecting hockey fan shouldn’t miss a game like that!  It would be an opportunity to cheer for our boys and show our support for David as he prepares to take on Goliath.  After the exposure the Grizzlies got during the 2009/2010 Hockeyville campaign, and their record setting 40-9-1 2010/11 season (www.revelstokegrizzlies.com), I fully expected the Revelstoke Forum to be bursting at the seams and was concerned I’d be unable to get a ticket the day of the game.  As a regular attendee, Daniel it seemed, knew better, and assured me I’d be able to get one at the door without any struggle.

Sure enough, there was no problem getting a ticket at the door a few minutes after the puck had dropped in the first period.  Would we be able to find a seat in the beer gardens though?  After all, I had been promised a mighty demonstration of empty cup pyramid building against the glass.  Again, I shouldn’t have worried.  On a cold, Revelstoke Saturday night in November, the Forum was practically empty.  Of the hundred or so spectators who gathered in the Forum that night, easily half were part of Daniel’s Australian crew.  While the rest of the Forum was silent, this entire section of transients never stopped cheering for their adopted home team.

This had me thinking back to last winter and all the nasty shit being spewed on the Stoke list, in public and the stories in the media about Australians.  There were a number of people who expressed an extremely derogatory view of our Aussie cousins who have come to visit and spend time with us.  “Aussies are stealing our jobs, our girlfriends, and are freeloading at the food bank.”  All of these lies just served to vilify locals and visitors alike, driving a wedge into the community.  The worst part has been the impact these rumours made on donations to the Revelstoke Food Bank.  Last year saw an all-time low in donations with a direct correlation to the rumour mill spreading lies about freeloading visitors.

The truth is, our young Aussie visitors are just the type of people we need to not only support our local hockey team, but also develop our tourism industry.  These travelers are arriving with thousands of dollars in the bank (a prerequisite of the visa approval process) and are often leaving it all behind in the community they live in.  Not to mention many of these transient “ski bums” are getting jobs and spending much of that income in town as well.  These are high-volume travelers who bring thousands upon thousands of dollars into our community and support the culture that we as residents seem too busy to support ourselves.  They may not be the fancy, Gucci-wearing visitors with private helicopters that Revelstoke was promised in the early stages of resort development, but they are the current tourism reality that must be embraced.

With the snow finally falling around us, the mood in town is changing.  As more visitors arrive in town for the winter season let’s all try remembering that we’re all here for the same reason, to enjoy the community around us, to make it a better place to live, and enjoy the best outdoor recreation on the planet.  Let’s take it upon ourselves this coming year to say, “Welcome” to everyone, and actually mean it.

The Grizzlies ended up losing that night.  It was a close call though, as they rallied late in the third period, whipping our section into a frenzy.  The cup pyramid reached the top of the glass around the same time.  Although the crowd was quiet and small, the Australians, the ones who get slammed by cruel rumours and hearsay, were the ones cheering and supporting our Revelstoke boys right until the very end.

For more information on how you can support the Revelstoke Food Bank, visit http://www.community-connections.ca/outreachservices.html

John Devitt is a Revelstoke resident. You can read his column, Higher Ground, exclusively in The Current, every week.

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