The influence the Vancouver Canucks have on the everyday lives of people throughout the Lower Mainland and their communities never ceases to amaze me.
Canucks fans are everywhere - and this is just here in the Lower Mainland. Imagine the transplanted fans in other cities, provinces and countries.
It's true - we are all Canucks and there's a passion within each of us - and the passion doesn't come from multiple Stanley Cups or even winning consistently over the years, although both would be nice.
The passion comes from something else.
The Canucks have almost hit the quarter pole in their season, giving loyal fans a chance to see the new team, with its new players and new Coach - so I ventured out into the streets to find out where this passion comes from and if it's still burning strong for fans based on what they've seen so far.
Here's what I found out.
I headed to 8-Rinks in Burnaby, 30 minutes before a Canucks practice and there were already a number of fans strolling around the concourse and some even had their places staked out in the chilly rink.
I couldn't resist approaching the couple seated at center ice.
Rick and Eileen Langabeer were watching practice with their two dogs, Button and Bow, and the fluffy white poodles were both wearing Canucks colors and looked warmer than me.
We sat together, watched the players stretch at center ice and talked about the Canucks - something all of us are used to doing.
"Roberto Luongo was a solid acquisition," Rick said matter of factly. "And Taylor Pyatt has done great with the Sedins because he's big enough and goes to the front of the net; all he needs is a pitchfork to shovel in the goals."
I wondered to Rick if the Canucks look play-off bound.
"This team will absolutely make the play-offs," he said emphatically. "We're optimists!"
"We've been fans since we moved out from Ontario 30 years ago. We were Leafs fans, ashamedly, but since then we've switched over."
I entered through the ice-level doors with a steamy cup of hot chocolate warming my hands and saw a vintage jersey adorned with Ryan Kesler's old # 20.
Derek Serraglio was pressed up against the glass watching his favorite player work on shooting and passing drills. 8-Rinks is fantastic for giving fans a chance to see their stars and heroes up close.
Derek and I stood together as pucks clanked off the glass and our conversation quickly turned to Kesler.
"He's skating good and working pretty hard out there," said Derek. "Right now I think he's struggling a bit offensively, but I still think he can score at least 20 goals this year."
We commented on the noticeable differences between this years and last years team.
"Last years team had a bit more offense on it," Derek said. "We're more defensive this year and Luongo is a proven number one goalie, so he definitely helps out back there."
Before I left, Derek told me he'll either buy a new jersey or switch the numbers on his current one to Kesler's new # 17.
Hockey practice always makes me hungry - so I left 8-Rinks and looked for some food to get my energy levels back up. I don't know how those hockey players do it - skating around all day, shooting pucks and working up a sweat.
I made my way through the doors of a Save-On-Foods and couldn't help but notice a tall stack of pop can boxes creatively arranged around the C-Force Canucks junior fan club display.
I'm way over the age of junior, so I headed to the deli for some fresh cold cuts and old gouda cheese. There were three clerks working and out of nowhere I decided to ask if any of them were Canucks fans.
Adam Howard spoke up and said he was one of the biggest fans.
We easily started talking about the team, but Adam's deli manager was watching from a distance and decided to come over to check up on things.
Adam and I didn't find it unusual to drop everything and talk about the Canucks in the middle of a shift during one of the busiest times of day.
We chatted for at least 15 minutes.
"Alain Vigneault is great," said Adam. "I'm always for pulling the goalie early if you're down by a goal or two. He's done that a couple times this year. With him, it's two points or nothing."
Luongo dominated our conversation too.
"Roberto stands up and makes the saves," Adam said. "He doesn't always take shots off the body - he's so confident in his game and he makes those glove saves all the time. I think we've got the best goaltender in the league."
Adam told me he gets together with his buddies to watch the Canucks games and they usually end up yelling and screaming at the T.V..
I returned home with the conversations from the fans still stuck in my head and thought more about where the passion comes from. It soon became obvious. We live in a city full of choices and things to do - but the Canucks are still the foundation for all ages because the team has the power to bring strangers together and strengthen entire communities.
We are all Canucks because the team creates a common ground for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, family and friends.
The games give us an evening to look forward to and conversations for many days after.
The passion truly is, something else.