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Becoming The Orca Babes

Tuesday, 10.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
Superman was shot to earth from the planet Krypton. Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider. And the Incredible Hulk, if you recall, ran onto a test range and was dosed with gamma rays.

The point is, every superhero has a transformation myth.

Now, take a look at these two outwardly ordinary young women.

That's Lara Monk on your left. She's 22, a third-year kinesiology student at Simon Fraser University, and a part-time employee of B.C. Hydro. Normal enough.

Equally normal looking is Kristi Hayward, on your right. She's 32, and a realtor in New Westminster.

Appearances can be deceiving, though. Clark Kent and Peter Parker were superheroes in civilian disguise, and so, in their own way, are Lara and Kristi.

By day: an under-the-radar realtor and a university student.

By night: caped and glittering super fans of the Vancouver Canucks-the Orca Babes.

THE TRANSFORMATION

How do these Women of Tinsel make the big change? Well, as with all superheroes, a theme song is indispensable.

"We put on pre-game pump-up music and run around the house like lunatics," says Kristi, who was born in Victoria. "It's so that we can get the crowd going at the game."

Everyone is familiar with sports anthems like Queen's "We Are the Champions" and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll." At GM Place the Canucks get everyone's pulse jumping with the guitar intro from U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."

And now, of course, legions of Canucks fans are wondering: What exactly constitutes pump-up music to an Orca Babe?

"Anything upbeat-AC/DC, Scissor Sisters, Trace Adkins," says Lara, who grew up in Cloverdale.

Okay, the tunes are playing, but the caterpillar-into-butterfly act is still incomplete. An Orca Babe is nothing without her wardrobe-her tinsel wig, her fuzzy white boots with glued-on Canuck logos, and, most important, her heavy silver cape.

According to Lara Monk, it takes a few deep breaths and a "cup of courage" just to get the whole costume on.

Don't ask her about cups of anything once she's fully dressed, though. She's worried her bladder will give out.

"Before the spandex goes on I definitely go to the bathroom," says Lara. "Taking off all those layers isn't easy."

Obviously, a lot of sweat, blood, and tears have gone into the Orca Babes outfits. That's no sports cliché, either. Actual blood, actual sweat.

"We spent hours on those outfits," laughs Kristi. "Neither of us knew how to sew."

"And I cut myself on the sewing needles," says Lara.

Lara and Kristi have been donning the capes and stoking the fan-fires for the Canucks since the 2005-06 season. The girls met three years ago, through Lara's brother Brent, a 34-year-old salesman from New West.

"I can't think of anyone else who would dress up and become an Orca Babe with me," says Lara. "We're like sisters."

Kristi echoes the sentiment: "Lara was my bridesmaid at my wedding. I love her like a sister."

On a typical game night, Lara and Kristi get on a Vancouver-bound SkyTrain in full Babe regalia. Sure, they get a few weird looks. Mostly, though, it's whoops and hollers and people wanting to take their picture.

"When we get to GM Place people think we work for Orca Bay," says Lara. "I guess we did a good job with the outfits."

She goes on, "We like to get the people going by heckling the fans of the opposing team. Then we give some candy to the scalpers and go inside."

ULTIMATE CANUCKS

They may have charity for scalpers, but, like many fans on the West Coast, the Orca Babes waste no love on Hogtown.

"The only good thing about Toronto is the bus to Vancouver!" cries Lara. Her favourite Canuck memory is Greg Adams scoring to knock the Maple Leafs out of the 1994 playoffs and put Vancouver in the finals.

And that's no idle insult; Lara puts her venom where her mouth is. When a new supervisor was hired at her office, and Lara found out he was a Toronto fan, the Orca Babe leapt into action.

When the guy showed up to his first day at work, he found his office door duct-taped shut and Canucks stickers all over his windows.

The message was clear: You're in Canuck Country now, pal.

Kristi, for her part, tends a cold, dark place in her heart for Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, at 45 the NHL's oldest active player, and its all-time penalty-minute leader.

"I have zero respect for Chelios," she says. "I love to see our players get rough with him."

The Vancouver-Detroit rivalry is alive and well, of course, although this year it's impossible for the teams to meet before the third round of the playoffs. And Toronto? They're polishing their niblicks and waiting for the golf courses to open. They missed the East's final playoff berth by a single point.

Better luck next year, Maple Leafs.

Orca Babes Lara Monk and Kristi Hayward, for your heart, your passion, and your shiny shiny wigs, you are Ultimate Fans. The Vancouver Canucks salute you!