‘No more Fortnite’ for Canucks: team imposes video game ban on road trips
So what they have in Vancouver, beyond a struggle to score and defend, is a failure to communicate.
After last season’s lackluster 73-point performance, Canucks players have stared down the enemy and identified their problem: video games.
Over the course of the next six months, and perhaps more if they qualify for the playoffs, the Canucks will bury their gadgets on the road. It’s a self-imposed ban. How they spend their time at home, in one of North America’s most beautiful cities, is up to them. But away from Vancouver, they’re going old school and leaving their controllers, connected laptops, and all game paraphernalia at home.
“Definitely a no-go on the road,” center Bo Horvat, age 23, said during a radio interview early last week. “No more Fortnite.”
Ah, Fortnite, thou sweetest video addiction of ’em all.
We are well acquainted with Fortnite here in the Hub of the sports universe. In May, $30 million-a-year Red Sox starter David Price was forced to skip a start against the Yankees because of a mild case of carpal tunnel. An inveterate Fortniter, Price immediately came under media suspicion of going too deep and too late into his video game starts (anybody know the seven-inning equivalent of a twitch count?).
There’s was a lot of talk back then that Price and his Fortnite frères — mainly Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez, and Craig Kimbrel — would change their ways, pull back on the digital throttle. Price, though not confirming the connection of Fortnite to his case of carpal tunnel, admitted, “You can lose track of time when you’re playing it.”
According to my deep twitch connection in the Sox clubhouse, nothing changed. The Sox went on to win 108 games, Price went 16-7, and all that good stuff played out without the need for anyone to give up their digital toys or seek therapy for getting hooked on a game that centers around being tossed onto a battlefield with 99 other combatants.
I’ve never played video games. I know, you’re shocked, a Boomer with no inclination to surrender hours or days to his laptop or miscellaneous online ditherings. Heck, I’ve got Twitter for that.
I even eschewed Pac-Man during its hula hoop moment in American culture. I’ve been told a big part of the Fortnite hook is that there’s always another game to join. Get blown up in the first five minutes, dust yourself off, and plug back into the Internet for the next fight to the death. Isn’t that why Massachusetts implemented the lottery, the addictive cash cow with all the scratch tickets guaranteed to make our schools great and shrink our property taxes?
Anyway, I digress . . .
The Canucks believe closing the lids on their laptops will lead to a tighter team. Horvat, for one, said he feels the video games are a “waste” and that “there’s better ways to spend time on the road.” Restaurants, movie houses, and museums await.
Vancouver, by the way, went 15-22-4 (.415) on the road last season, and was only slightly better (16-18-7, .476) at home. If the abstinence pays off, it could mean the Canucks will have to scrutinize how they spend their spare time around Rogers Arena, too.
What’s it going to look like on the road for Travis Green’s charges?
“It’s [going to be] strictly team meals,” Horvat mused during his interview on TSN 1040, “team dinners and hanging out with the guys.”
No question, it can be beneficial. Team bonding was a given when I first started covering the Bruins beat in the late ’70s. It was a very close bunch. Players loved and thrived being around one another. It was not uncommon for John Bucyk, then the captain, to invite all players and media back to his hotel room for a postgame debriefing, with sandwiches from room service and a bathtub full of ice and beer. Video games? What the hell do you mean, video games?!
The ritual was much the same only a few years later when NESN’s Andy Brickley launched his NHL career, first with the Flyers and then Penguins. Practices on non-game days, home or away, didn’t end at the rink.
“Everybody got together for at least another hour,” recalled Brickley, “always at an agreed-upon establishment. Obviously, it was for a beer. But if you didn’t drink, that was fine, but you came anyway. Just for an hour. You could stay for two. You could stay for three. But everyone came for at least that first hour.”
The result, said Brickley, was exactly what Horvat is hoping for now.
“I got to know my teammates way better,” said Brickley. “You get away from the arena setting and you sit down. You talk about family. You talk about challenges in life. You talk about relatives . . . girls . . . relationships . . . hockey . . . everything.”
Some of that continues to this day, but the postgame hotel ice-in-the-tub ritual has all but disappeared. Well into the ’80s, most NHL teams still traveled by commercial jet. The flight to the next city was usually the following morning. Then came charter flights, with players these last 25-30 years hustling out of arenas to catch the charter to the next city. No bathtubs full of ice and beer. Smiling flight attendants shuttle food and drinks for players, coaches, and select media (radio and TV rights-holders).
Today, a Bruins charter flight typically finds the players reading books, napping, playing cards, and, yes, some playing video games. The Bruins were 22-12-7 (.622) on the road last season. So clearly, they didn’t leave it all on the Fortnite battlefield.
Teams and teammates have to do what they believe is best for them. The Canucks are in a rebuild. The Sedin twins have gone off to retirement. And now Fornite’s been shown the door. I don’t know if it will work for them, but I’d sure like the ice and beer concession in the 30 cities they’ll be visiting.