Njeri Sims is from Brooklyn. Vanessa Guadiana is from Detroit. The two young women live in Dallas. And they love – no, they are obsessed with – the Vancouver Canucks.
Sims has a Roberto Luongo jersey. Guadiana owns a Cory Schneider jersey. The two joke it makes sense, since Sims is 30, and Guadiana is 26. Guadiana first fell for the Canucks in 2007 when she saw Luongo's emotional reaction after giving up a playoff-series winning goal to Anaheim. Sims, a couple years later, came to love the vibe of the team, Luongo and the rest.
The two women forged a friendship over their shared love.
"We want coach's autograph," said Sims of Canucks' chief Alain Vigneault, wearing her Canucks earrings at a rink in the Dallas suburbs where the two fans had followed their heroes to watch them practice on Wednesday afternoon. "We love coach."
It was much the same question some of the Canucks wondered as they wandered in the Ritz-Carlton lobby midday Wednesday, ahead of practice, a day before a match against the Stars.
Winger Chris Higgins joked, "Am I in Dallas?" Higgins and his teammates much more used to the cauldron of hockey fandom back in Vancouver. Road trips, while a grind of games across time zones crammed into short spans, provide something of a physic relief, the chance to go unrecognized and unnoticed.
But two fans is not two dozen – and the women were alone in their devotion. There was no crowd or crush of Canucks love in Dallas. Sims and Guadiana had the run of the place, at the hotel and the practice rink. They had their jerseys signed by the namesake goalies. They radiated in the proximity.
Guadiana is a truck driver and had a couple days off. Sims works as a saleswoman at a home remodelling company and booked the days off work. They have, obviously, tickets to the Thursday night game. Sims – the Luongo fan – has a sign ready, one that geographically references Vancouver, not Dallas: "Stay."
Like most intense fans, it gets a bit nerdy. Guadiana, whose height does not far exceed five feet, doesn't look like a truck driver. She might not look like a hockey fan, either. She bought her Schneider jersey in Lloydminster, that town straddling the Alberta and Saskatchewan border.
And she, somewhat shyly, pulls out a NHL-branded coiled notebook with detailed rundowns of all the games, the scores, scorers, goals and assists, time of goals, and the like. She has a "mascot," too, dubbed Pierre, a stuffed toy moose in a Montreal Canadiens jersey. She watches all the games. "Yeah, of course."
The pair's Dallas go-to is Christie's on McKinney Avenue, a street with a stretch of bars north of downtown. Frankie's has all the satellite channels and a bartender with a penchant to switch at least one TV over to Canada's west coast team when beseeched by two Dallas locals in Vancouver jerseys.
"My family is crazy about the Red Wings," said Guadiana of her relations back home in Detroit. "I love them too – but I love the Canucks."