The following story takes place in a fictional version of British Columbia set in the not-too-distant future. This is meant to be an exploration of a future scenario where the Canadian Premier League (CPL) has expanded into many markets throughout the province. My decision to include the cities and communities I did was influenced by an article on the AFTN website called Dare to Dream written by Peter Hicken. I found it very helpful when making my choices and I would encourage people to read it before continuing on with this article.
Although the story itself is fictional, it is based on real world conditions. For example, the parks, the stadiums, the pubs, and other infrastructure I mention in this story actually exist, or are in the planning stages for construction. As much as possible the real neighbourhoods and their customs have been considered when writing this piece. My knowledge about these places was gained through the firsthand experience of visiting them. The timing of all the activities mentioned in the story is also realistic based on real world geography and transportation options. In fact, I encourage people to doublecheck me on this by looking at maps and transit timetables. If nothing else, it’s a fun activity you can do to help you imagine how a derby day like this could operate in the future.
The purpose of this article is not to try and create a solid destination. It is instead meant to help inspire a vision of a possible landscape for the future of professional soccer in BC. In this piece I mention many different cities in BC. If you live or work in one of these cities but you don’t think I truly captured its cultural identity then I encourage you to create something more meaningful for yourself. I have to admit that as a “Mainlander” (that term will make more sense later in this article) my knowledge of the lower mainland is much better than other parts of the province because I was raised in Vancouver and its surrounding communities. It would be great if other people captured the spirit of the place they call home and then shared their vision for a team and its supporters with the rest of the soccer community.
It’s Saturday morning. I wake up to the sound of my alarm going off. In my groggy state I feel annoyed that I’m being forced awake on a weekend morning. But as the sleep begins to clear my mind I start to remember why I set the alarm in the first place. A surge of excitement goes though my body. Today is BC Derby Day!
BC Derby Day is a special day for soccer fans in British Columbia and has become an annual tradition across the province. BC Derby Day is the day that all the CPL teams in BC play against each other. These include teams that compete in both tier 1 (The Premier League) and tier 2 (The Championship). With the recent expansion to six CPL teams in total combined between tier 1 and tier 2 there is now the ability for three BC derbies to all be played on the same day.
The league does a great job planning the schedule to ensure that each year there is at least one day where all the CPL teams from the same province, or region, play against each other. On these special days fans can take in multiple derby games featuring teams from their province or region. It’s amazing how communities from across the country get out to be part of this annual event. You can witness fans travel to games in cars, buses, and trains so they can support their team as well as take in some action from the other teams in their region. Local pubs and restaurants are filled with supporters wearing jerseys and scarves and it’s always festive when they pour out onto the streets. There is a huge sense of community pride during these events.
On this particular day, I am extra lucky. The schedule has just so happened to work out that the games for this year’s BC Derby Day are all being played in the greater Vancouver region. I am going to catch three live matches in total. The first two games will have the four CPL Championship teams playing each other, and the grand finale game tonight will be between the two CPL Premier League teams from this province. What I especially like about this action-packed day is that I won’t have to use my vehicle to get to the games. The transportation infrastructure in Greater Vancouver is set up in such as way that all three stadiums are very accessible because of their proximity to Skytrain stations. That means I can just kick back, relax and enjoy the footie marathon ahead of me.
The completion of the Skytrain extension into the Fraser Valley is really the final piece that allowed this special event to be possible. It provides a rapid transport spine that can move fans quickly from stadium to stadium making multiple games on the same day feasible. It is really fun to see fellow supporters on the train when travelling to and from the games and joining them in the singing and chanting that have become such a part of Canadian soccer culture. And it makes it even more fun when there are supporters of rival teams on the same train. The two groups chant back and forth at each other in good fun and really make the trip special. Even the non-soccer fans know when BC Derby Day has arrived.
Seeing as how I live in Vancouver I like to start my BC Derby Day morning by going for breakfast at one of the many spots on Commercial Drive. There are plenty of interesting restaurant and coffee shop options to choose from. While I munch away I look around the restaurant and notice lots of other people wearing the jersey of the team I support, Eastsiders FC.
Eastsiders FC represents the region called East Vancouver and they play out of Swangard Stadium which sits on the border of Vancouver and its eastern neighbour city Burnaby. Swangard has long been a center of professional soccer in Vancouver. The Vancouver 86ers played there in the old CSL days, and after that the second iteration of the Whitecaps played there until they made the move to BC Place. The stadium still boasts one of the best natural grass fields in the city. Eastsiders FC plays in tier 2 of the CPL. They are one of the newest teams in the league but already have a loyal supporters group following.
Today they play a home match against another recent addition to the CPL Championship, Mariners Sporting Club from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
This should be an exciting game as many of the fans from Nanaimo make the trip over to the mainland on the ferry to support their team. This includes their supporters group the Harbour City Hub, so named after the nickname of Nanaimo, Harbour City. These supporters have a lot of pride because many of the province’s best players historically came from coastal mining towns in and around Nanaimo.
The game starts at 11am. I love morning games at Swangard because the stands face east so you get that nice morning sun. I finish eating breakfast around 10am and then head to the Commercial Drive Station which is less than a five minute walk away. From there I take a train out to Patterson Station where I bump into the Eastsiders FC supporters group who call themselves Montagliani’s Neighbourhood on account that FIFA Vice President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani was born and raised in East Vancouver.
They use the station as their area to congregate before heading to the stadium. There is a rich history of diverse cultures living in and around the Commercial Drive area, many of whom are soccer mad, and they come out in droves to support their team. The march to the stadium along the edge of Central Park is beautiful and my fellow supporters are signing and chanting as we move toward the stadium.
After the game I leave the stadium and walk back to Patterson Station. From there I catch a train east across the Fraser River into Surrey to take in the next match of the day. Surrey is a hot bed for soccer and ever since they built that new stadium at Bear Creek Park and got a CPL expansion team in the Championship, the city has really rallied behind it. Surrey worked hard to get that stadium built because they knew it was the only way they were ever going to be able to attract a team, and it totally paid off. The venue is one of my favorite in the lower mainland. Surrey is known as the City of Parks and Bear Creek Park is one of the best in the city, so they named their team Park City FC.
But before I head to the stadium I have enough time to get off the train at Surrey Central Station and head over to Central City and the Central City Brew Pub where I meet up with the Park City FC supporters group, Central City Crew. When I arrive, the supporters are already trickling out of the pub into the large public square out front. A temporary stage has been erected to host a community music event, one of many regular events that takes place in this bustling area. The singer on stage stops for a minute to invite a couple of representatives from the Central City Crew to come up to use the microphone. The next few moments are amazing as the supporters on the stage lead the rest of the group gathered in front in singing and chanting.
With the match starting at 3pm we need to leave for the stadium. We catch the R1 Newton Exchange rapid bus that takes us from Surrey Central Station directly to Bear Creek park about ten minutes away. Once there, we pour out of the bus and congregate on the corner of King George Blvd and 88th Ave. All the people driving by can see us and lots of friendly honks and waves are exchanged as we begin to march toward the stadium.
Today Park City FC will be playing against the Kelowna team Line FC. Line FC is a reference to fighting wildfires. Kelowna is known for its hot, dry summers which means they often have wildfires in the region.
Kelowna and the surrounding Okanagan communities really love their soccer and it’s fun heading out there to watch a game at the Apple Bowl as part of a week long vacation which also includes exploring beautiful wineries and relaxing beside the lake. The Okanagan is a tourist hotspot so having a CPL team playing there is a great destination draw. Their supporters group is called The Ogopogo Locals after the lake monster that is said to inhabit Lake Okanagan.
After the game I jump back on the bus up to King George Station. From there I hop on a train and again head east, this time to the final station Langley City Centre. Langley’s CPL team is well established in the community having been in the top tier since 2022. It didn’t take long after the CPL was originally established in 2019 for rumours to begin swirling about Langley getting its own team. And after only a few short years those rumours became reality when Derby City FC was introduced to the league.
Their name was picked because Langley is known as the horse capital of BC and it also has an iconic park named Derby Reach. Derby City FC have been playing out of the stadium at Willoughby Park ever since they entered the league. Willoughby Park is also the home of the Langley Events Centre which houses the Vancouver Giants of the WHL among other teams representing basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse. Other than the CPL stadium the park has outdoor facilities and playing surfaces for a wide assortment of different sports making it a real community hub.
Once I get off the train I walk about ten minutes to the Rendevouz Pub to meet up with the Derby City FC supporters group Fort 1827. So named as a reference to the fort in Fort Langley which was originally constructed in 1827. When I arrive at the pub they are already coming out onto the street in preparation for the walk to the 501 bus which will take us to the stadium. With the game starting at 7:30pm it’s time to get going.
After a short bus ride we arrive at the stadium. We assemble on the corner of 200th Street and 76th Ave and begin marching toward the stadium. This is by far one of my favorite marches in BC because it ends up going right through the middle of a show and shine! Langley is well known for its classic car culture and hosts numerous gatherings where you can witness hundreds of pristine vintage vehicles. Willoughby Park has enough parking space to host both a soccer match and a car show. Needless to say, this unique atmosphere is something that deserves to be experienced.
When I get inside the stadium I look around and see a giant section of purple. The fans of Pacific FC have really come out to support their team. This is the final season they will have the opportunity to see their hero Terran Campbell as he is set to hang up his boots at the end of the season. Pure class his coming back to the league where it all started for him to play out his final few years after a stellar career playing in the Bundesliga.
Always loud and having a good time the Pacific FC supporters group Lakeside Buoys are leading the cheer. And some of the Harbour City Hub supporters have joined forces with them. Members of Central City Crew, The Ogopogo Locals, and Montagliani’s Neighbourhood have joined forces with Fort 1827. The “Islanders” versus “Mainlanders” atmosphere being created in the stadium by the two rival super support groups is electric. I smile as I take it all in and think about how far we have come. Sixteen years, just like that. BC Derby Day is our day to celebrate how much we have accomplished as a soccer community in this province.