VANCOUVER – It’s a life most can’t imagine, picking up bottles for a living and sleeping in a back alley.
But when the Stanley Cup playoffs are on, Vinnie Danes is just like most Canadians who want to kick back and watch the game.
Not far from the pricey rink-side seats in Rogers Arena and the booming outdoor sites where jersey-clad masses cheer the Vancouver Canucks, Danes has set up his own viewing area where he and his friends can watch the game.
Tucked inside a back alley carport, Danes’ tiny TV sits atop of an industrial garbage bin surrounded by half a dozen chairs rescued from the garbage dump.
The picture is grainy, despite a 15-metre antenna that snakes around two old shopping carts filled with bottles and reaches up to the roof.
But the sound is good and the back alley seems no different than many homes when the hockey game is on: men yelling at the TV, criticizing the players or the referees and cracking open a beer.
Danes has been showing occasional movies in the alley for about four years but since the Canucks started their playoff run this season the set up has been a regular occurrence.
“I just tell the guys ‘hey you know we’re watching a movie, we’re watching a hockey game,’ so everyone comes over,” he says.
He and many of his friends work picking up bottles around the city and the word spreads to others who don’t have a home where they can watch the game.
“When the home games are here, we get like 20 people, when the away games are here we get like half a dozen.”
The back alley where the men gather is surprisingly tidy, and both the power and a storage spot for the TV when it’s not in use is supplied by the company that owns the carport.
In exchange, Danes keeps an eye out for anyone who might be causing trouble or who doesn’t belong in his homeless family.
“We watch out for each other. If somebody needs something, like one of the guys, he doesn’t make so much money as I do and so I give what I have, my extra to him.”
Don, who didn’t want to give his last name, is one of the regulars who stops by on game night. He has a home, but his wife doesn’t like hockey.
“I have been homeless at times, but now I’m just hangin’ out with the guys,” he smiled. “It’s all about my friends.”
Danes arrived in Vancouver about seven years ago from Ontario.
He said his wife and unborn child were killed in a car accident and he hasn’t been able to face living inside since then.
“When everybody leaves, I’m alone. But with these folks that stay under the carport, I’m with somebody and I don’t have to deal with that loneliness of thinking about her,” he explained.
On Wednesday, Danes and his friends will join most other Canadians, sitting in front of their television sets rooting for their team.