Relationships, hockey and fandom: Why they don’t mix

Every year, around spring, My friends begin to pledge their fickle allegiances to hockey teams. I have one such friend in Ottawa, we’ll call him Mr. C. His is not a fickle allegiance, it’s a relationship with a hockey team. They were there for him through the good times and bad, and he’s returned the favour by never having a wandering eye, ever.

It is for this reason that for the last month of regulation hockey, Mr. C’s friendship with me takes on a probationary phase, pending the outcome of the season, and fully dependent upon just how much I gloat and boast about my team. You see, Mr. C’s team, the Ottawa Senators, has constantly had to fight, and fight hard for a playoff berth, they are a “bubble” team. That means the pieces of the team didn’t really start functioning until sometime in January, and as a result they’ve got to bust their balls to play through till summer. Every game remaining in regulation is a must-win or somehow, they find themselves in Maple Leaf territory: great in theory, bad in practice.

I have already made it quite clear that not only am I a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan, but a true fan of hockey, a sucker for a great story. This brings us to Mr. C and my most recent disagreement. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators are currently playing. Mr. C is of course, rooting for the home team. I on the other hand, and throwing my mojo behind the Pens. Why root for a US team? Simple. Sid-the-Kid. Few players in the present state of the NHL are true game changers. Datsyuk, Stamkos, Richards and Crosby. That’s about all of them. Sidney Crosby has just rejoined his team after about a year away from the game due to a severe concussion suffered New Years Day 2011. What’s the result of his resurgence with his team? They are 9-0-1 and could steal the #1 spot in the East from a team that had been leading for the majority of the season.

Mr. C, upon being told of my preference in today’s game, purely replied with: “our friendship is on hiatus pending a review after this game.” Hockey stifles relationships. Or, more succinctly, fandom kills friendships. This of course is not the only example of when being diehard sports fans can ruin lives (check out Fever Pitch), this is just my example. Mr. C is not the only friendship affected, either.

Sibling rivalry takes on a whole new meaning between my sister and myself once or twice a year as well. She, as I have stated before is a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, some of the worst people on the planet. Our rivalry is graciously limited to a couple meetings per season between our teams. Her husband, on the other hand, is a Red Wings fan. Game days are often accompanied by a good-hearted bet of sorts between family members and some harmless trash talk from my mother. I genuinely fear the possibility of the Canucks and Wings meeting in the playoffs. I fear the trash talk will become personal, the pranks plentiful and relationships tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage. Team allegiances become paramount and whomever loses will hear about it for at least a month.

It seems trivial to invest so much time, energy and passion into a fan-relationship with a sports team. I can fully admit that it is crazy. However, crazy or not, I know deep down in my heart, I could never fully love someone I was dating if they were cheering for the wrong hockey team. Especially if they were a Leafs fan, Rangers, Flyers, Sharks or Bruins fan. Just saying. It’s good to know the deal breakers heading in, right?

It is with this sense of clarity and admission of craziness that I can now excuse myself to begin my pre-game superstitious rituals. Trevor Linden t-shirt, Canucks jersey, hair down, glass in hand, first period on mute.

Mr. C, no doubt has some superstition himself, though I’ve not figured it out in our 6 years of love-hating. Until then, best of luck to his bottom-of-the-barrelers. I’ve got a championship calibre team, missing their #1 player that needs me and my mojo in twenty minutes.




4 thoughts on “Relationships, hockey and fandom: Why they don’t mix

  1. First of all nothing about the Senators is “in Maple Leaf territory”! Every fall I listen to friends of mine who are Leaf fans proclaim “this is our year”. After two or three consecutive wins in October scores of people are already planning the parade route down Yonge Street for The Cup. But every year the Leaf streak’s soon become those of the loosing nature. After the new year, my Leaf-fan friends begin to protest and make excuses for their team’s fall from the heavens of NHL glory faster than Icarus. And as we come to Feb and March the talking points become one of “we are now playing to get a good draft spot” trying to imply that the continued failure of their team is some strategy to be better next year, when inevitably the cycle will continue again. The Ottawa Senators are NOTHING like that.

    Ask any of those I talk hockey with and they will confirm that this fall I was very clear that because of the current management of the Senators I felt they would be very lucky to make the Play-offs. Something I am none the less happy but surprised they have done. Both the theory and the practice of the Senators has been lacking this 2011-2012 season. Thankfully that has been the case for most of the Eastern Conference, and as such the Sens find themselves in 7th place with 4 games to go.

    The fact that you cheer for a player who has yet, despite the adoring media, in my opinion made it to the level of Hockey Greatness, solely for that player regardless of the team they play for or their current match is disappointing. Granted, a Gold Medal winning Goal, and a Stanley Cup in the same year is great. And his career will never see such a height again. For those things he should be commended and hailed, but it the words of a Chicago voter talking to an incumbent mayor seeking re-election “what have you done for me lately”. I do not believe Crosby is a “game changer”, while his skill is suburb I see nothing that the NHL as an institution can not handle. The fact that your list of game changers does not include Hull, Gretzky, Ore, Howe, and Lemeiux shows that your logic is flawed.

    I also disagree with your thesis that “fandom kills friendships”, very often rivalries create bonds of friendship. It creates contest, discussion, and debate. Something all good friendships have and need. This post and response is an exact example of that. If a friendship can be truly killed by a sports rivalry I have to ask if you were really that close in the first place. As every teen heart-throb football, inner city basketball, and Field of Dreams (great movie) shows us.

    Where I will agree with you is the comment on TML fans, they are indeed some of the worst people on the planet. My good friend Mr. F is an example of one of these worst people on the planet. While he is indeed a leafs fan, our friendship is not solely based on the supremacy (or lack thereof) of either of our teams over the other. In fact our friendship is made stronger by the fact that when a game between are teams is coming, the trash talk, debate, and then beer drinking and game watching is done as friends do. I also agree that while friendship is one thing, to share a bed with a leafs fan is quite another. I know of many people, and may or may not be one of these people, that has ruled out romantic encounters based on the sports jersey worn.

    As for my pre-game rituals, I rarely watch games at home, as we lose. I watch at a bar, or in person. Jersey is worn for in person or play off games only. Beer in glass not bottle.

    In closing, I look forward to watching your “championship calibre team” wash out in the first or second round, while a small spark of hope begins to glow in my heart that maybe just maybe there is a Cinderella story on our hands when it comes to the 2012 Senators… all we need is a net minder with some confidence.

  2. Oh, Mr. C. how I adore thee.

    First off, I stated that “present” game-changers are Stamkos, Datsyuk, Richards and Crosby. If you read the line preceding the list you would have known that. Any knowledgeable hockey fan would recognize that the all time greats, are in fact just that. Of course, a knowledgeable hockey fan would also recognize that the correct spelling of Orr is O-R-R. Not O-R-E (as in something one digs for).

    Secondly, I can see you point on friendships being well maintained through fandom. I guarantee however, that should my loving-ribbing of your oh-so-beloved Sens continue, that my hypothesis may be proven more true than false.

    Finally, I bid you and your lot best of luck, lord knows I would love to see Karlsson’s flowing locks on my TV a little longer. Until then, you still owe me a couple beers.

  3. Pingback: Hockey Heartbreak | Lifestyles of the Canadian Female

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