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.