While watching a hockey game recently, I realized fans of sports teams, especially of hockey teams, are mostly all connected in their idiosyncrasies. In this week’s column, I will give my lighthearted take on the things I see as being requirements to be an NHL hockey fan.
Those who know me, or have read this column over the years, know that I have been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs for many years. I will use my experiences as a fan to analyze the culture of being an NHL hockey fan.
The first requirement is that while watching every one of your favourite team’s games, you yell at the television at least once per game thinking it will influence the game. Yes, over the years I have been guilty of yelling “shoot the puck” or “skate, skate, skate” at the players on the television screen or pointing out penalty calls I thought referees had missed from the comfort of my couch or chair. Obviously, this doesn’t affect how the players perform, calls are made, or the game is played, but is just a way of us fans showing how invested we are in wanting our team to succeed.
The second requirement is that you need to have the thought you could do a better job at running your team than their general manager or their coach. The first part of this is where the term ‘armchair GM’ comes from, fans who come up with fantasy free agent signings or trades they think their team should make, and coming up with their own NHL draft prospect scouting list ahead of the annual draft and then hoping their team makes the right choice. Hockey fans also hold management to account by complaining or calling for an executive to be fired if they feel a bad trade was made or the wrong player was selected in the draft. It’s similar on the coaching side, with fans questioning why a certain player was not used a lot or in a certain situation, coming up with their own line combinations, and calling for a coach to be relieved of his duties if a team underperforms.
Thirdly, hockey fans know who their team’s biggest rivals are, and have a competitive dislike for all of them. Usually these are the teams that are closest to your team geographically, or that your team has a history with in the playoffs. For example, if you are a fan of the Leafs, you don’t like the Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins or Montreal Canadiens. If you are a fan of the Calgary Flames, you don’t like the Edmonton Oilers or Vancouver Canucks. Fans show their displeasure at seeing these teams by booing them or chanting about how their team is better.
Lastly, loyalty is a big requirement in hockey fans. I think I can speak from experience, noting how many years as a fan I’ve watched the Leafs miss the playoffs or fall in a Game 7 to the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Yet, every year I come back and cheer on the team, hoping this is the year they hoist the Stanley Cup. I think therefore fans of different teams can get into heated conversations, as most fans are ready to defend their team’s record or reputation.
Obviously, these things don’t apply to every hockey fan, as every person is different. But, I’ve witnessed these habits enough to say they are typical hockey fan behaviour.