Every year, this time of year will give hockey fans a plethora of emotions. There’s excitement for the teams advancing and sadness for the teams that fall short. But those are just the expected emotions that we hear all about. There’s something else that a lot of hockey fans will experience at this time of year: Confusion.
The thing is you think you know your team so well. You watch them for 7 months, follow any bit of information the beat-writers and talking heads give you. You go to the games and talk to other fans about what’s going on with the team. You think more than you should and as passionate as you are, you like to think you have a grasp on what’s truly going on. So when things go sideways, we’re usually left with questions that we might never have pondered.
In places like Detroit or Pittsburgh, you’ll find people who are confused as to why they didn’t make it as far as they did last season. What change prevented them from getting to the Cup Finals again? This year was supposed to be Part III in the Wings/Pens trilogy, right? They even could have called it, “Part III: The Hossa-less Edition!”
In places like Vancouver and New Jersey, fans might wonder why their goaltender can be looked at one of the league’s best, but repeatedly falls short every year.
In San Jose and DC, you’ll find a lot of fans wondering how they can be so good for the 82-game regular season only to see their post-season end too soon again. And all over North America, you’ll find people offering up their opinions for why their seasons ended so abruptly. But no one really has the absolute answer—thus we’re left with uncertainty.
It sucks when it’s my favorite team because I’m dealing with my own set of thoughts. Why did the coach play “our” goaltender for so many fucking games? What are “we” going to do about our defensive depth—because that 3rd pairing isn’t going to get it done? Are “we” ever going to get a legitimate #2 scoring center? It’s violently confusing because it hits so close to home. The thing that I’ve invested so much time and energy into following for the last year of my life just shit the bed and I want to know why. I want answers damnit!
But when it’s another fan base dealing with their own unique set of season-ending questions, I like watching with a sharp eye to see what they are asking. You’ll see younger fans often times with a self-absorbed rationale for the end of the season. Often times, they’re left thinking that they were good enough but their own team just didn’t perform when they needed to.
You’ll see older fans giving credit to the opposition and face the realism that they just simply weren’t good enough. I like watching it—because it mirrors life so perfectly. The younger fans think they’re invincible and are pissed when they find they aren’t. And sometimes they’re unwilling to admit it. Then there are the older fans who are more self-aware and have been there far too many times. They know chances are they won’t be the best team and they won’t win the Cup. They tend to be more pragmatic in their approach to being a fan.
And you’ll even see bloggers make broad generalizations about entire demographics. Just go with me on this one…
Here’s a shocker: Adults have a better perspective than teenagers. If you don’t believe that—then call me back when you’re allowed to legally drink. Yep, the view from my seat is pretty obvious today.
You see, this is how it goes: There are going to be questions that are left unanswered for 29 of 30 teams every season. And the team left standing; they’ll have their questions at the end of the season, too. But that’s part of being a hockey fan—if we always knew what was going to happen and always had all the answers, it would be kind of boring, wouldn’t it?
It’s the confusion that keeps us coming back for more. We hope that our GM figures it out during the offseason and has all the answers. We hope that the players figured it out in the locker room after that last playoff defeat and will come back with a new hunger next season. We want to see if the coach starts coaching the way we thought they should have all along—and we want to see if that is the answer.
We want some kind of resolution.
Here’s a little secret: Next year, you probably won’t get all of your answers, either. Even if you figure out why you lost this season, you’ll probably be faced with a new set of reasons you lost the next. That’s just how it is—and it will be that way for 29 teams next year.
But damn, it sure would be nice to figure out all of the problems this year and be the only team standing next June, wouldn’t it?
What about you? Are you one of the many fans left with the confusion of unanswered questions? Or has the season (and playoffs) played out exactly how you expected?