We’ve heard about the “northeastern elitism” for decades in politics and in media. Is it true? Maybe, maybe not. But if you want that discussion, you can pick from about 98723947 political blogs that would love to tell you how you should think. That’s not exactly our bag here.
But when a sense of entitlement seeps into our little frozen piece of the sports world, then it will get our attention. Cue some Boston Herald intro music:
“Demonstrating their fundamental lack of understanding about hockey, the fans at the RBC Center for yesterday’s NHL All-Star Game got excited every time Bruins [team stats] defenseman Zdeno Chara had the puck with a little bit of room in the offensive zone.
What they expected and wanted to see was a monster 100 mph slap shot from Chara, the winner of Saturday’s hardest-shot contest with a record 105.9 mph bomb.
That wasn’t going to happen in a half-speed, meaningless game of shinny. Chara wasn’t going to risk injuring someone in front of the net. He had several good chances, but all on wrist shots.” –Stephen Harris (Boston Herald)
What the hell? Why do I feel like I need to start humming Don Cherry’s intro music while reading that nugget of ill-informed garbage? Congratulations Boston Herald, you made us compare the political media to the hockey media. I shouldn’t have to explain how that wasn’t a compliment.
It’s things like these that drive me absolutely nuts. I don’t want to be the person who thinks that all hockey fans should hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but I was under the impression that we all thought hockey was the greatest game on earth. No fans are better than other fans. Apparently, a writer in Boston thinks that he’s better than fans in Carolina. He can’t resist himself the opportunity for a quick jab when doing a quick piece about Chara in the meaningless All-Star game. I’m going to go out a limb and think that he doesn’t like it when a writer in Canada groups him in when he talks about how Canadians know more about hockey than Americans.
Because the Ottawa Sun went there.
“Said it before and I’ll say it again:
The NHL all-star game is insulting to real hockey fans. Especially Canadians.
Canadians play the game with grit and determination. Their success if based on hard work. They like figure skating, too, but not when it’s done by guys wearing equipment and with a stick in their hands.” –Don Brennan (Ottawa Sun)
(If only David Backes or Ryan Kesler were Canadian—then they could play with a little more heart. But that’s another discussion for another time.)
Obviously, it’s a pointless argument. More importantly, it’s a pointless discussion. Hockey fans are hockey fans, and everyone else can go to hell.
But it’s when we read articles like this that preconceived notions and biases are simply reinforced. When a New Englander reads their local website and finds a line “Demonstrating their fundamental lack of understanding about hockey” to open a simple article about Zdeno Chara refusing to unleash his vaunted slap shot in an exhibition game, there’s obviously an underlying point being made. Discard it as a writer’s opinion the first few times you read it—but at some point people just start taking it as the majority opinion instead of the writer’s opinion. It’s a subtle point, but it makes all the difference.
I heard some awfully stupid comments coming out of Boston Bruins fans mouths a week ago at a Bruins game. Should I write about “their fundamental lack of understanding” of a line change every single time they call for a non-existent too-many-men call? No, of course I shouldn’t. Because it is an individual stupidity thing. To infer that the entire New England sports market is idiotic because of a few fans sitting behind me who sampled too many Sam Adams would be doing the exact same thing that Mr. Harris did to hockey fans in Carolina.
For the record, I would have loved to see Chara unleash a slap shot at Tim Thomas. Does that make me an ignorant fan? Then again, I’m sure Chara’s never let a slapshot go in practice either. Someone might get hurt.
We’ve talked about how some (not all) residents of the Great White North enjoy claiming ownership of the sport we all love. They’ll talk about how Quebec City and Winnipeg should have teams and Atlanta and Phoenix shouldn’t because the fans in the Sun Belt don’t DESERVE hockey. Sometimes they’ll straight out say it, and other times they’ll mask it by saying the Coyotes should be moved because the people of Winnipeg deserve a team; as if to say the people of Phoenix do not. The same arguments over and over—and it’s wearing a little thin.
Hockey is ingrained in Canadian culture—anyone who says otherwise is either a fool or has an agenda. To a lesser extent, it’s part of the culture in the Northeastern United States and Minnesota. It’s a cultural thing that is created by generations of fans watching and playing the sport with their parents and grandparents. You can manufacture sports arenas and 18 different styles of hats, but you can’t manufacture a hockey culture. It just takes time.
But just because a market does not have a 100-year-old hockey culture does not mean they are lesser fans. Real fans in Carolina go to games just like they do in Toronto. Real fans in Dallas watch out of town games on Center Ice just like they do in Boston. Real fans in Anaheim will read articles on The Hockey News just like fans in Calgary. The fans are no different in the Sun Belt than they are anywhere else in North America. The only difference is that there are more of them.
Again, that comes back to a cultural thing that is only built with time.
So when someone from a so-called “traditional” market starts bashing people from an “untraditional” market, it drives me nuts. I was born and raised in Southern California—does that make me a second-class hockey citizen simply because my birth certificate as issued in a warm weather climate?
When Canadians are spoon-fed their hockey news, Californians have to sift through the Lakers and Dodgers news for any nugget they can find. When people in Toronto are treated to Damian Cox’s daily opinion, Texans are ACTIVELY SEEKING any bit of puck news in the vast wasteland that is Cowboys football.
It’s hard work being a hockey fan in a “sunbelt” city. You have to WANT it. You won’t passively find a hockey score, you have to look for it. You have to be interested. When you walk into a sports bar, you might have to ask for the bartender to put the game on instead of assuming it will be on. You have to care.
At the end of the day, we’re all fans. We’re just different. Some fans play it from the time they can walk, others pick it up because a friend takes them to a game as an adult. Some know all about the next 16-year old OHL prospect, some couldn’t name a player on their favorite team from 5 years ago. But none of that matters. Being a hockey fan isn’t a competition. There are no fans that are better than another other fans. There are no good fans or bad fans—there are just hockey fans; and boorish windbags who try to find a comparison.
So when an ignorant columnist spews generalizations about a fanbase who is, by definition, forced to be dedicated, someone should call him on it. Even if he wasn’t born in the right place and by extension, has a fundamental lack of understanding of the hockey.