Originally published, The Hockey Writers March 23, 2012
As the regular season wanes for the Calgary Flames, and a four game win-less streak makes the playoff picture slightly faded, Flames fans have something to consider.
If their Flaming C doesn’t see post-season play, who else do they cheer for? What kind of fan do they want to be April to June, sans squad?
For Canadian hockey fans, this is question that isn’t easily answered. They are really passionate about hockey, and therefore, equally fervent about the team they support. For many Canadians, cold winter nights are spent in front of the television set, living and dying with their team of choice.
(Unless of course you grew up in Vancouver, which might be a reason why the Canucks fan base is notoriously inconsistent, but that’s another topic altogether)
If you are an unlucky supporter of a club below 8th place after 82, on either side of the 49thparallel, deciding who to cheer for in the post-season has a number of challenges and creates a handful of personas.
As I have been part of this group many times over in my hockey loving life, I am intimately familiar with the variety and will do my best to share a few.
This unfortunate dude spends the entire playoffs talking about how his team almost made it in. To make it worse, he then compares the playoff performances of other teams to his own, in hypothetical situations. Finally, Extreme Denial Guy will ruin playoff game watching by making reference to his team’s players by their nicknames, (while they play golf), during the play between two completely different teams.
This behavior comes about after a few years of missing the post-season. Commonly, The Hater will develop a chagrin towards a division or classic rival. Particularly if that rival is a threat for Lord Stanley. As a modern example and in the case of Flames fans, that anger is usually directed towards the Canucks. The Extreme Hater will even go so far as to cheer openly for team playing his hated rival.
This is a special breed of hockey fan. This turncoat actually pretends to be a hater but secretly cheers for the rival team. If The Sympathizer comes out in the open, she’ll claim that she, ‘just likes so-so because he’s from her hometown’, or, ‘she respects the way he plays.’ The Extreme Sympathizer may even support a legendary rival. Such as when Flames fans cheered for the Oilers in ’06. In this case, it was because the Oilers are ‘a Canadian team.’
The Bandwagon Baby
You can’t really hold anything against this guy. He’s just looking for someone to cheer for. So he chooses the favourite, the team that rolls through the first two rounds. Every player on his chosen team turns into a hero, cruising through D with supreme skills or warding off the opponent with exceptional defensive ability. The Extreme Bandwagon Baby might even drop some coin on an authentic garment or two. Just to feel a part of it.
We’ve all done it. Maybe not in hockey, but in at least one pro team sport. Example question: “Are you a Habs fan?” Answer: “Yeah man, I mean the Flames are my fav, but I’ve been cheering for the Habs since I was a kid too.” No he hasn’t. In this hypothetical situation, he starts dropping players nicknames and fist pumping after goals. The Extreme Faker even knows a few legendary stats like, ‘24 cups’ or ‘Jacques Plante’.
This is the most hapless of all fans who miss their home team. The Newbie, not unlike The Bandwagon Baby, just wants to get in the game. So she tells everyone that she misses her team, but is all for one team or another. The difference between her and the Bandwagon’er is that she usually chooses a sentimental favourite, maybe Gramps favourite squad or something. The Extreme Newbie will buy an Authentic Replica Jersey, at full retail price.
Before I get a handful of angry, insecure tweets because I’ve exposed you, I’ll say this: I’ve been all of these fans in one way or another. The beauty about the game of hockey is that it breeds great fans, passionate fans, emotional fans. The Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t just a long tournament, it’s a war. Winning that war isn’t just the greatest accomplishment possible for the team, but the sweetest ecstasy for the fans.
What Flames fans wouldn’t give for that ecstasy. Unfortunately, they may not get a chance this season.