Now, sitting on an Amtrak train on my way to the Olympics, I think I finally get it: sure the NHL is the NHL, but these hometown teams are theirs. Just as we feel a New York pride when we pull on the Blueshirt to root on the boys, they feel the same love for their team - simply because it is theirs. The team represents their town and they want it to do well. Yes, there is something bigger and better out there but that is out there; this team is here and its ours.
It is a strange feeling to be sure but one I am certainly confronted with as I head to watch the best of the best, while the Rangers are back in New York, about to face off against Tampa. Sure I will root for Team USA, but my emotions will rise and fall based upon the text messages I get over the next few hours. Because that quaint little team in my home town will be playing and that team is mine. Sure there is something bigger and better out there, but the Rangers are mine.
As I've mentioned in the past, I love Olympic hockey and was lucky enough to be in Salt Lake for the entire '02 Games (and was even inside the E Center for the Gold Medal game). So it can't be the five
I think it was the WHL game I went to last night between the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Silvertips in Everett. Played in a wonderful 8,000 or so seat facility, the game was quite exciting with the Tips prevailing 5-1. There were just over six thousand fans in the building but if you closed your eyes, you would have thought there was over 10.
They were loud, proud and passionate. It was not unlike the Bern/Ranger game in Switzerland last year with flags and noisemakers but these folks knew their hockey. Where the Swiss just seemed to be happy to have something to do no matter the outcome, these people were diehards. And the trippy thing? From my understanding, Everett was never a hockey town until the Silvertips came to town seven years back. But over that span the townfolk learned the game and embraced it.
Looking around the pro shop for my traditional puck (every new city, gotta get a puck), I was startled to see a bunch of Phoenix Coyotes sweaters. 'What in the holy hell are those doing in here?!?' ran through my mind until I pulled one off the rack: it was Peter Mueller #88. Mueller, aside from being the target of dozens of trade rumours to New York, was one of the first, best graduates of the Everett program.
Sure Mueller was born in Minnesota, but he was a Everett product - he was one of their boys. And they will root him on and follow him in the show but, at the same time, there is a new bunch of kids wearing the green and white and they are the focus now.
We will root for the Ranger Olympians (and pray that they don't get hurt) while they play in the Olympics but if they win or they lose, we won't lose any sleep over it. And that's ok; the Rangers are our team, just as the Silvertips are Everett's.
Just for perspective purposes (timing and quality), this post was written earlier today while I was stuck on a train full of screaming, whining, crying children.