Sunday, February 14, 2010

When It Comes To Pucks, Size Doesn't Matter

I have always found it difficult to understand how small town folks can be happy with their small town hockey. Sounds snobbish, doesn't it? Covering hockey in Binghamton for years then indulging my fandom with UHL, EPHL, ECHL, AHL, ELITE, those games in Switzerland and Islander hockey, I saw and appreciated the passion folks have for lower level pucks. I didn't understand it, but I definitely appreciated it. As my friend Andrea often says, "same religion, different church."

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 circles rings that has brought me to this conclusion.

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.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just like the New York Islanders are New York's team.

Those thousands of Islander fans at Nassau Coliseum West in Manhattan earlier this season taking over Msg make me so proud of our team.

Scotty Hockey said...

That's a good one Anon. Funnily enough, I met a girl at the Tips gmae who said she liked the Islanders - when I asked why, she said, "I donno, I like the orange? Why not?" And there was a guy walking around in a Billy Smith sweater that I managed not to yell at or hit. I was proud of me.

Amos said...

it's funny, when i was out in seattle visiting my brother last month, i went to my first WHL game as well, seattle thunderbirds vs kamloops blazers (i wanted to go check out silvertips vs chilliwack bruins to see roman horak play, but we couldn't get it together in time), and it was awesome. all these people supporting their team, even if the faces change every 4 years like a college sport... there was an atmosphere that I just don't see with a lot of NHL games. not just from the audience, but from the players, too. the players weren't playing for their next paycheck, they were playing for a possibility of getting to play hockey (which i would assume they love) professionally for the rest of their careers... that one extra goal, that extra bit of effort and hustle, you found it on every player on the ice, not just those wanting to stand out from those not doing their jobs... and the crowd was louder than any of the games i've been to at phillips arena (atlanta) in the last number of years (not counting playoffs). i wish there was junior league in the southeast...

Faraway Fan said...

OMG Scotty, who are you? You leave the city and write like that? I had to wipe a tear away. You're bipolar, aren't you?

Marty Aalto said...

your blog entry was posted on the Silvertips message board... good read
http://www.network54.com/Forum/285837/

Sasky Stewart said...

I'm an Australian who loves her hockey and completely agree with you. I love a lot of teams but the teams that will always be the closest to my heart is are my teams, the teams of my boys whether my home team back in the Australian Hockey League or the actual Silvertips (I'm their intern at the moment, and made a staring appearance during the Moose Jaw game as cupid running around the game Saturday) My towns, my boys, my team.

Pete said...

I've been to about 4 WBS Penguins games this year and I have to say that the fans love their team and are very serious, hard core fans. I mean, they aren't like the fans at the garden (what fan base is?), but they show up to games, they understand the game of hockey, and they support their team. I think having a mascot helps to a certain degree. Even when the team is stinking up the ice, you have this lovable character running around, and it's hard not to feed off of him.At the very least, he's good for a laugh. The thing I like the most about minor league hockey is the way the organization treats the fans. They are almost always giving something away, and I'm not talking about towels here. Jersey cards, pictures, bobble heads, snow globes. Tons of stuff that Dolan would charge you upwards of $20 for. The ticket price is right too. I sat in the 2nd row, center ice (their "club seats") for $25. Considering any number of these kids can wind up being next year's superstar, I think you get a lot for your money and for your fandom.

Michael said...

Thanks, good read. As a Silvertips season ticket holder, I gotta tell you I am enjoying this team and this level more than the NHL, and I have lived in original 6 cities (Boston, NY, Detroit), and also was a season ticket holder in Pittsburgh back in the old light blue days...

BTW, former Ranger prospect Ivan Baranka played here too.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.