Hockey fans from all over the world are all special in their own way. They all have interesting backgrounds, rituals, points of views and a ton of other amazing traits. The common theme between people is always hockey and being a fan of the sport. No matter the fanbase, there is no difference in anyone’s fanbase as a whole. I think too many people limit themselves on meeting people and getting to know all sides of the spectrum just because they don’t follow the same team, even worse for rival teams. Through social media, I have gained a ton of great perspectives on both good fans and bad fans.
Respect is the #1 key to all good fans. They understand the perspective and accept people for who they are. Fans are born from 3 elements. Geographical, following someone bringing them into the game (parental figure, significant other, peers, etc.), or coming across it and picking it up on their own. It really makes no difference how it happened or how long they have been following the sport. Respecting people for who they are as people and not judging them because of the team they follow is the greatest perspective a sports fan can have.
Understanding that a few isolated bad fans do not represent thousands of people is a huge component of fan perspective. Too many people know 2-3, about 10 or have had a bad experience in dealing with a fan base or arena and automatically assume that the entire fan base is bad people. That is about as short-sighted as you can get. Let’s face it, every fanbase has good people and bad people in it. As a Rangers fan, I have met bad Rangers fans and great Penguins, Islanders, Flyers fans to name a few. Sure, you have differences of opinions, rooting interests and points of views. At the end of the day, being a part of any fanbase does not define any one person. The personality trait of the individuals is what defines people.
People who can be genuinely happy for other people when their respective team does well is a great strength. Hockey itself has the handshake line. Professionals do it at the end of playoff series and a lot of other leagues do it after every game. Every fanbase has great people in it. Ones that are overjoyed with the successes of their team. Not every fan can find any kind of satisfaction for others when the opposing team beats their team or a rival goes on to great success. I even struggle with it when teams eliminate my team from the playoffs. At the end of the day though, I can find some satisfaction in knowing that other people I know and know of are happy.
Some of the best fans you will ever met are the road fans. It’s an instinct of most people to automatically hate a person for being in the opposing team’s gear. Booing, insults, jeering and all the rest. The fans that can take all of that in and have fun with it are the best and often have the best stories. Ever wonder how opposing fans even end up in these visiting arenas? Winnipeg Jets fans at a Tampa Bay Lightning game, New York Rangers fans in Calgary, Los Angeles Kings fans in Toronto, the list goes on and on. These fans come from all over to make these games. Some travel just for the game, some already live there and are transplants from those opposing cities, and some just attached themselves to that team because of a player or set of players. Whatever the case, they all have interesting stories. Meeting people who follow the same team you do at your home arena is amazing and a lot of fun. Meeting opposing fans is a different kind of fun and interesting element.
The other side of the coin is the bad fans. The rude, the brash, the ones that come in like they run the place whether you are at home or on the road. Zero respect for anything or anyone that is different than them in any way, even in their own fanbase at times. Totally speaks to who they are as individuals and not who they represent as a fanbase. Some misconceptions skew people’s perceptions.
Fans who follow teams who have just won Championships or have had a good string of success get the worst labels. Some Penguins and Blackhawks fans of this era are the best examples of this. Good fans are labeled as cocky over jealousy and just genuinely being happy for their teams. Other fans of these fanbases think that because they follow the team that won, they are so much smarter as hockey fans than everyone else. It’s a poor perspective to have. Just because a St. Louis Blues fan, Washington Capitals fan or any other person follows a team that has not won a Cup, it doesn’t make their opinions on hockey any less valued than anyone else. The perception that a fan of a team that has not won a championship is less valued than someone who follows a team with one or many championships is wrong on so many levels. Cups vs. no Cups debate between teams are one thing, fans of either team have no control over any outcomes. There are no differences between any fan bases. Nothing. Every fan base has great people, rotten people and everything in between. The measure of a franchise’s success does not define or diminish any one person.
Fans who resort to personal attacks are the worst sports fans out there. Nothing says you lost a sports debate like judging someone’s appearance, gender, race, religion or anything of that nature to counter their argument. So much respect is lost from people who do that and feel the need to berate people just to support themselves. The amount of food a fan eats does not help or hurt a team winning. A woman fan’s opinion is not any different from a man’s opinion. Race has no barring on people’s views of any hockey play or team. People are people at the end of the day and the ones who cross the line have no respect and do not show any intelligence to prove their point of view. Some people even argue within their own fanbase because they are too rotten to know anyone else from any other fanbases and need to have conflict and drama. These are just isolated bad people.
Some fans use a team’s attendance throughout the season against other fans. Makes no sense to me how die-hard fans need to deal with this as a debatable topic to defend their own fanhood. You can’t judge people from a fanbase that has poor attendance as being bad fans. Every team’s situations are different, but there are die hard fans in every fanbase. No one person can control thousands of people. Everyone just does what they can. I know plenty of diehards that are single mothers or father’s with children, couples with one or many children, people with low paying jobs and hundreds of other instances. Does not change how big or small a fan of a team is. There is no definition of a “true fan.” Some people throw that term around too loosely. Being judgmental towards people’s situations to judge them as bad fans is wrong. Some people like the views better on TV and stay home, some people don’t have the money to go to games or buy merchandise or memorabilia for their teams, as much as they want to. Some fans enjoy measuring contests to put other fans down. It does not validate anyone as a person.
Great people or bad people are not defined by the teams they follow or who they represent. Great people can be found all over the world through sports, specifically hockey in this case. The basics of all great sports fans are all relative. Loyalty, determination, passion, compassion, fiery, ambitious and so much more. That can all be found in a person whether you are from New York, Texas, Philadelphia, Quebec, California, Nashville and so on. Having that perspective and understanding is invaluable. It has taught me so much about not only other team’s cultures, points of views and rituals but also about how people are all over North America, and the rest of the world in some cases. I have learned so much from so many people because I respect who they are as people. Sure, in the 1940’s people would have fist fights over some of the things covered in this piece and some people won’t get it. With the way, the game of hockey has changed, with the way the sports world, in general, has changed, and the world as a whole has changed through the eras, it’s time to change with the times. If you do not share a lot of these beliefs and you are just “my team is great and everyone else sucks,” you are limiting yourself. Great people are found everywhere, no matter the logo on their chest.