At the risk of coming off as a pretentious snob, I thought I’d offer up this guide to being a great hockey fan. This is not just for casual fans either, some hardcore fans could use a primer too. As always, this is just one guys opinion – but he’s a pretty smart guy!
Here we go:
1. Don’t care about who is captain.
There are few things in the world less important than who the captain of a hockey team is. Leadership is a thing which cannot be quantified or measured, so it’s really pointless to have a strong opinion about something that probably has a much smaller effect on the game than you think. Furthermore, if you’ve never been in the dressing room or interacted privately with the team, you cannot possibly know who is a good leader and who is not. The discussion of leadership is an entirely made-up thing used by people just to have something to talk about. You can be better than that.
2. Buy a Jersey. Don’t put your own name on it.
Every hockey fan should have a jersey, even if it’s a knockoff that’s made by Robok. Still, whether or not you can afford the real thing there is one unbreakable rule: Do not under any circumstances put your own name on it. I once saw a guy at a Leaf’s game with S. Lafleur on the name plate, which is nearly unforgivable. Even if you don’t share a last name with your team’s best player, keep your own name off your jersey.
You should also only buy jerseys of established players. You always see guys try to get on the bandwagon early with a newly acquired or drafted player, but it’s too risky. Even today, you still see the odd Lonny Bohonos or Fredrik Sjostrum jersey when you go to Leafs games.
3. Don’t complain about advanced stats.
If you care enough to complain, care enough to do some reading. Most of the so called “Advanced Stats” are little more than counting stats and require less than ten minutes to learn about. If you feel you can argue about the NHL with your friends, you can take an hour to learn about Corsi, Fenwick and Zone Starts.
But remember, stats don’t tell the whole story. Numbers can be twisted to say almost anything you want them to. Context is hugely important, as is the potential and skill of a player to improve on the past.
4. Don’t get caught up in group think – be nuanced.
Dion Phaneuf sucks, apparently. Say something enough times and its bound to seem true, but remember, the way these things get started is through internet comment boards and call in radio shows. Dion Phaneuf is actually quite a great player and you can tell if someone knows anything about hockey based on what they think of him.
Remember, there are very few all or nothing arguments to be made. Most things fall somewhere in the middle. If you hear something you disagree with, try to do a little research and see what people who get paid enough to watch hockey full time think.
5. Learn from people, don’t hold fast to your opinions.
Changing your mind is not a weakness, it’s personal growth. Sure, maybe you’re on record as saying something crazy, but you can still step back from it. Remember, you’re more likely to use what you see to confirm what you already think, so take the time to read a scouting report, go over the advanced stats, ask an expert etc.
Remember, the smartest man to ever have lived, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said that “Foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of the mind.”
6. If you have ticket access, pass em around.
Most people who’d like to attend games (like me) can’t afford to. If you live in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Boston, or Chicago, this can be especially hard. I could afford to attend Panthers games, but I don’t live in Florida.
And, if you do happen to have tickets, make sure you’re in your seat when the game is going on and not in the private lounge like some corporate stooge who doesn’t deserve his platinum tickets.
7. If you do go to a game, don’t sit down, and be as loud as you can. Embrace heckling.
Those people who give you dirty looks for being an excitable, possibly insane fan? They don’t matter. You’re a real fan and they are not. Sure, if you act this way on their home turf – like at a bank or an office – then they have cause to hate you. However, the hockey arena is your habitat and you can act as loco as you want – just keep it clean (ish).
8. If you get a puck, pass it to a kid.
You’re a grown man! Sure, souvenirs are nice, but if you get a puck, you give it to the closest kid in your section. If there are no kids, then you can keep it.
9. Don’t call into AM radio and be the crazy guy.
Just don’t do it. This goes for everything and not just hockey. The radio is not the place to express your nuanced, educated opinions. Also, take everything you hear from someone who calls into Leafs Talk as a joke and you’re blood pressure will return to it’s normal rate in no time.
10. Embrace Fighting.
Fighting is one of the best parts of hockey. If you don’t like fighting, you’re into the wrong sport. Also, don’t be embarrassed about loving fighting, its an important part of the game and it’s fun as hell to watch. On a related note, if you don’t like Don Cherry, you’re not a real fan either.
11. Don’t Boo Gary Bettman.
Yeah, it’s hilarious that he gets booed, but he’s been the head of the NHL for over 20 years and the game has never been better, stronger, more accessible, popular, or played in more places where talk of “snow” requires an explanation of what “snow” is. Sure, he’s the corporate fat-cat we all love to hate, but he’s a pretty good guy with a great sense of humor. Plus, he didn’t cause the lockouts – the owners did.
12. If you have the money, buy some beers for people at the game.
The beers are jacked up to a crazy price that should probably be illegal, but a lot of us have to pawn family heirlooms just to attend, so if $14 dollar beers aren’t a problem for you, spread the love.
13. Stay off your cell phone.
When the TV cameras catch you at a sporting event looking at your phone, you look like the biggest jerk in the world. Have some respect. Cell phones at hockey games (or restaurants or concerts for that matter) are looked down upon by anyone who deserves their ticket. You can be better than this.
14. If you know a guy who is a huge hockey fan, don’t blurt out the score like a jerk – he probably taped it and wants to watch the game later.
This is a nearly unforgivable faux pas. Not all of us can get the kids to bed by 7PM, so make sure not to send any text messages like “Did you see that goal?” or “Oh My God I Hate This Team” until the next day.
15. If you go to someone’s house to watch the game, bring your own beers and don’t take your loose beers with you when you leave, it’s bad form.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but apparently I do.
16. Cheer for the team in relation to how much you really care.
Nothing is worse then your buddies new girlfriend who yells at the TV and cheers really loudly, but then calls a goal “a score.” If you don’t care too much about the game, we don’t mind, but we hate posers.
17. Don’t be the guy who hates Sidney Crosby.
Sidney Crosby is objectively the best player in the world, and hating him is like hating the Beatles. It just makes you look petty and uniformed. The only exception to this rule is if you’re a Flyers fan.
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.