Friday, May 16, 2008

Out For the Season

note: a modified version of this column will appear in the Prize Day Edition of the Kent News

The NHL is dead to me. It is done, as far as I am concerned. I am vaguely aware that the season is still going on, but it may as well be over for all I care. The Sharks have been eliminated, and with them, my interest for the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. I am a 2008 Playoffs widower.
Many fans have little or no problem picking up another team once theirs has been eliminated from the playoffs, continuing to care about a race from which their horse has withdrawn. This has lead to the wide spread obnoxious trend of Canadians moving from team to team in the playoffs, in vein hope that the Cup can return to its homeland. While many Montréalers are perfectly willing to exchange Kovalev for Iginla if their Habs fall, and many Leafs fans don’t think twice about rooting for the Canucks if Toronto fails to make the playoffs, I can’t do the same. I could never adopt the Kings for a playoff run because they share a home state with the Sharks, let alone the hated Ducks (Leafs fans do, to their credit, largely refuse to support the Senators, even if they are the last team standing north of the border). I will never trade my Michalek jersey for a Modano one, in hopes that the Cup can stay in the Pacific Division. People aren’t less of fans for picking up a new team, it just doesn’t seem right to me.
When I root for a team, I have one gear. I go all out. I put the pedal to the medal. I engage in one more cliché involving a wall which is inappropriate for this family publication. That is simply impossible over the course of two weeks, a month, or however long the season continues after one’s team is sent to the links. I didn’t trek an hour to Joe Louis arena about forty times in fifth grade or make a point of going every year even if I am only home for two months during the season and it is a 12 hour drive, I don’t know who the Wings best players played junior hockey for or follow their top draft picks through juniors and college before they sign with the big club. But I did go to the Shark Tank, then and now, I know that Joe Thornton played for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and Patrick Marleau played for the Seattle Thunderbirds, and I make a point of checking the Ottawa 67s website every week or so to check up on Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn. I can’t simply forget all of this, just because the Wings are still playing and the Sharks are not, tempting as it may be.
While rooting for any other team is somewhat perplexing to me, switching to a team in the same division is unforgivable (although I may be willing to make an exception in Laura Conrad’s case, she claims to be a Kings fan who was rooting for the Ducks because they made the playoffs, but is getting a pass because she is a blonde California girl who has a blog on You have spent all season hating these teams, taking pleasure in their pain, pain in their pleasure. Switching on a dime and rooting for these teams should be perfectly easy and acceptable only if you list your historical heroes as Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, and Brutus.
It may be a step up from pulling for a division foe morally, but even harder for me would to be to root for a team that has eliminated your own. For six games, the Dallas Stars were Al Queda, anything they did wrong brought me pleasure. For the past two weeks I called Niklas Hagman inappropriate names for cherry picking to get his second goal with an empty net. I was devastated to learn that Sergei Zubov, a man I have never met with whom I probably share many interests and ideals, had made a full recovery from his injury and was going to be able to play. I sent text messages to friends asking why TSN had a broadcast team that appeared to be Stars owner Tom Hicks and Mike Modano’s father for game six. By the time a combination of luck, bad officiating and Marty Turco lifted the Stars over the Sharks in an epic four overtime battle, I was beyond the point where rooting for Dallas was even comprehensible, let alone a possibility. And yet some Ranger fans will inevitably adopt the Penguins, just like some Sharks fans will inevitably adopt the Stars, something I will never understand.
Naturally, this state of hockey viduity can be difficult. I still enjoy watching the games, but as hard as it may be, I just can’t bring myself to care. It just wouldn’t feel right. I will watch only because I enjoy watching hockey, the outcome will be a moot point. As far as my emotions are concerned, the offseason has begun.

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