No Words

Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
24 days ago
Are you not entertained?
It took me about two minutes after the game ended Friday night to start getting nervous for Monday and by the time the puck drops in Sunrise I will be a puddle …
In all of the years that I have been writing online, I have often referenced Nick Hornby’s amazing book Fever Pitch, which is about his life as a fan of Arsenal. If you have the time and you are a reader give it a look, it does not matter if you are a soccer fan or not because it is not his descriptions of the games that matter but his thoughts on what it means to be a fan of a club and to live and die with that club.
There is no rhyme or reason to being a fan for some people. For most, it is a matter of cheering for their hometown team or they are fans of a certain player or it is passed down from one generation to the next. My old man grew up in the Northern Ontario bush back when there were six teams in the NHL. As the oldest of six, he got first dibs (each sibling picked their own team, I don’t think it was something they were told to do, it was just organic). Dad picked Chicago because he was a fan of Max Bentley … I don’t think he ever saw Bentley play, even on TV, they only listened to the games on the radio … but in the crackling fading in and out description of a small, speedy and cerebral centre Dad saw himself and so he hooked his wagon to a team that would win two Cups before he even knew what the NHL was and then one more between when he was the ages of six and 78.
I became a Chicago fan like my old man (ha! I bet you oldtimers who know me did not know that). My favourite player was the great Stan Mikita … when I coached my son’s team in his last two years of hockey, we had a skills competition called The Stan Mikita Cup where event winners won amazing Stan Mikita swag. I cheered for the Hawks for thirty years as Bill Wirtz slowly but surely destroyed the franchise. I loved the ’80s Oilers for their flair and style and then became a fan of an aw-shucks kid from Alberta who scored a pile of goals from two feet out … one night in the late ’90s I was watching Ryan Smyth’s Oilers play the Hawks and realized that I was cheering for Edmonton and that was that … I had become an Oilers’ fan, thanks to the worst owner in sports and a team of underdog youngsters who always fell short against the big boys but never due to lack of effort.
And my son … well he came of age just when the Hawks were taking off after old Wirtz died and Bob Pulford was removed from any semblance of power over anything. (the famous Pulford story and a good clue as to why the Hawks were so terrible for the decades that he handled the levers of power over hockey operations … seeing an admittedly overweight Dustin Byfuglien sweat his way through his first pro camp, Pulford sneered that he was the second worst pick in club history. The worst pick according to him? Some guy named Duncan Keith).
Anyhow the boy followed in his Grandpa’s footsteps and threw his lot in with an up-and-coming talent-laden group and by the time he was ten he had watched three Cup wins. He is the smart one in the family for sure.
My weirdest “why are you a fan of a certain team” story … I knew a guy in school who was a St. Louis Blues fan because his favourite player got traded there … that player … Inge Hammerstrom.
Monday night we will gather in bars or with friends in our homes or we will watch alone and we will suffer or we will celebrate. We will prepare by eating or drinking something we had before game four and then again before Game 5 and 6 once we identified that we influenced the final result with our actions. We will sit where we sat for each game, insist on the same friends coming over, and wear whatever we wore for each win. (You laugh but ask Joe Sakic how they won the gold in 2002 and he will certainly say that it was because of how Pat McLean prepared for each game and specifically how and where he and his dog sat to watch it. You’re welcome Canada!)
Hornby became a fan of Arsenal around the age of 10 or so if I recall correctly and the club was mediocre for years, dull and plodding and whenever they happened to rise to an opportunity they would invariably fail and usually in the worst way, torturing their long-suffering fans.
And when they finally win for the first time when he is a fan (the Gunners ended up becoming hugely successful for many years, winning all kinds of trophies), he described the feeling as something unlike anything in the world. And of course, there is nothing like it. There are greater moments in your life than your team winning of course but there is literally nothing like it. You are sharing the experience with thousands upon thousands of people for one but it is still a highly personal event … Hornby describes it as orgasmic … but a climax that has been building for, in this case, 34 years. For many of you, this has been something that you have been waiting for all of your life and something that you may never see again …
An event like no other.
Let’s go you Oilers!
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