Image Credit: Photo of author, retrieved October 4th, 2020.
Professional hockey has been a staple of American and Canadian culture since the early 1900s, and has expanded into a global audience a little over a century after its inception. Although I was born in 1996, I didn't become a hockey fan until the spring of 2010. The reason for that, my parents are not exactly hockey fans, especially my mom. However, my hockey fandom was influenced by those around me when I was in junior high school. As I have previously mentioned, I wasn't such a big hockey fan until I was thirteen- almost fourteen years old. I knew the original six teams were (the) Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. Myself, I am a Leafs fan (#standwitness). But, that was not always the case for me. When I first started watching hockey in 2010, it was during the second round playoff series between the (Montreal) Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins. Two friends of mine, whom were in my eighth grade class were devoted Canadiens fans. In terms of my friends being Canadiens fans, this of course influenced their decision to try and convert me to their fan base since they knew I wasn't necessarily a hockey fan. Later that day, I decided that I was going to be a hockey fan. My friends were always talking about it, and I felt left out of the conversation in that sense. Nevertheless, I went home after school and prepared myself to become a Montreal Canadiens fan. However, that's not what happened. Instead, my perspective changed during the game. But why? Well, I didn't like the idea of being forced to follow a team I did not possess a natural fandom for. Instead, I became a Pittsburgh Penguins fan until I was about seventeen.
Becoming a Hockey Fan:
An interesting part of my first "real" experience with hockey is that it went beyond watching professional hockey on television. I grew up in the Goulds, a small town which is considered a major neighborhood of the St. John's metropolitan area. Much like other small towns, the Goulds prioritizes sports and community itself. When I was fourteen in 2010 I met Bryan Tobin for the first time, also a life-long fan of the "least boring sport" drawing from his own words. Tobin and I have been friends for ten years so I asked him a few days ago when and how he became a fan of hockey:
I became a Detroit fan during the Avs/ Wings playoff rivalry just because of the intensity and the names playing. I became a hockey fan more or less due to my family being involved in it. Dad was a coach, two brothers played it and one was a referee, and still is. My friends played it so it just kinda became "join us now" or "join us later", either way you'll drink the Gatorade. (September 25, 2020)
Readers can check out Bryan's radio show and podcast at www.tobintonight.com, and the show is also available on Spotify, IHeartRadio, SoundCloud, and YouTube.
In terms of Tobin's comments on how he became a fan of hockey itself, that draws almost entirely from experience. Interestingly, I first met Bryan because of the sport we both love. In 2010 I was leaving the Goulds arena after watching one of the last games of the minor hockey season. After the game concluded (I don't even remember who won), I joined my friend and went to his house to play basketball, which is another sport I have been a fan of since 2017. On the way to my friend's house, Tobin was taking practice shots on a hockey net in front of his house. In fairness, he remembers this story better than I do because he's five years older than me. According to his memory of the event, I asked him "Where did you get the hat?" which contained the Goulds Pacers logo, the minor hockey team associated with the small town of the same name. Tobin proceeded to tell me he bought it at the arena. Consequently, this made me realize there was much more to being a fan than just watching hockey on television. Being a hockey fan provided its own cultural experiences, and its own cultural significance.
Finding my Place as a Fan:
While my fandom of hockey continued, I spent significant amounts of time playing ball hockey with friends, playing the annual NHL video games, and regularly attending minor hockey games in my home town. Although I did not become a Toronto Maple Leafs fan until I was about sixteen or seventeen, I always cared about the team. However, I was a devoted Pittsburgh Penguins fan until I decided there might be more "cultural significance" if I was a fan of one of the original six teams that started the sport many love today. In May of 2013, I attended what was one of the final St. Kevin's Mavericks (high school hockey team) games for over a year, and our team won. It was such an amazing experience. Although I had been to an IceCaps game that same year (former American Hockey League team in St. John's), this high school game proved to be more significant because of #community. Having previously mentioned this earlier, the issue of community is something which remains really important in small town culture. With respect to what happened during this May, 2013 game, I was able to experience a "hat trick" in person. Moreover, a "hat trick" is considered a rare and impressive achievement within a single hockey game. The whole idea is that a player scores three goals in a single game, it's called a hat trick. In terms of hockey culture, fans have been known to throw their physical hats onto the ice which results in a delay of game. Furthermore, it's not hard to understand why coaches and referees are angered by the cultural act of throwing hats onto the ice. When the team captain scored a third goal for St. Kevin's, the place erupted. I remember most of the fans sitting on the bleachers (myself included) proceeded to throw our hats onto the ice. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a delay of game and coaches were not impressed by our actions. Nevertheless, I truly became a hockey fan in 2013.
I am a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and that is not going to change. However, since 2019 I have also become a fan of the Nashville Predators. In general, I am a hockey fan and the sport has helped me and many others when it returned to television in August, 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you for reading this article, and thank you for checking out our website. Furthermore, I would also like to thank Bryan Tobin for contributing to this article.
(c) The Modernist Son, 2020