Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Which Hockey Team to Cheer?

Minnesota Wild
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

NHL preseason has started and the regular season is a mere three weeks away.  Last season I became a full on hockey supporter after seeing games in 10 hockey arenas and a wild post season which saw me regret caving in to common sense and not spending $700 to witness the final game of the Stanley Cup finals. That was last season though. Now is time for the new season. Already on the docket are trips to Dallas, Miami and Tampa with possible trips to Calgary, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Buffalo, Quebec, Ottawa and Boston in the planning stages. With the excitement of the new season in the air, I still have one major issue to contend with before October 8 rolls around. Which team do I cheer for this season? 

See, when I became a fan of hockey, I became a fan of the sport and not a specific team. Last season was about the thrill of experiencing hockey as a sport with no emotional attachment to any particular team or player. This season, I would like to change that and have a team to get behind and be devastated when they don’t win the Cup. The problem is how do I choose a team? What qualities do I look for in a team and why am I putting more of an effort into picking a team than I put into finding a job or a potential romantic partner? 

In realty, the main selling point is location, location, location. If that were the same with choosing a sports team, then the two logical choices would be either the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks. I will most likely go to a few home games for both teams however I don’t know if they are the perfect fit for me. First off, the Kings won the Stanley Cup last season. If I were to become a Kings fan now, I would have the stigma of becoming a bandwagon fan and I don’t want that. Maybe that’s really not a big deal, but I’d rather watch a team become good rather than start at the top and have nowhere to go but down. 

More sharks!
After attending four Ducks games last season, I do enjoy the team. As an LA KISS season ticket holder, I am very familiar with the confines of the Honda Center and it would make a little bit of sense to pair up two teams in the same location for my fandom. Again though, the Ducks have been really good the last few seasons. I think I want more of an underdog team. 

Not an underdog team by any stretch of the imagination is the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve unofficially been a Penguins fans for 20-years so logically if I’m getting serious about hockey fandom this is the team I should root for, right? I mean the Penguins are the only NHL team of which I own a jersey. So why not root for them? I don’t have a good reason. Before we jump the gun and just go with the Penguins, lets keep looking at other teams. 

The Blues
While I currently live in Los Angeles, I am originally from Illinois. Going back to location as a determining factor, either the Chicago Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues deserve consideration for my support. Well, I am a fan of nothing Chicago related so that eliminates the Blackhawks. Most of my friends who are hockey fans and don’t cheer the Blackhawks cheer for the Blues. It would make some sense to cheer along for the Blues so we can bond over wins and share in the agony of defeats. Lets put the Blues in for possible consideration. 

Out of the ten arenas I visited last season, the two that really stood out as great atmosphere, great fans and good teams were San Jose and Minnesota. As I mentioned in my initial blog about becoming a hockey fan, the game in San Jose was like a religious experience. Plus, SJ Sharkie is one of the greatest mascots. San Jose is technically close enough to hit up a game or two during the regular season so that makes them a strong contender. 

Snoopy is Wild!
Minnesota on the other hand is the team I saw play the most times last season.  Pretty sure that’s a correct stat. Minnesota had the best pregame introduction of all the playoff games I saw in person. The fans were loyal and friendly, welcoming a newbie or couldn’t name one player on the team. So I’ll give them points for that. 

As far as players go, after witnessing his treatment by the hometown New York Rangers fans, I declared Brian Boyle to be the best player in the league. Now that Boyle has moved south to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team I’ll see in person in November, I would be remised if I didn’t toss them into consideration. 

Since I didn’t have an official NHL team to cheer for last season, I started a collection of minor league hockey jerseys. I chose the jersey primarily because of the logo. Using this logic for NHL teams, this adds, Ottawa, Florida, Winnipeg and Nashville to the list of potential teams. 

After what I’ve just written and talked through, there are nine teams up for consideration. I’ll throw in one random team to make it an even ten teams. 

Pittsburgh Penguins
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Minnesota Wild
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ottawa Senators
Florida Panthers
Winnipeg Jets
Nashville Predators
Carolina Hurricanes

Okay, this is where you come in to play. I’ve listed ten teams. I will let the readers decide which team shall become my team. Either leave comments on our Facebook page or tweet responses to either @my123cents or @chadsmart. I will announce the winner on October 1.

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