by Clark Groome
When the second round of the NHL playoffs began 10 days ago, I got an email from son Rob, a lifelong Flyers fan whose 10-year-old son Tobey is an avid Los Angeles Kings devotee.
His email asked, “Who the hell do we root for in the Pens/Rangers series? It’s like rooting for Satan or Judas!”
My answer, somewhat modified for a family paper, was that I “haven’t a clue about the Pens/Rangers. Maybe NY because I like [Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist and [Rangers winger Martin] St. Louis. SH[OO]T MAN, I DON’T KNOW.”
Our to and fro-ing about the second round, with both agreeing we’d like the Kings to beat Anaheim and the Boston Bruins to top the Montreal Canadiens. Rob originally was rooting for the Minnesota Wild to upset the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, whom I rather like, until I noted that former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whom both of us found entertaining and inadequate, was now playing for the Wild. The result, he wrote, was “Now there are two damn series I’m stuck on … thanks for nothing!”
I imagine that many people who love hockey and whose favorite team is not still playing have had similar exchanges. My feeling – and this applies to all sports, not just hockey – is that if you really love a sport you look for reasons to keep watching even when your team is toast.
My criteria vary. I’m rooting for the Kings because my grandson loves them. Some might be because a large part of that team used to play for the Flyers – most notably Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Others will root against them for that very same reason.
Going to high school in Connecticut in the NHL’s Original Six period of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, I had a choice: Boston or New York. I chose the Bruins, learning early in life to dislike the Rangers, Yankees and Giants. I also root for the Bruins because my New England friends are passionate about them, and the son of one of my closest friends is Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s agent.
I admire the Blackhawks and their remarkable teamwork. I think Rob dislikes them because they beat the Flyers in 2010 and also because we share a bit of disdain for the cocky if talented Patrick Kane.
So there you go. Your grandkid likes one team so you join the bandwagon. Another team has an idiot as a goalkeeper so you pick its opponent.
Beyond all that, I generally tend to be a player-oriented fan for teams other than the hometown boys.
For instance: If the Habs were to beat the Bruins I would be disappointed that they lost but glad that former Flyer and all-around good guy Danny Briere was doing well.
The same thing applies to the Anaheim/LA series. I know that if the Kings lost I would be sorry and unhappy for Tobey. That said, it would be very hard not to feel some joy for Anaheim’s 43-year-old Teemu Selanne, one of the greatest and most respected players ever to don an NHL sweater.
He was the standout star of the Sochi Olympics’ hockey tournament, leading his Finnish team to a Bronze Medal and receiving a 10-minute standing ovation after that game was over from a crowd that was multi-national and included Russians whose teams the Finns had eliminated before entering the medal round.
If you love a sport my bet is that there will always be a reason to hop on another team’s wagon. The end result will be an extended season, even if the hometown team is no longer in the mix.