We are simple people with simple dreams. It is with much sadness that we find ourselves feeling misunderstood about something we admitted the other day — that we have not yet annulled our playoff Tranny Marriage from last year. This has stirred up all kinds of negative sentiment in our comment threads here at IPB, and we spent not one but two intermissions at last night’s Devils/Senators game being berated by John F. for our confession that we have been enjoying watching the Flyers this season. As the aforementioned simple people, we are surprised to find that perhaps our belief in the necessity of Secondary Teams is not universally held. Let us explain.
First, we feel we should make clear what the average day of a Devils game is like in our lives:
5:30-6:00 p.m. – Arrive home from work. Tune television to NHL Network for the replay of “NHL Live”. Putter about, doing chores, making dinner, and inhaling dinner.
6:30 p.m. – Change channel to Devils pregame show.
7:00 p.m. – Watch Devils game with undivided attention while blogging it.
9:30 p.m. – Watch Devils postgame show, while blogging less furiously and working on various needle-and-thread handicrafts.
10:00 p.m. – After Devils postgame show, change channel to the most interesting hockey game elsewhere on Center Ice. Stitch while watching hockey and chatting with friends online.
1:00 a.m. – Turn TV off and go to bed.
And this is what an average day looks like at stately IPB Manor without a Devils game (yes, we are very happening people):
5:30-6:00 p.m. – Arrive home from work. Tune television to NHL Network for the replay of “NHL Live”. Putter about, doing chores, making a more involved dinner.
7:00 p.m. – Peruse the game options on Center Ice and find the most interesting early game in the lineup.
7:30 p.m. – Eat dinner while watching whatever game we have settled on.
8:00 p.m. – Settle with various needle-and-thread handicrafts in front of the TV, while watching whatever game has been settled on and chatting with friends online.
10:00 p.m. – Now that the early games have ended, change channel to the most interesting hockey game elsewhere on Center Ice. Stitch while watching hockey and chatting with friends online.
1:00 a.m. – Turn TV off and go to bed.
We did the math, Gentle Reader. In any given hockey season, we’re looking at about six months worth of two games a night. And, of course, in any given hockey season, we’re only going to get 82 Devils games. That leaves well over 200 games that we will watch that do not feature the Devils. Even we, the Negative Nellie’s Negative Nellies , can’t watch over 200 hockey games that don’t feature the Devils without finding something positive about the other teams we’re watching.
Our first season as fans those other 200 games seemed like an unfathomably wonderful gift from the Hockey Gods and we lapped up as many as we could; in the process we discovered the ’95-’96 Hartford Whalers. We were attracted to them above all the other non-Devils teams because of several reasons:
1. They were fun and spunky; i.e. they offered a different brand of hockey than the Devils
2. They had an interesting, foxy young player in Brendan Shananan
3. They had good announcers in John Forslund and a Pre-Myth-To-Buy-Into Darryl Reaugh
4. Brendan Shanahan and Nelson Emerson charmed us in their goofy trivia segments on NHLPA’s “Be A Player”
Then Shanahan demanded a trade, we discovered the ’95-’96 Red Wings and Avs played better hockey (we’re not too proud to bandwagon), and as a result, the ’96-’97 Whalers fell by the wayside as a secondary team. We’ve had other notable flings throughout the years. The ’98-’99 Predators, ’05-’06 Canes, the ’06-’07 Sabres, and now, the ’08-’09 Flyers . They all follow the same pattern as the Whalers — inherently, enjoyably different from the Devils, with interesting and exciting young players (The expansion Predators’ cast of interchangeably spunky Scott Walker types, Carolina’s Staal, Buffalo’s Miller, Philly’s Richards and Carter), good announcers (or, in the case of the Flyers, hysterically funny announcers and good HDTV feeds) and, for the most part, goofy off-ice content (“Ask the Canes”, the Sabres podcast, the Flyers dedication to timely post-game video on their website). These things are appealing and, with the exception of good announcers, they aren’t things we’re guaranteed to get as Devils fans.
But that’s just the thing. We’re Devils fans. Fans of the Devils organization. Not the ’08-’09 Devils, or the ’99-’00 Devils, or the ’02-’03 Devils — just the Devils. No matter how non-fun and non-spunky the team is, no matter how few interesting, foxy young players they have, no matter how little extra content they provide, they’re our team. There was one year where we decided that we were Devils fans and Devils fans alone. You know what happened after that year? We’d spent so many months feeling so joyless about the downward spiral of the Stevens Concussion Era Devils that we were happy there was a lock-out. Happy. For the lock-out. Clearly, this is not good for our psyches. We get far too emotionally tied up in wins and loses and it’s just not healthy. Some of that emotional distress can be diffused if we can find happiness in those four little things that made the ’95-’96 Whalers special.
But we’re never going to be fans of the organizations of the secondary teams. They’re called secondary teams for a reason. If Mike Richards turns out to be a punk, and Jeff Carter comes back to Earth, we reserve the right to transfer the title of Tranny Brides to Zdeno Chara’s and Milan Lucic’s Boston Bruins. If Chara turns out to be a witch and Lucic a monster, we reserve the right to start TiVoing … well, whomsoever we wish! Isn’t that the point of spending all that money on Center Ice? Isn’t that the point of being a hockey fan?
And that’s what we are, Gentle Reader. We’re Devils fans first, but next? We’re hockey fans.
Moreover, we’re hockey fans with the ability to approach the many facets of rivalries, over-hyped players and teams, underdogs, overdogs, and living jokes with a high degree of flexibility. At this time last year, one glimpse of Flyers orange was enough to make us throw up on the ground while the Penguins seemed like a spunky rag-tag group led by the highly compelling Sid Crosby. You know what? Things change. And who knows where we’ll be a few months from now. That’s the joy of the Secondary Team. They’re just about fun, and they’re easily disposed of. The only constant in the landscape of our hockey fandom is the Devils. And hating the Rangers. The rest — those other 200 games — follows the whims of the moment. Since our definition of being a fan is that it’s about enjoying following a sport, that’s really all we want from it.