We’re not even 10 games in to the season and it seems as if a large portion of this fan base is full of rage. There are of course the level-headed fans (myself not included) who set the right expectations for themselves and the team going into this season, and are just enjoying the ride. Are they bound to join us eventually? Just a few more shifts spent entirely in the Sens’ end and we may see.
No matter how you’re dealing with the misfortunes of the past few games, one thing is for sure: the current pandemic has really altered what it means to be a sports fan. Everyone is happy to have hockey back, we’ve all missed it and we all need the distraction as trivial as it may be. However, a few games in we didn’t just realize that DJ Smith can’t coach in OT but maybe also that we have taken the little luxuries of being a sports fan for granted.
Remember the game night gatherings at your friend’s or family’s house? The excitement of collectively screaming at your TV screen both in anger and joy? The occasional time you invited a Leafs or Habs fan aboard and regretted it half a period into the game? Winning games meant the celebration lasted a few more hours and if it was the playoffs, maybe even head out to the streets; oh, our fond memories of Elgin STreet. A loss meant hours of analyzing the game angrily and discussing all the things we would’ve done differently because who are we kidding, we obviously know better than every NHL coach to ever exist.
Then there were those nights where we went out to a bar or restaurant to enjoy (or painfully swallow) a great meal while watching the game with 50+ strangers who all suddenly become your friends. The goal celebrations just as you put a bite in your mouth but you don’t care that you could choke because that Brady Tkachuk goal would be worth it all. If the team lost, then everyone around you would understand and somehow you felt consoled as you drowned your misery in a divine chocolate molten cake or just another drink.
Most of all, don’t we all miss the good ol’ trip to the Canadian Tire Centre? I think that’s what gets to me the most, the regret of not taking advantage of being able to go to games when I could. That excitement of game day was a whole other level when it meant I was actually going to the arena. I could barely focus on work all day, my hair had to be done a certain way, if I couldn’t get tickets in my favourite section (310 if you must know) I would be stressed all day that I jinxed them and of course the sacred chicken strips and fries game day meal. That meal that I have convinced myself for almost 10 years now is a must if I wanted the Sens to have any chance at a win.
Every trip to the arena held some of the same traditions like ice cold water in the washrooms, the Wi-Fi that only worked on special occasions, the overpriced cotton candy that I still bought every time, a Leafs fan present even if it wasn’t his team playing and of course the grand battle of the parking lot. Yes, I miss that parking lot. I miss complaining about it every single game, I miss how fun it was after wins especially playoff wins. What I would do for those victory honks ringing in my head for that entire night. Of course, post losses parking experiences were never fun but even those angry mutters and what seemed like 4 hours to get out of your spot are something I’d want to experience again. I draw the line at the ‘beat the traffic” folks though; that I’ll never miss.
Then come the memories, those times I met folks from Twitter and even made friends with complete strangers. Three hour best friends are a thing, and they are absolutely fantastic. I remember the JG Pageau chicken parmesan game from my perch at ice-level seats, that time in the infamous Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins when Bobby Ryan scored on a 5 on 3 after I made a random wager with Bruce Arthur on twitter when he mocked our power play (rightfully so I should add). I could never forget watching a Sens fan after one of those 2017 playoff games almost stepping in front of a taxi to give way to the crowds and then realizing it was none other than Brian Fraser; I still wish I had crossed that road and said hello. Each trip had a memory and each memory is now dearer to our hearts than ever before.
The past few years have been rough in Sens land but with everything going on now, I would do it all so differently. Yes, Eugene Melnyk still doesn’t deserve our financial support but right now, it all seems so irrelevant. Knowing now that it may be a long while before we get to comfortably sit next to other Sens fans at the arena again, was it worth missing out on all those arena experiences? As sports fans, I don’t think we ever realized how lucky and privileged we are, especially those of us who could actually attend games. Maybe it wasn’t actually “hockey” that we needed but that feeling that we belonged to something. That we had “our thing” to look forward to, to celebrate and to get angry about because it was a personal investment. Not the financial kind of investment, but the personal investment where a game can change our mood for days or where you identify with a certain trait because you’re a Sens fan and we all somehow fit our own mold just as every other fan base has their own identity.
Sports are a luxury, we always knew that, but I don’t think many of us realized how much sports were an outlet for us. We didn’t understand how one day we wouldn’t care that Mark Stone was traded and we would only long for one more chance to attend a game in our beloved arena that was truly in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t realize that those times we complained about the 40 minute drive, that one day we would be willing to drive for an hour just for a chance to leave the house and be among other fans.
This pandemic has affected so many people in the worst ways, people have lost lives, jobs and even their homes. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to sit back and still enjoy watching hockey games, we wonder how much of our daily life we had taken for granted before we were forced to isolate from everything that we ever associated with.
I don’t know when attending hockey games will be safe again and at this point, it should be at the very bottom of anyone’s list of priorities. However, when life is normal again (and it will be one day) will we be the same kind of sports fans?