I'd say my interest in hockey doesn't really follow the path of most fans. For starters, I never played organized hockey. The first time I ever played with equipment, I was 19. I can remember playing shinny on local rinks, but I can also remember always being among the worst players among my friends. As a child, I played soccer and softball, as well as curling one winter. And though all of those were fun, for some reason, I followed hockey far more than any other sport.
As I've said a couple times on this blog, I was born in 1991, and can't remember a time without an Ottawa-based hockey team. We first moved to Ottawa in '93, and as long as I can remember, the local team was my team. I would watch hockey on TV at home. I was probably 8 or 9 before I figured out that CBC showed things besides kids shows and hockey. Probably part of my interest came from my friends at school, many of whom played hockey. To fit in, you at least had to be able to talk about it. And except for a handful of mocked Maple Leafs Fans, we were all Senators fans. A couple of years, I got a calendar for Christmas of the stars of the NHL, and I remember flipping through to try to find the handful of Ottawa Senators who made the cut. I would play NHL 99 and try to win the Stanley Cup as my beloved Senators. My early hockey memories are of a child who didn't play organized hockey, but tried to find about any other way possible to enjoy it.
I was a little young to be devastated by Yashin. I remember him coming back though and wondering why people would still boo him after he came back to the team. I loved Ron Tugnutt because I had this strange interest in goalies (my favourite non-Ottawa player was Patrick Roy), and I remember being quite upset when he was traded. He'd just come off the season of his life, and I knew Ottawa had made a mistake. Thankfully, the next season came along, and I could latch on to a rookie who amazed me with his skill: Martin Havlat. To this day, I have a bit of a soft spot for him.
One of my favourite Sens memories is of the Cup run of 2007. I remember watching Alfie score in OT, allowing the Sens to beat the Sabres and make it to the Cup finals. I went with my mom and sister to the tulip festival that evening, and it seemed that one out of every three cars that drove by was honking its horn. The city just seemed to come alive. And I can remember the devastation when the Sens couldn't pull it all together, and succumbed to the Ducks. Through high school, I think I became closer friends with people who really understood hockey, and for the first time, I would get together with friends to watch a game.
I think my fandom reached a different point when I moved to Waterloo for University. Suddenly, I was surrounded by Leafs fans, and suddenly I had to stand up for my team. Under hostility, your fandom can either flourish or flounder, and mine definitely became stronger. In the fall of 2010, I discovered Silver Seven Sens, because Ottawa was playing so poorly and (for a month, anyway) the Leafs were doing much better. It was great to have a site where people shared in my worry about the impending collapse. The site had some great humour, but it also inspired me to learn things about the prospects and about advanced stats. I felt like my NHL knowledge was growing significantly. And it just turned into more pride for the Sens.
I bought my first jersey when I had a coop term back in Ottawa. I was suddenly making a bit of money, and turned it into tickets to three games and a real Alfie jersey. It was electrifying. I also made sure to deck out my (parents') car in Sens flags come playoff time. I always thought that Ottawa had an inferiority complex in hating the Leafs, while most Torontonians didn't care. I quickly found out I was dead wrong. The number of honks, boos, and middle fingers I received while driving that vehicle through Toronto was impressive.
My story's pretty simple: I cheered for my hometown team, and as I left the home, my appreciation just became more pronounced. And hey, now I get to write stuff about it for people like you, which is a pretty great and unexpected turn of events.
If you haven't shared yet, we'd love to hear your story in the comments below!