Anyone that knows me on a personal level will tell you I have an undying passion for ice hockey. I grew up a hockey fan. My mom, my sister and I watched Gretzky retire when I was only 8 or 9, and cried the whole time. My golden birthday, when I turned 8, was the year I got my Federov jersey, and I wore it all the time, even though the hem brushed my knees.
I’ve always been a proud hockey fan. I’ve never hidden my love for it, and I’ve always stood by my teams, Pittsburgh and Detroit, even when I don’t appreciate the decisions they’re making. The Detroit Red Wings have been in the playoffs for 23 consecutive seasons, the longest run in professional sports. That’s something to be proud of, but they also have made many mistakes on the way. If their fans walked away from them when they had made those mistakes, would they have gone to the playoffs for all of these years? I doubt it.
This forces me to ask the question, why are Pittsburgh’s fans dropping their team at the first sign of trouble? The first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs should have been an easy task for the Penguins. Set up to play the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had never won a single playoff game in franchise history, this was supposed to be a simple move to round two. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Somehow, Columbus has tied the series 2-2. Each of the four games has had one team up 3-1, and then dropped the lead to allow the other team to win. Four times in a row. Pittsburgh, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Columbus. In that order. It’s been such a yo-yo of a series, and Pittsburgh is pissed.
Recently, defenseman Kris Letang returned to play, only 10 weeks after suffering a stroke. He is in his late 20s. It seems crazy to even be living a normal life after a stroke, much less playing professional hockey in the playoffs. With that said, Letang has had some struggles since he has returned. Coach Bylsma has moved him to the third line after he took two bad penalties early in the series. Some “fans” have taken to Twitter with some downright hurtful things to say about Letang’s playoff performance thus far. Some people have even gone so far as to say he should just “have another stroke.”
These fans are NOT fans. Pittsburgh has a huge fan base, with hockey, football, and baseball, and it seems like a lot of these fans need to evaluate themselves and realize that being a fan isn’t about winning. Being a fan is about supporting your team, and watching them succeed, and sometimes fail. When they do fail, a fan is to continue supporting their team and show up a little louder next time.
Being hateful is crossing the line. I love my team, I support them through the losses. I am not happy with all of the decisions they’ve made in the playoffs so far, but I will NEVER say such hateful things towards the team I love. That’s not about sports, that’s not what sports are about. I cannot imagine turning on my team every time they lose, and every time they make poor decisions.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been outstanding this season, with amazing saves I can’t even begin to describe. However, one mistake in game 4 against Columbus, and fans are giving up on him. He left his net in the final 30 seconds of the game, Penguins were up by 1, and he just had to keep the lead, and the Penguins would have won. He made a mistake in leaving his net, because the Blue Jackets scored on a wide open net, forcing overtime. His confidence was shaken, and they lost the game in overtime.
These mistakes aren’t the only things causing the Penguins to lose in games they should be winning, statistically they were 5-0 against Columbus in the regular season. These mistakes are the ones that are making fans rear their ugly heads and scream in anger at a team they should love and support.
The bottom line is this: camaraderie is supposed to carry you through the wins and the losses. That’s what sports are about, and that’s what the Playoffs are about. Every game, teams win and lose together.
Don’t abandon your team just “Because it’s the Cup.”