So What’s Wrong With ‘Bandwagon’ Fans in the NHL?


Last season I was volunteering for a NHL team’s charity, selling 50/50 raffle tickets during a big game. It was pretty fun. You get to know that you’re helping out a good cause and let me tell you, I can sell baby! The big perk was that while our ‘jackpot’ was being counted, we got to watch the third period in club level seats. I overheard one of the foundation’s managers commenting about the relatively full house on that Friday night. “Yeah, now that we’re making the playoffs we have all these bandwagon fans showing up!”. I turned around and, admittedly rather rudely, replied “Would you rather the building was half empty like every other year?”

Here’s the thing- I get being proud of your team, and having been a fan for a long time. It shows that you’re dedicated, committed to a team through thick and thin. But I don’t see how it makes you a better fan than someone who just got involved with a team as it was doing well.

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I may be somewhat sensitive to this because when I became a hockey fan, and a Red Wings fan at that, it was the spring of 2002. The fact that I became a fan right around the time of arguably one of the greatest teams of all time was pure coincidence. I sat down with my dad as he watched a regular season game against the Stars and decided that hockey was going to be my thing, and I’ve slowly gotten more into the sport ever since.

I’ve learned a lot from my dad as a hockey fan, but it doesn’t make me superior to anyone that’s a first-generation fan. I’ve known a lot of people who have gotten into hockey as a result of family members, friends, significant others. I’ve even met someone who first started following the sport because she idolized Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother and wanted to emulate her. These people all have a different perspective to bring and they’re interesting to me. Most of all, they’re fun to talk to! I love meeting other hockey fans and getting their opinions and perspective on things. Don’t you? Meeting another hockey fan is like a secret handshake. A special unspoken bond between two people who isn’t shared by fans of other sports. So shouldn’t more fans be a good thing?

It’s understandable that some people get irritated sitting near a fan that isn’t that interested in the sport, or the stereotypical ‘puck bunny’ we always hear about (not to be confused with a fan that happens to be female and finds a player attractive, but simply someone who’s primary interest in the sport is sexual attraction). And while I get that a non-fan can be annoying, some people lose their minds being around someone who may not be familiar with icing or every aspect of a team’s history. This is a feeling I’ve never been able to understand.

The thing about not understanding every rule perfectly is that literally every hockey fan was there at some point (Yes, even you!). So rather than look down on someone for not totally getting what icing means at their first time at a game, why not explain it to them concisely? Why not make a welcoming environment for new people instead of an atmosphere of elitism? Sure, you rooted for this team when they sucked, and you were there from when they drafted first overall. Would you like a medal? Does that somehow mean you’re special? And most importantly, should the sport be limited to only those who learned the rules of hockey in vitro like you, or is hockey supposed to be for everyone?

Maybe it’s a matter of having lived in a few different places and experiencing hockey fandom in a couple different regions. Or maybe as I’m getting older I just don’t have the time and energy for it. But I honestly don’t understand why someone would dedicate any effort whatsoever to worrying about how someone else enjoys the sport, much less if they started to get involved when the team was becoming more popular.  Some people enjoy the sport differently from others, and shocking as that may be, there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether they were a season ticket holder since day one, or didn’t give the local team the time of day until they started getting increased media coverage, what difference does it honestly make? Sports are supposed to be fun, and for me sharing that experience with other people multiplies the fun. I know some people aren’t fans of people, and that’s fine. But does lording one’s hockey fandom over a relatively new fan increase your fun? Or is it an attempt to make someone feel more secure, or like his or her years of suffering through tougher times with the team meant something more?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. If you disagree with me and have disdain for younger, less experienced ‘bandwagon fans’, tell me why in the comments below. I’m genuinely trying to understand.