OK, hockey fans, listen up. There is good sports intolerance and bad sports intolerance, and I am sick and tired of bandwagon Pittsburgh fans overstepping their bounds in this respect, because it has gone too far. This column cites a disturbing event in the hopes of preventing it from happening again.
I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh, and after the Penguins played, I went to play some pool. I happened to be wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey, because despite what many may believe, I can’t wear a Pens jersey for EVERY game. I have to diversify, or I’d never go through the collection.
Two girls, obvious bandwagoners who had never seen a hockey game before Sidney Crosby came to the Steel City, began harassing me about my jersey.
Then I got upset.
These girls had crossed the line of sports intolerance. There is a fantastic list of Jersey Fouls which serves as a bible for jersey wearers posted by the Post Gazette some time ago.
Google “Jersey Fouls Bill of Rights” from December of 2008, read it, and commit it to gospel. Then come back here.
Done? OK. Let’s continue.
The relevant point of that article is the part where the wearers of defunct franchises are in “jersey asylum.” Translation: Don’t bash jerseys of franchises that are gone!
Really, what good comes of that? Can you make a Hartford Whalers fan feel any worse? Why make a Quebec Nordiques fan cry more? Must you rub salt in the wound of a Phoenix Coyotes fan?
Sorry, I’m a bit premature on that last one (but it’s OK! That team still exists! You can make fun of them!)
Make fun of the 29 NHL teams that are not your own all you want. I encourage it! Even if it is against my beloved Penguins, it is at least a franchise that is still very much alive!
But to kick a fan when they’re already obviously down?
Can there be any lower shot in sports? Truly, there cannot be.
The fans of franchises that have moved, even for those places that have gotten a team back (most obviously Colorado, Minnesota, Atlanta), have suffered a loss greater than the fans of any other team.
Yes, even Sabres fans.
Beyond that, what threat do those teams still have against our
teams? When is the last time your team played the Minnesota North Stars? Go ahead, look that stat up, it won’t be changing any time soon.
If you feel you must poke a little fun (rivalries do run deep), do it in jest. Share a laugh to ease the pain of a teamless fan.
Talk about how Whalers fans are still waiting for their home opener during what they’ve termed ‘a long off-season’.
Share a laugh about the Quebec Nordiques logo that was unveiled but thankfully never worn (but don’t mention the franchise winning the Cup the year after moving 1,996 miles to Denver in 1996, that’s just mean).
Make fun of Wayne Gretzky with a Winnipeg Jets fan (they still hate him in Manitoba!).
Recall, ‘those years where high school hockey was really popular’ with a fan of the Minnesota North Stars. Poke at Canada stealing a team from the United States with an Atlanta Flames fan.
Chuckle at Cleveland’s valiant two-year effort with the Cleveland Barons, and just laugh at the absurdity of anyone being a fan of the California Golden Seals.
We, as fans of existing NHL teams, must take fans of defunct teams under our wings, to nurture and rehabilitate them to accept a new team to root for. Do not tease, razz, hate on, or make fun of a fan of a team that no longer exists.
That little bit of empathy goes a long way.