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Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Which I Pick A Hockey Team

It's time for me to pick a hockey team to follow.

I say this because usually I would start following basketball in passing around this time of year, even though I hate basketball. It just gives me someone to root for, while not necessarily caring about the sport. However, since the Bucks are frequently terrible with no hope to ever do anything worth paying attention to, it's time to focus my efforts elsewhere.

Plus, hockey has the best trophy in all of professional sports. The Lombardi Trophy is nice, but it doesn't come close to the Stanley Cup in terms of history. Hockey's also got the coolest game (pun not intended) in the Winter Classic and an awesomely rugged history.


I've always had a passing (hah!) interest in hockey, but it's difficult to follow here without any pro team in Wisconsin. Here's what baffles me:

Fact: Wisconsin is practically a solid sheet of ice for nine months out of the year.

Fact: The University of Wisconsin has one of the best hockey programs in the country.

Fact: People here actually like hockey.

Fact: There is no professional hockey team in Wisconsin (aside from the Milwaukee Admirals, who don't really count).

Fact: There are, however, hockey teams in Phoenix and San Jose, places where ice does not naturally exist unless it is in the form of a margarita, which naturally form in the Great Margarita Springs nearby Alamogordo, New Mexico. Alamogordo's slogan: "Our name means 'Fat Alamo!'"

So, yeah, Tampa Bay has a hockey team and they don't want it. Wisconsin has no hockey team and we could support it. Figure that out.

So I'd like to pick a hockey team to follow, but I have to set some ground rules first.
  1. No warm-weather teams. If there is no time during the year that you can play hockey outdoors in your city, then you shouldn't have a team. That leaves out Phoenix, Anaheim, Tampa, Carolina, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, Nashville, and "Florida," wherever that is.
  2. Not the Blackhawks. I know it's the closest team to where I live, but I hate Chicago teams on principle. It's a Wisconsin thing.
  3. I'm not going to follow a team that's currently great. I don't want to be a frontrunner or bandwagon fan. Picking a team just because they're good isn't what being a fan is about. You have to suffer through some losses before you can really call yourself a fan. That leaves out Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit and New Jersey (due to their run in the 90's).
With that in mind, here's what's left:

New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals
Winnipeg Jets
Columbus Blue Jackets
St. Louis Blues
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Minnesota Wild
Vancouver Canucks

Let's narrow that down. First, I can't root for a New York team. As much as I like the city itself, rooting for a New York sports team when you don't live there is like rooting for the house at a casino. I don't want to root for the Capitals, since there's something about Ovechkin I don't like. I don't even know the guy and have never seen a picture of him, and yet he annoys me for some undetermined reason.

Ohio sucks, so no Blue Jackets. I don't like the St. Louis Cardinals, so I can't in good conscience root for the Blues. The Avalanche are out too because I hate the whole "Hey, our name is singular even though it should be plural" thing. That rules out the Minnesota Wild, too. Seriously, what is a "Wild?" Can an abstract concept even be a team name? I'm going to name any sports team I buy "The Existential Ennui." Make a logo for that.

That leaves us with:

Philadelphia Flyers
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs
Winnipeg Jets
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Vancouver Canucks

Look at that, mostly Canadian teams. Since Wisconsin shares a border with Canada, we've always felt somewhat close to America's Hat. In many ways, due to our relative isolation, we share lots of similarities to Canada, like winter sports, lumberjacks, maple syrup and goofy accents.

Anyway, let's go further. We'll say no to the Flyers, because Philly fans suck. I'm cutting out the Canadiens and the Canucks because I'm not Canadian. It would be like a Canadian fan rooting for a team called "The Scooter-Riding Overeaters" or "The People Who Infest Walmart." It's same reason I'll eliminate the Leafs, besides its odd grammatical pluralization.

That leaves us with:

Buffalo Sabres
Ottawa Senators
Winnipeg Jets
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers

All right, crunch time. We'll make some tough decisions here.

The Sabres have only been in the Finals twice, which certainly qualifies for the "don't pick a winner" stipulation. However, they've only been around since 1970. It would be like trying to pick a football team and ending up with the Seahawks. I'm looking for a little more tradition here. Sorry, Buffalo.

The Senators have an odd history. The original incarnation that lasted until the 30's had 11 Stanley Cup wins but folded due to financial problems. They were revived in the 1990's as an expansion team. We'll put a pin in this one, just because of the old-time history.

The Jets have a fractured history as well, but all of the team's history has stayed with the Phoenix Coyotes. It's kind of like the Frankenstein Cleveland Browns in the NFL, and I'm not sure I like that. Plus, their original incarnation (that recently moved from Atlanta) was only around starting in the 70's. I'll pass.

The Flames aren't consistent frontrunners. They've won only one Stanley Cup in their history. I even like the name "Calgary." However, the Oilers had Wayne Gretsky in the 80's. Dang. This is a tough call.

So we're down to three teams: The Senators, the Flames and the Oilers. I'm going to have to go with my gut on this one.

Calgary Flames? You have a new fan. Congratulations, I'm sure you're very proud.