Definitely accustomed to living in a home where sports rivalries often divide the ranks. In Chicago, you’re either a Cubs’ fan or a Sox’ fan. Pretty simple, because in the days before inter league baseball, the only time the two sets of fans faced off was the annual Cubs-Sox exhibition game… and, really, not that much to get excited about. Now, the Cubs playing the White Sox in the World Series would be a totally different matter, but (face it!) the odds of that happening are less than slim-to-none.
Migrating South to Atlanta brought new rivalries. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. UGA Bulldawgs. Georgia Tech vs. Duke. ACC vs. the SEC. NASCAR presented no problems—Dale Earnhardt, Sr., then Dale Jr. led the list of favored drivers. And we usually agreed on the drivers we despised. (Nope, not naming those guys.)
We also had the Braves, the Hawks, the Falcons, and the Flames/Thrashers to unite the household. And after too many years of saying, “Maybe next year” as a Cubs fan, the Braves of the ’70’s-’80’s’ felt natural, but the ’90’s-2000’s teams were like a gift from heaven. Sure made up for the never-ending heartache of being a Cubs fan.
Gotta just smile when folks complain that although the Braves won the division or NLCS for 15 consecutive seasons, they only captured one World Series title. Dangle that opportunity in front of a Cubs’ fan; they’d grab it in a Chicago Minute.
When hockey deserted Atlanta—for the second time—who’d have blamed us if we just abandoned the sport? Tried supporting the ECHL team, but the good players moved on (we hardly knew ya’), while those just not quite big enough, fast enough, or tough enough stayed on year after year. Entertaining, but not the NHL.
Thus began the quest for a New Favorite Team. Criteria was simple: Pick a team that under no circumstances would move its franchise; keep to the East Coast Time Zone, and absolutely do not pick Philadelphia—Flames fans still carry that grudge.
And so the quest began, along with a subscription to NHL Game Center and NBCSN. The process took a couple years, a few false starts, until the favorites slowly emerged and then solidified—the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. Both Original Six with a storied past—though admittedly the Habs occupy a different stratosphere with their glorious history.
The competition was amicable when the teams met—even had the opportunity to visit the Bell Centre to watch the Rangers take on the Habs (and win, 1-0). We pulled for both teams to make the playoffs, then progress to the inevitable confrontation for the conference finals. It would be a win-win proposition, we told each other—at least one of our teams would advance the Stanley Cup Final.
Be careful what you wish for.
Montreal vs. New York so far lives up to expectations, with the first three games tense, yet spirited. Carey Price left Game One with an aggravation of the knee injury suffered at the Olympics—perhaps an avoidable hit, but not necessarily an intentional one. The resident Habs’ fan was not happy—convinced the series was over after the Rangers won the first two games—without Carey Price in goal—in Montreal.
First mistake. Never feel bad for the other team’s fan. Don’t point out that the Canadiens’ history includes rookie goaltenders who have led the team to a Stanley Cup. Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy—Dryden thrown into the post season vs. Boston with a resume eerily similar to Dustin Tokarski’s.
Second Mistake. Do not help by providing a Lucky Hat or a Habs T-shirt. Sharing Rally Karma will bite back every time. Taking complete responsibility for Thursday’s OT victory over the Rangers. Don’t do any favors.
Detente fractured (literally) during Thursday’s Game Three. After a hotly contested cheap hit on Derek Stepan by Brandon Prust (fracturing his jaw and earning Prust a two-game suspension), the Red Line’s drawn. The gloves tossed. The trash talk begins. Ugly. Very very ugly.
Forecast for the remainder of the series predicts turbulent days ahead. But this Ranger fan has strategy in place—First and foremost, hide that Habs rally shirt and hat. Then it’s time to get out that bag of jinks and hexes.
Game 4 beckons.