I love, love, love living in a traditional hockey market. I love that most of Buffalo could identify any Sabre player they saw walking down the street in regular clothes. I love that there are so many Sabres blogs out there. Despite my complaints about aspects of their coverage, I love that when I pick up the Buffalo News or load their website, I'm bombarded with Sabres stories and commentary. But because I didn't grow up in a traditional hockey market, I remember what it's like to be a new fan. I remember what it's like to look at the ice and just see a swirl of activity, not being able to pick out defensemen from forwards, not understanding what anyone's role was, not knowing the difference between blue lines and red lines (other than, of course, the color). Some of you probably don't realize this because you've been watching hockey from the womb, but it takes some getting used to if you want to watch it in more than a casual way.
But, and I say this with love, traditional markets can be total assholes. Really, we can. Just because you don't need diagrams of the ice and the various positions on your team's website and announcements about offside calls and icing doesn't mean some of the rest of us don't. While I picked up a ton about hockey and how things work on the ice just by paying attention to Jim Lorentz during TV broadcasts - even now I really miss his simple, articulate analysis and break-downs of plays - I also read Hockey for Dummies from cover to cover. I've always thought that traditional markets indulge in a lot of double talk when it comes to non-traditional markets. If the fan base is unknowledgeable, they get lambasted. If they do things to educate themselves about the game, they also get lambasted. It's stupid. Every fan has to start somewhere and some of us start a lot later than others.
I've also always felt a little bad for fans in markets where attendance is poor and have been hesitant to be too critical. Come on, how much would it suck to be one of those fans? The fact that there are only 11,000 fans in the building doesn't make those 11,000 any less passionate than the fans in the sold out buildings in Toronto or Montreal. Heck, in some ways it might make them more passionate because they're swimming against the stream in a way that fans in traditional markets will never have to.
That said, this is ridiculous:
Click for larger image. It's worth it.
This is during the second period of the most recent Coyotes game. This is halfway through the game! Announced attendance was 6,706 according to Twitter but many people seem to think that was a generous number. That's TERRIBLE. Somewhere in that crowd there's probably a little girl in a Coyotes jersey and my heart really and truly breaks for that little girl potentially losing her team, but good grief, how in the world can the NHL justify keeping a franchise there? Why would they want to keep a franchise there? How awful would it be to grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL and then end up playing in front of crowds like that? My high school football team plays in front of bigger crowds than that many weeks. (Not an exaggeration.) Is it that bad to admit that hockey in Phoenix (and Atlanta) just isn't working? I don't see why it is. Does it matter how bad the arenas in Quebec and Winnipeg are if the arenas are going to be full of people? How is that not better than this?
Am I crazy? I wasn't a hockey fan when Winnipeg and Quebec lost their teams and when most of the sun belt expansion took place so maybe I'm missing something but man. That photo makes me sad.