Many of you who already know me, know at least these two things…
One – That I am a diehard Sharks fan…and,
Two – That I am not from California.
Now while these are two things I embrace about myself (possibly more than anything else) I have to say, the further I find myself sinking into full-on hockey fanhood, I’m recognizing a feeling I haven’t felt before…(in regard to hockey anyway)
Guilt…yes guilt. This could be my Italian Catholic upbringing talking, but allow me to explain…
Twenty-four years of my life, I went about doing my thing…day to day without ever thinking about a puck, a faceoff, a blue line, a blocker or heck, even a hockey player (save that year in high school when I was crushing something fierce on one of the guys on our hockey team…and I attended a couple of games at The Rinx)
I mean, I had grown up on Eastern Long Island (way out there) so I definitely knew who the Rangers were…and I definitely knew that the Islanders sucked…but it was all simply because I heard it all from other people. No one in my family has probably even mentioned the word “hockey” or “goalie” in their lives (until recently because I force-feed them now) but I was ok with it, because I didn’t know or understand what I was missing.
I was aware of the rivalry. The infamous battle of NY versus Long Island. I witnessed it amongst fellow students growing up, amongst family friends and on tv…but I wasn’t a part of it, and frankly didn’t care.
Twenty-four years of not caring ended on January 5th, 2008…and it was then that I realized, all at once, what I had been missing for all of those twenty-four years. But the saddest (or greatest) part of it all, is that I realized it 3,000 miles too late.
This is where the guilt rears its ugly head.
I soon became so engrossed and taken with the Sharks that I started to doubt that my life could ever be without hockey again! How did I carry on for twenty-four years without it?! The bug bit me, and I liked it. I liked it very much.
Then something happened during the playoffs last season…I watched a Rangers game.
And I liked it.
I soon started following the Rangers and researching the team and even (to many Long Islanders’ disapproval) rooting for them.
Even everyone’s favorite chirping machine, Sean Avery started growing on me…(I know, I know)
They say there’s nothing stronger than New York pride, and you better believe I finally started to understand what that meant.
I then started looking at the Islanders…which is where the real feelings of guilt come in.
Here is this team who, quite frankly to the majority of hockey fans, sucks…but I started looking deeper into their talent, and not only did I really begin to respect this team, but it hit me, this is my hometown team. Is this who I should have been rooting for all these years? And when I watch an Isles game on tv it really tugs at my heart strings to see the Coliseum so empty…should I be sitting there, cheering for these guys? In a way, I felt like a traitor.
But then I thought about it…and I still think about it…most people just find it funny that I got into hockey in California of all places, but obviously something bigger has brought me to the Bay Area. (no, I don’t mean an A320) I couldn’t tell you what that is…because I still don’t know. Would I have ever even given hockey a second thought if I had never left NY? Maybe not. I do know, I probably would never have had the chance to experience all that I have and meet the people I have met and done the things that I have done if I had stayed on Long Island, content with my hockey-less life.
So, was I born to be a Sharks fan? It sure feels that way. When I look onto the ice as my guys skate out for the first time each night, in some silly way it feels like family…and when I look around at all the 17,500 familiar faces in the immense crowd surrounding the ice, I feel like I am home.