NHL Hockey: A New Fan’s Guide to Picking your Team
I have a certain amount of envy towards you, the new hockey fan not living in North America. You are the unspoiled virgin of hockey observers. Innocent. Pure. You probably don’t know many of the second-tier players in the league, or even the names of all 30 teams, how cute! You are one of the lucky ones.
Does it sound like I’m being condescending? Well it should, because I’m a Toronto Maples Leafs fan, an original six franchise and financial powerhouse of the league. And unfortunately for me, despite not being born here, I landed in this market five years ago and surrendered myself to Leaf Nation. I’ve signed the papers, I’ve sang the anthem, and I’ve put my hand on my heart and swore to the gospel according to Burkey. It’s too late for me. Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.
But you! There’s hope for you. Maybe you’re living in Europe without a real clue of where to look when it comes to hockey. Perhaps you’re on these isles and have the NHL on your doorstep, but are not ready to tie yourself to the local franchise just yet. Or maybe you just haven’t found “The One” and just want to coalesce with Sydney one night, Ovi the next, and maybe have a three-way with Toewes and Kane in Chi-town the night after, only to leave before they finish the third period (we’re still talking about hockey, right?)
Well allow me to help you with your decision! Below is an idiot’s guide on how to pick your NHL team, written by an idiot, for idiots. Please enjoy.
THE ORIGINAL SIX
A term used to describe the first six founding teams of the NHL. Fans of these teams have appear to have an inflated sense of importance in the grand scheme of the league, and also have inflated historical cup victories due to the fact that they had limited competition back in the day. Those six are:
1) New York Rangers
Reigning Stanley Cup finalists. Currently, a relatively likeable team with a good coach and a sexy Swedish goaltender who radiates class, both in front of net and in front of the camera. Old-style jersey gives them a classic look that’s hard not to like, but of course it’s New York so they’re going to grab some headlines even when they don’t deserve it.
Likeability Grade: B
2) Boston Bruins
Aka the Big Bad Bruins. Boston are an unapologetic bunch of thugs who are well organized and have a lot of very good players, but perhaps no “star power”. Success is almost guaranteed if you support the Bruins, but you will also potentially be lumped in with the stereotypical “Mass-hole” crowd normally associated with sports teams from this region. If you don’t care what other people think and respect well-run, solid hockey teams, this is for you.
Likeability Grade: C minus
3) Chicago Blackhawks
Perhaps the closest thing to a modern-day dynasty in the making. Two cups in four years, and could have made it back-to-back this season but for being thwarted by their dynasty-rival LA Kings. Similar to the Bruins when it comes to how right their front office has been, but with a bit more star-power. Potential to be seen as a band-wagon jumper if you follow, but there will be still plenty of success to look forward to in the future even after two cups in the bag.
Likeability Grade: A
4) Montreal Canadiens
Somewhat a black-sheep of the league, Montreal is the team with the most decorated history, and perhaps the most rabid fan base. On the ice, they are a couple of years in to a resurgence and have potential to be cup contenders over the coming years. A few troublesome players make them a little hard to warm to. The whole francophone thing may or may not be your cup of tea. I wish I moved to Montreal.
Likeability Grade: B
5) Toronto Maple Leafs
Financial powerhouse, most historically mismanaged team in the league, and a beleaguered fan base that are unable to afford to attend the games due to the corporate monster that is this franchise. Few redeeming qualities except for the fact that you may be able to get on at the ground floor of a team that be starting to show signs of figuring it out, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you like to know pain, here’s your team.
Likeability Grade: F
6) Detroit Red Wings
Detroit’s plucky underdog story continues despite their twenty-plus year streak of making the post-season. Former superpowers who are beginning to show signs of waning, this team has a culture most franchises would kill for. Hitching to this wagon may not look smart in five years time, but Hockey Town has been through worse. Datsyuk alone can be worth the price of admission.
Likeability Grade: A minus.
Tune in over the coming week for more.