If you know me well, hockey has never been my thing. I’m a Clevelander. I live for the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians. I didn’t grow up with a hockey team. The Lumberjacks were fun, and I enjoy the Monsters, but I never really paid too much attention to either team.
This year, something changed. I started to notice more of my friends getting into hockey, and I decided it was time to make the jump.
Here’s the problem: Cleveland still doesn’t have an NHL team. For the first time in my life as a fan, I have no territorial allegiance so I have to hit the open market.
So I decided to lay down some ground rules to help me pick my new team. Some make sense, some don’t, but this is sports so rationality sometimes flies out the window. In short, this is how I met my hockey team.
Rule No. 1: The team has to be from America.
Why? I want to go see my team play, and I don’t have a passport. Also, my first experience with pro hockey came in the 2010 Winter Olympics, when Canadian Sidney Crosby put home a game-winner in the gold medal game. More on that later.
Eliminated: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Rule #2: The team needs to be from the Eastern Conference.
I live under four hours from Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh, all of whom play in the East. This opens up opportunities to see the team play when they visit (or actually play) in those cities.
Eliminated: Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Jose
Rule #3: The team cannot have played in the Stanley Cup in the last five years.
I really don’t like frontrunners. Ever. In any sport. I feel like five years buys me enough time to say I’m not jumping on the bandwagon. Disagree? I don’t care. These are my rules. And you’re probably a Pittsburgh fan.
Eliminated: Boston, Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Rule #4: The team cannot be in the bottom two of each division.
I’m from Cleveland. I have enough self-loathing.
Eliminated: Buffalo, Carolina, Florida, New York Islanders
Rule #5: The team would preferably have an American in a starring or supporting role.
It really sounds like I’m hating on Canada, but I’m just a stooge for national heroes. Sorry Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash and Steven Stamkos.
Eliminated: New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Washington
The winner: In what could be cruel irony, the Columbus Blue Jackets are my hockey team. With no predetermined bias, the team closest to me geographically is who I should support. Maybe sports allegiances really are genetic.
My future hockey hopes lie in the hands of Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johanson and Jack Johnson. It could be worse, I guess. I could be a Browns fan. Oh, wait.