Hating the Road, Love For Home: The Geographical Prejudice of Hockey.
Hockey (and all travelling sports) alters your geographical predispositions. That is, when you play hockey, you play in a lot of different cities and towns, multiple times over. When you play minor hockey, it’s more likely all the players on the opposing teams are actually from the city that is on their jersey. When you play junior, college, and pro, you get players brought in from all points of the globe, and it makes you question the notion of who the “home team” really is, if you put some thought into it.
Depending on the outcome of an away game, you immediately form unfair blanket opinions of the entire township and its residents upon the conclusion of the game; perhaps even upon entry into the arena. These are all loosely based on premature evaluations of the arena, team, and city. If it’s an old rink, you refer to it as a “barn” from then on. If it’s a small town, and their team is really bad, they become known as “bush-leaguers”, and their town could be any number of variations on the term “dump” or “hole”. The less enjoyable the game due to opposing cheap, dirty, chirpy, and general unsportsmanlike conduct, the more all these prejudices become amplified in a player’s mind. The most common phrase uttered in the dressing room after a road game, without a doubt is, “hurry up and pack your gear so we can get the **** outta here boys!” All further recollections on a city upon a visit will return to “that time we whooped those hack bush-leaguers in this dumpy little town,” or in the case that the results were not positive, something along the lines of, “I hate playing here because this place sucks and they beat the crap out of us.” And the spiral funnels downward…
On the flip side, playing hockey for a town builds an abnormal pride in a city that you have little to no connection with outside of hockey. Generally, the smaller the city you play for, the more you end up loving that place, and its people. I loved every minute of the time I played for Westside (population: 30,000), Creston (population: 5000), Caronport (village status, population: 1000), and Lyon (population: 5,000,000), and I wore their colors with pride.
So Beaver Valley, Columbia Valley, Castlegar, Golden, Enderby, Princeton, Spokane, Summerland, Osoyoos, Armstrong, Winfield, Lumby, Mission, Dawson Creek, Nakusp, Kitimat, Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Camrose, St. James, Cholet; I’m sure you all have good things to offer in your own unique ways, but I don’t like you for no good reasons other than the 20 some-odd players that have represented you on the ice over the years, and/or the few hours in and limited view I had of your town. Your fans may not have been very nice to us either. Also, you’re really far away from where I am, and I blame you for my hatred of long-distance driving. Kimberly; you beating us in game 7 will always sting. Kamloops; you smell. Merritt; your continued support of country music infuriates me. Dauphin, MB; I had to fight when I visited you. Revelstoke, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Sicamous; I hear good things about you from other people, but I’m still not sold. 100 Mile House, I don’t like you because you’re really, cruelly, cold. Don’t make me play games at 6am in the dead of winter, wearing my street clothes under my gear to keep warm next time. Hull, PQ; you were fun to visit actually, but your teams were way better than us. Terrace; you’re cool because I won a championship there. Mont Blanc, FR; it was fun being in the Alps. Vernon; you’re an exception, because you’re where I was born, and where I still have family. And as for Kelowna; well, I’ll tell people I’m from there for ease of geographic explanation (I also have claimed to be from Vancouver when abroad, for the same reason), but I’m Westside till I die.
I’m sure this sounds pretty messed up, and I’ll be the first to admit that it is. Am I sorry for all my prejudice? I probably should be, but I don’t know that I truthfully am. I do think the concept is skewed, but maybe I need some big redeeming moment in each town for me to warm up to them. That or, it may just be hopeless. Gooooo Grizzlies/Thundercats/Clippers!
**Discussion/comment provoking question**: Current or former athletes, what city did/do you hate playing in the most, and why?