Zach Hamill dons an "A" this year.
There’s something of a given when you grow up a hockey fan in New England — you’re going to be a Boston Bruins fan. The Bruins are not just Boston’s team, or Massachusetts’ team. They belong to the entire six-state region — from the northern reaches of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, west to the New York border, south to the outskirts of The Big Apple. And even beyond, into the Canadian Maritimes (I was pleasantly reminded of the Bruins’ Canadian fan base during a visit to Nova Scotia not long ago)
There are also several American Hockey League teams in New England, which leaves the dyed-in-the-wool Bruins fan with an interesting dilemma: Who do you root for when the Providence (R.I.) Bruins play against your team?
For the record, New England-based AHL teams include the Portland Pirates (Sabres) in Maine, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Islanders) and Hartford Wolf Pack (Rangers) in Connecticut, the Manchester Monarchs (Kings) in New Hampshire, and the Worcester Sharks (Sharks) and Springfield Falcons (Blue Jackets) in Massachusetts.
So, do you root for the parent Bruins and hate on the Baby B’s? (As I saw one Worcester Sharks fan post on a Bruins forum?) Do you follow the Baby B’s, going to see them when they play your “hometown” team, and root for (or ignore) the local AHL squad at other times? Or do you believe, in the words of a man sitting behind me at a recent Springfield-Providence game, that when your hometown team plays the affliliate of your NHL team, it’s a “win-win” situation?
I have to admit I’m torn.
I actually used to be a fan of my hometown team, the Springfield Falcons, way back in the days when they were the Indians and fighting for (and winning) the Calder Cup. But that was when I was working days, had friends who were fellow fans, and could manage to make a lot of their games.
Now I work nights and weekends (and AHL teams play most of their games on weekends), and I won’t deny the fact that the recent years’ revolving door of parent clubs for Springfield (Tampa, Edmonton, now Columbus) has made for a less than enticing on-ice product. Also, for a variety of reasons (mostly job-releated), since the lockout I’ve been able to focus more attention on Boston and can now actually afford to attend a few games every season. Consequently, I’ve concentrated more on my Bruins fandom and let my Indians/Falcons interest fall by the wayside.
So last week, the Providence Bruins were in town for the Falcons’ home opener, and I requested the night off so I could go see my guys (the Baby Bruins, of course).
I had requested seats behind the visitors’ bench, but the ticket-seller got confused, I think, because I ended up behind the Springfield bench. Prime seats to witness the frustration as the Bruins leaped out to a 4-1 first-period lead, and there was plenty of door-slamming and glass-punching going on in front of me. And I actually started feeling a little sorry for the poor guys. (C’mon, number 21 — whatever your name is, hang in there… HEY, Max Sauve just scored again WOOOO!)
So it was funny. I’ve been watching the Baby Bruins, attending development camps, going to a rookie game this fall, checking their progress on line, but I could not stop myself from wanting the Falcons to do well. (For the record, Providence won 6-5. It was a very exciting game.)
I guess it all comes down to the fact that it’s hockey. And though I’m a passionate Bruins fan, I love hockey. The MassMutual Center was almost full, the place was rollicking, and people were excited. It was FUN. The Baby Blue Jackets made it fun. And I found myself wishing I didn’t work nights so I could go see them as much as possible. And maybe expand my fandom?
I think so. There’s always room in your heart for more love, right?
Photo: From providencebruins.com