Imagine you’re sitting in a sports lounge on a chilly evening in November 2008, kicking back a few and watching your beloved Rangers play on several big screens. The crowd is good and the bar food is shamefully delicious. Early in the game, fan favorite Brandon Dubinsky fights with seasoned enforcer Dan Carcillo, and to you notice a 20-something girl in business casual screaming at the TV for Dubinsky to show his displeasure with Carcillo – except a bit more explicitly. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
If you’re anything like the lovely middle aged gentleman sitting to the table next to me on that night, it’s a mixture of terror and intrigue. The typical response to a female hockey (or any sport, really) fan is an assumption that you know nothing of the sport, you’re only watching to be cute for your boyfriend, you’re only watching to attract a boyfriend, you think player X is cute, or you really are a fan and that’s weird cause you should be out shopping for cute outfits. You know, for your boyfriend. Or to attract a boyfriend. Or player X. So what the heck is this girl doing screaming at the TV, right? She must have a thing for Dubi, she couldn’t possibly be a passionate fan…
Don’t get me wrong, there definitely are hardcore ‘fan girls’ (affectionately known as puckbunnies, skate chasers, etc) that make this topic difficult to explain or defend. It’s easy to assume a group that makes up a small percentage of a fanbase could be lumped together. But everyone knows what happens when you assume, and quite honestly it makes even the NHL look silly. Would anyone really want their sister wearing this? Come on.
The real struggle comes in when you start to love a player – or players – the same way your male counterparts love them. God help you if you mention that physically gifted athletes have awesome bodies, and if you notice that they have a great smile, you’re doomed to puckbunny-ville and the population is not one you want to be near. It’s frustrating to say the least. Meanwhile, your bros are screaming “shoot” when the Blueshirts don’t even have the puck, but they know more than you cause they don’t think Lundqvist is beautiful (and by the way, he is. Male or female, gay or straight, this is a simple fact you cannot deny).
At the end of the day, we’re all here for the sport. It’s why I watch as many games as humanly possible, to watch the boys skate and shoot and hit and save and just be incredible athletes. People who know the sport best aren’t dictated by their gender, they’re dictated by their passion for it. Men and women who are addicted to the atmosphere at the arena, who bleed for the name on the front of the sweaters no matter what pretty/ugly/endearing face is wearing it. We should all probably try to remember this next time we see a girl in a pink jersey.
And don’t worry, boys – when you’re falling in love with Hilary Knight in Sochi next month, we won’t judge you. Well, not too harshly anyway.