Don’t you want me to wake up? Then give me just a bit of your time…
Mississauga and St. Catharines, ON It has only been a few hours since the curtains closed on the Niagara IceDogs 2010-11 OHL season, and I feel like I’ve been jolted by a sudden electric dose of reality. To me, my affair with the IceDogs has felt a bit like an intermission from my real life. What started off as me trying to kill time with some hockey games turned out to be a lot more than that, as I sorted out my life in the wake of Korea.
When I got myself banned from the Asian country I had been calling home since last May, I arrived back in the land of pucks and Tim Bits “half dead” as my mother keeps telling me. My health was the worst it has ever been in my life. I had all the warning signs of cancer, and who knows what else was wrong with me. I had gone through a lot of mental and emotional anguish while I was away as well, and as much as these past five months have helped me to move on, I still remember that I was in a very bad place before I finally boarded my plane to come home. And let’s not forget that my hair was also ORANGE!
I hadn’t been home for two weeks before I was off on my first NHL road trip to New York. I think I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted to be the Psycho Lady that I hope you had missed while I had my romance with the mysterious East, and hockey took a back seat for the first time in my life since, well, I’m not sure – the 90’s, probably! I had already been to a Leafs home game, but in NYC, as I attempted, once again, to rejoin the Phoenix Coyotes on the path of our love/hate relationship since 2009, I realized that the Psycho hockey lifestyle as I knew it just wasn’t fun anymore.
I tried again in Minnesota. I rang in the New Year all alone in my St. Paul hotel room on my first night in town between Preds and Yotes games, as I tried, and failed, to force myself to love the only thing I had ever really known. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. My life as Psycho Lady seemed like it was just about over until I decided to revisit the Niagara IceDogs less than a week after I returned from Minny.
It was just supposed to be a casual game. I had been there once before in the 2009-10 season during Puck Bunny Month, when I was trying to track down the elusive junior hockey puck bunny and revisit new theories pertaining to this new generation. I got a little more than I bargained for this time around, and I suppose I got invested… somehow. I don’t even know how, to tell you the truth. That whole night seemed like something right out of the pages of my favourite worst nightmare, and yet here I am nearly four months later with sixteen games under my belt.
It seemed like I had come full circle not just in my “real” life, but in my hockey life as well. Attending two Preds games in December was the first instance of this, and returning to junior hockey was the second. Although, I wouldn’t really get behind the IceDogs until they started the playoffs (I only went to one other regular season game this year), I never missed a single one. I was present for all fourteen games of all three rounds of their amazing run for the Mem Cup. Going to these games kind of felt like my job in a way. And I worked hard at it, boy. Whether it was wearing the right lucky underwear, or no underwear at all, or sending in Midnight Bambi as a failed attempt not to cause a distraction (if I felt the players were slacking), or missing my mother’s birthday for the third season in a row, I did it all to try and “help” this team pull through.
For two years I had been a psychotic hockey fan with no team. I sometimes wonder how I lasted in what shall now be known as the Dark Period where I entertained prophecies and let the Phoenix Coyotes run my life. I remember very few moments of joy in that era, and sometimes I wonder how I managed to persevere at all. The IceDogs became the first team since the Philadelphia Flyers (Golden Age) that I supported wholeheartedly, and I’d like to think that by the time the buzzer sounded to end the third period tonight, I was just as true a fan as any of the other patrons wearing worn out black and red hockey jerseys. I know I was certainly more emotional than I have ever been in my life to see a hockey season end.
The thing is I had forgotten what it was like to be a fan. I was so caught up in the adventure, and blowing through hockey towns taking nothing more than an interesting, if not scandalous, story to tell, that I never stuck around long enough to awaken that passion and pride that comes with the territory of being a fan. I wanted to see and meet the other hockey fans of the world so badly that I never took the time to actually become one. Sure I’m a hockey fan alright, probably the fiercest one you’ve ever met. But in terms of loving a specific team and belonging to its legions of supporters, that ship sailed long ago.
The IceDogs made an honest woman out of me. Perhaps for my health and the rebuilding of my life, I needed to be a little less Psycho and a little more localized – which as you know, I consider local to be anything in a six hour radius of Toronto. Perhaps I needed to know what it was like to love a single team above all others – hockey monogamy – since there are not many ports left for me to pillage in my NHL misadventures. Who knows? All I know is that I liked being a part of a community again, and I definitely want to be emotionally invested in my hockey team next season. I don’t know if I’ll be back to the land of IceDogs and their diehard fans, or even if I’ll spend a great deal of time in the OHL next season. Truthfully, I find watching junior hockey players cycle in and out of the League depressing. It’s the reason I left the OHL behind in the first place. All I know is that it is time this girl finds herself a brand new NHL hubby. One that will stick this time for better or worse! Like the first great lay after a very long dry spell, I have the IceDogs to thank for my reawakening as a hockey fan.
Sadly, the fun is over for yet another season, and I find myself asking, “What now?” Where one story ends, another will surely begin. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to find out where the Psycho will be lurking next. Watch out, world! No hockey league is safe!!
Oh, and one more thing… Yes, my perfect Memorial Cup record has been destroyed when the IceDogs fell to the Majors tonight. You know, I’ve NEVER seen the IceDogs win at Hershey Centre, and that includes when they were the home team. So, what was the record hmm? Well… any team that I have had a “connection,” that team has earned their way to the Mem Cup (except tonight, of course). Let’s see if you can use your sleuthing skills and put it together:
2002-03 Kitchener Rangers [Mr. One Timer]
2003-04 Guelph Storm [The Evil One]
2010-11 Niagara IceDogs [Enter Name Here]
Enjoy that. I clearly lost momentum when I initially moved onto the AHL and the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004-05! Oh well. Obviously, I don’t “pick” winners anymore tee hee. The End.