Welcome to the refreshed Five For Howling! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
I used to have a complicated relationship with hockey. I associated it with the worst years of my life for a long time. Now? Now, I can’t see my life without it.
This story starts in 1998 in Topeka, Kansas. I was 11 years old and I had a verbally and emotionally abusive stepfather. In the fall of 1998, Topeka acquired a Central Hockey League Team, which were named the ScareCrows. They played at Landon Arena, where the now NAHL Topeka Roadrunners play.
My stepdad worked for a company that catered the team VIPs before each game. My mom would be working and I tagged along, because why not? I started watching the game then, not really understanding it, just liking the action on the ice. We would have near-the-ice seats because he worked the game. It wasn’t every game, but I remember going with his friends once, sitting in the stands in 1998, and being hit by a puck in the shoulder at warm ups. That stays with you.
I loved hockey back then. I really did. But then I really, really didn’t.
After a few seasons, my mother divorced him and I never thought about hockey again.
Hockey had become a sport that made me anxious. I related it to him, and he was something I didn’t want to remember.
Years went by; high school and college. I never thought about hockey. It’s not a sport you associate with Kansas. I spent most of that time just trying to stay alive and sane.
I did go see Miracle about 10 times in theaters, now that I think about it, it should have been a clue that hockey would come back.
I moved to Arizona in July of 2007. I was aware that the Coyotes existed in January of 2008 when a friend won tickets to a game. We watched in a suite and I never thought about it again after that. In retrospect, that’s because the team was in a bad way and Gretzky was still the coach.
Hockey fell off my radar again until the Olympics in 2010. I watched all of the USA games when I could, and was so excited that Team USA was going to play for the gold and they had just pushed it to overtime when I got home from work that day. Then Sidney Crosby left Ryan Miller crying on the ice with his golden goal and I just ignored hockey again.
Fast forward to the 2012 playoffs, my friends in Australia started to say ‘hey you would watch this sport.’ I brushed them off, I avoided Tumblr and I just kept on my way. The only reason I knew that the Coyotes made the playoffs was because Wil Wheaton mentioned it at a Nerdist live podcast I went to during Phoenix Comicon.
I kept resisting until one day, shortly before the lock-out ended in 2013, a friend sent me a gif of the chaos of the Pens/Flyers series and I was curious. I slowly started to just look at pictures, watch funny video clips. Then in April of 2013, the moment happened.
I downloaded it, I watched all of it in one sitting and decided that the Penguins would be my team. This was the day before Sidney Crosby had his jaw broken against the Islanders.
Yeah, I have amazing timing, I know.
I cheered for the Penguins all through the playoffs that year, crushed when they were swept by the Bruins, but I wasn’t alone in my misery.
A friend had moved from Texas, just for a while, until they got into and went to law school. Frankie fueled my hockey addiction from the moment she got to Arizona. We sat and watched Max Domi get drafted for the Coyotes and went ‘that is a great pick for us.’ We hadn’t seen a Coyotes game, we hadn’t really researched the team, but they were our team because we lived in Scottsdale/Phoenix.
We went to the charity scrimmage for the Granite Mountain 19. It was fun and we got to see the characters on the team. This is where my love affair with the Coyotes began, with the 2013-14 season home opener against the New York Rangers. The Henrik Lundqvist Rangers, and the Coyotes beat them 4-1 with a Vrbata hat trick.
We quickly decided that five wouldn’t be enough. We were on the goal line for Mike Smith’s empty-net goal. We were there for the baseball save from Keith Yandle in the afternoon Oilers game. After that, Frankie became a half-season ticket holder and I went to 17 games.
What made me really lock into the team was watching them at the open practices they held. The sound of skates on ice is calming for me. We would go to the Ice Den, get a coffee, wander back to the practice rink, and just watch, all the way till the end with the scratches picking up pucks. We couldn’t get enough.
The Coyotes missed the playoffs by 3 points that season, the closest they had been in the four years I’ve been a fan, but I was so proud of that team. That team gave me the feeling that I could love the sport again.
I became a season ticket holder the next season, one of the worst years the Coyotes had ever had. I didn’t care, they were my boys. My team.
Two years ago I started writing for the Coyotes and they continue to be my team, my boys.
Now I’m running a site with other people who are passionate about hockey and this team that I still lovingly call ‘The Island of Misfit Toys’ and ‘Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes: Collectors of former first round draft picks.’
That’s something I’ve learned about the team and its fans. We’re all misfits in the eyes of the other media outlets. Something that, unless you are in Arizona or a Coyotes fan, you wouldn’t understand. Being told the team doesn’t belong here, that the fans don’t deserve a team, it makes you fight for them.
Coyotes fans are some of the most loyal in the land, and I’m proud to be in that group.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Contributor Sweepstakes starts on 8:00 am ET on May 25, 2017, and ends at 11:59 pm ET on June 8, 2017. Open only to authorized SB Nation contributors who are legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, odds of winning, alternative method of entry, prize details and restrictions, etc. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.