Do you remember when you used to follow hockey as a kid? When there was nothing like the pure excitement of going to a game? The indescribable smell of the fresh ice and the crisp chill of the air when you step into the rink? When your love of the game was simple, as was your honest support of your team, win or lose? One night's loss was easily forgotten in the anticipation of the next night's game? Do you remember idolizing all the players? Sure - you had a favorite player, but you would wait after the game or a practice to get a high-five or autograph from any one of the guys on the ice? I sure do!
Hockey is a passionate game, for players and fans alike. For many of us the passion starts from a young age. Somehow as adults, many of us forget to simply love the game. It is disappointing to see how caught up we get as adults in the winning. I would be lying if I did not say this year has been disappointing as a Sabres fan after the run we had last year. I've gotten down and frustrated, incensed even from some of the losses. But that is part of the passion of hockey. You live every win and you live every loss. That is why I love the game.
What I suppose is the most surprising thing to me is how many fans around the league, those without teams securely in the playoffs, get so down on their team and the players. The glass-half-empty view of a bad season, with little regard for the possibilities of the future seems to be everywhere. You talk to fans and read comments from journalists alike only to see lots of people throwing their team under a bus for every misstep. Over analyzing contracts and focusing on a specific missed goal or save. Questioning a player's character, trashing the whole organization...Why is it we forget the optimism that we had as kids and look so negatively on a game that we grew up loving? Fans have many legitimate reasons to hold their teams accountable for the effort and the heart they show on the ice, but we should not forget at the end of the day it is just a game. To me, hockey is bigger than a win, bigger than one all-star player, bigger than a season filled with wins - I think we all need to remember that it is the simple love of hockey that should be what really draws us to this incredible game.