Being one of the younger folks here on PPP (18 years old, natch), I really don't have distinct memories of the good 'ol days of hockey. The days of the Broad Street Bullies, Darryl Sittler, and the Habs' dynasties, and whatever. But that doesn't mean I have some fond memories of hockey, and why I love it.
If you will, 5 reasons why I am a proud hockey fan.
People say that hockey is Canada's game, and that we Canadians are a passionate bunch. I think there's no better example than the Vancouver Olympic Games that just passed. Just getting caught up in a see of red-and-white and Canadian flags and choruses of "O Canada" when Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal is something I'll never forget. As is the complete, and utter disappointment I had in '06 when our boys failed to win gold. That loss stung. Nevertheless, I'm a proud Canadian, and hockey has allowed me to embrace my national pride.
When I first heard of hockey, I immediately embraced Wayne Gretzky as my hero (yeah, I know.) But once I became a Leafs fan in '98, The Great One was soon replaced by one Mats Sundin. I don't know why I took on No.13 as my hero, but once I did, I was glad I ever did. And because of that, I enjoyed every moment of success that Sundin had as a Maple Leaf, from the tying goal against Carolina in '02, to No. 500 against Calgary, he was and will always be my hero. But that fact doesn't stop me from finding a new fan favorite. More recently, Luke Schenn has immediately become my favorite Leaf today. Whether it's his hard-hitting style of play, or the fact that I'm only two years younger than the guy, or even his distinctive and noble character, Schenn has really appealed to me.
3. NHL Video Games
Upon arriving in Canada in '97, I had gone to an arcade and I immediately laid my eyes on the Midway arcade game "NHL Open Ice 2-on-2 Challenge". The graphics were impressive and the gameplay was addictive. (BTW, I always picked the Boston Bruins. Cam Neely FTW.) Although I've never gotten a chance to play that game again, I've played lots of other hockey video games, especially the EA Sports NHL games. I've always loved creating myself and inserting myself in the game, and with the advent of "Create-A-Team" in the recent EA games, I've let my creativity soar and created numerous teams, from old favorites (Winnipeg Jets) to all-star mishmashes (Team Canada!).
Recently, I got a chance to sit down and watch "Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story". I enjoyed it thoroughly, and seeing young Don's NHL dreams reminded me of my own dreams of NHL glory from watching the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada, TSN, or what have you. I knew I had no chance in hell of ever making it into the NHL, but that didn't stop me from imagining myself winning the Stanley Cup as a kid.
5. The Leafs!
As bad as they've been at times, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been always my favorite team. The rich history and passionate fan support for the Leafs impresses me. I've gotten the 'ol "ZOMG LAFFS SUX!" IRL from idiotic twits in my high school, and I quickly and immediately ignored their whining, and defended my beloved Leafs team. Times may be dire now for the Blue & White, but I know, with Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri, Jonas Gustavsson, & Luke Schenn leading the way, Lord Stanley's Mug will be back and that parade the trolls have been harping about can actually happen, and I'll be the first to laugh at their faces.
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