I got asked this on Twitter the other night, as I was posting about Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
bergus @selfmadepsyche What’s a Floridian living in New York doing rooting for the Flyers?
After a glib, 140-character response, I got to thinking about it more seriously.
I grew up in Miami, Fla. I have only been to Philly a couple of times. I’ve never really been into sports, and never thought of myself as an athlete. So why am I so in love with a sport and a team so far removed from most of what I grew up with?
My introduction to ice hockey came when I was about 3 years old, and my dad taught me how to ice skate. My siblings and I held almost every birthday party at the rink. We’d often see local youth teams practicing for hockey games.
When I was 6, my parents got tickets to Florida Panthers games. Between the excitement
of actually winning the Stanley Cup of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, (Evan correctly points out in the comments that they didn’t win the Cup, oops) and the awesome rubber rats that were handed out (and subsequently tossed onto the ice or used to terrorize my siblings), I was sold.
The rat story: On the night of the Panthers’ 1995â€“96 home opener, a rat scurried across the team’s locker room. Mellanby reacted by “one-timing” the rat against the wall, killing it. That night, he scored two goals, which Vanbiesbrouck quipped was “a rat trick.” (Play on “hat trick”, when a player scores three goals in a single game.) Two nights later, as the story found its way into the world, a few fans threw rubber rats on the ice in celebration of a goal. The rubber rat count went from 16 for the third home game to over 2,000 during the playoffs. [Wikipedia, hat trick explanation added.]
The sport is a mix of grace and violence that really appeals to me. It’s really hard to play. It moves fast, but scoring is actually difficult. I hate watching most other sports, though I like playing pick-up games of just about anything, as long as no one expects me to actually be good at it.
But I was the only one in my family who really fell in love with the sport. I didn’t grow up watching sports at home; we were allowed only minimal amounts of TV a week. And my violent reactions to hockey got the game pretty much banned at home. (I didn’t do anything uncommon among a group of guys watching an American football game, but apparently that was enough.*)
In high school, my love for the game was reignited by a boyfriend whose parents were from Pennsylvania. Huuuuuge Flyers fans. I finally had a “safe space” to watch hockey. By then, the Panthers had been traded into suckitude, and I adopted the Flyers as my team.
I’m also a big fan of cheesesteaks (especially from Pat’s), early American history, Pennywise (the Flyers goal song has been Bro Hymn since 2007) and the Reading Terminal Market. I’ve watched almost every game since 2002, and I really, really want to see the Flyers win the Stanley Cup this year.
*The Husband-Elect is a football (soccer) fan, so the distinction must be made.