Saturday, February 8, 2014

An Open Letter To Hockey Fans - A Wife's Perspective

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. This post goes back to February 14, 3013. I am including this one as it is the post that has gotten the most reaction of anything I have ever posted and was the beginning of a friendship (as much as you can be a friend having never met or talked in person with someone) with fellow blogger Shanna Wray. It provides great insight into the downside of being a hockey wife. It is a given that many other occupations have similar downsides and it is also a given that there is plenty of upside to being a professional hockey player.  So I post this again not to start another dialogue but to share a hockey wife's point of view. As Shanna might say, she is an expert at her own opinions. Here it is:

I found this "open letter" through Twitter this morning. It was written by the wife of Rapid City Rush team captain, Scott Wray. I think it has a lot of applicability to what the Americans are going through right now. As an avowed "homer" I tend to agree with many of the comments but even if you disagree it is food for thought.

An open letter to Hockey Fans

I am sad.
I am sad and a little angry.  And mostly with a bunch of people I don’t even really know.  Which is sucky and awful and wrong.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.  I am sad and I am angry and it’s sucky.
Every year around this time, we’ll start seeing players travel back to this side of the pond, returning from their hockey season over in Europe somewhere. Sometimes, if the timing is just right, these players, who might have played here before,  may just don a Rush jersey again, helping bolster our roster for playoffs.  Or sometimes this is a new-to-you player, who knows someone who knows someone, and comes to you on high recommendation.  Either way, around this time of year, tongues start wagging.  Rumors start flying. Especially if your team has been less than perfect. Especially if your team has really been less than exceptional.
This year has proven to be no different.  Before the season even started, the rumor mill was busy, fans making assumptions and placing bets on who would return to the Rush, knocking whichever new guy out of his spot on the bench, or who was going to make a playoff appearance.  Never mind that a single game hadn’t been played, the ice barely in place. Never mind that the jerseys hadn’t been hung in the stalls of the locker room, the home/away schedule still in it’s final drafts. The fans were already planning for the season, pining to see familiar faces return, not even giving the new ones coming in the chance to become familiar themselves.
I am a hockey wife deep down to my toes, as much as I might have fought it initially, it was inevitable that it would happen (superstitions, game-day rituals and all). There is always a plethora of opinions, judgements and analysis on Mr. Sometimes and/or his team before, during or after a game, available to me when and if I choose to indulge.  While it is readily accessible, I can assure you that I do NOT read the message boards or the forums.  That’s the equivalent of asking every single person you know and do not know, to tell you every single horrible thing they could possibly fathom about you, mixing in the odd compliment (even though at this point it does no good) whether it’s true or not, to your face.  The fact that they may or may not know you holds no bearing.  The words mean the same, your character is being tested, judged and picked apart.  Your insecurities will be made larger, the information you read is, more often than not, negative at best and despicable at worst.  I made the choice a long time ago to never indulge my curiosity when it comes to what the general public might have to say with regards to my husband (and, later, when he became captain, his team) because I don’t swallow that pill well.  When it’s good, it’s really good.  When it’s bad, it’s really bad. And when it’s bad, people want answers. And when people want answers, they start pointing fingers, usually at the wrong person.  And this is only at a SEMI-PRO level.  It’s ridiculous.
Obviously, there are times when the opinions and negative comments get past my firewalls.  It could be something as awful as a private Facebook message, telling the Captain that he should be ashamed of himself, that he is the worst leader that a team could ever have, and that any game lost will fall on his shoulders.  Or it could be something as simple and innocent as a group of fans, commenting on what or who could turn the team (who’s had more losses than they’d like to count) around and the unanimous vote being one (singular) person who could come and save the team.  As if the answer is just that simple.
Every once in a while it’s the latter of the two scenarios that seems to make the bigger impact on me.  I seem to have taken on some of Mr. Sometimes’ “loyal to a fault” persona, becoming the proverbial momma bear when it comes to this team.  These boys are brothers to my husband, uncles to my sons.  They are an extended family to a foursome who spends 11 months out of the year away from home. I love this team because my husband does.  Sure, it’s emotional on a level I couldn’t have bargained for years before.  But if you need to get right down to it, take the whole “Captain’s Wife’s Opinion” out of the mix, we have a really, really good team.  On paper,  we’re “deep” (I used quotations because I am not one who comes by hockey speak easily, it’s about as awkward as when I call Mr. Sometimes “Wrayzer”- a name reserved for teammates and good buddies, not a wife) Stats don’t lie.  My husband alone scored 20+ goals every single season since 2003-3004.  Six of those seasons were 25+ goal seasons for him. And he is not the only one, by far, who has great stats- consistantly. Strangely enough, these fans seem to still want more, this not being good enough.  Consistency doesn’t seem to be key, or play a large role.  They’re like a group of toddlers, wanting instant gratification by way of multiple goal scoring every single night.  While it might be possible, it’s not probable in this game.  Any good statistician could tell you that.  It’s not rocket science; more of a game of numbers and odds and luck and superstitions.  And while I’ve never been good with numbers, I’d take consistency and hard work (and lucky socks or underwear) every game over one (or two, even) phenomenal seasons, any year.
I know, I know. It’s wrong of me to come down on the very people who make it possible for my husband to have a job that allows him to play a sport that he has loved his entire life, for a living.  A job that will put food on the table for his kids and clothes on their backs.  Don’t get me wrong, we are fortunate.  Hockey has given us so much more than we could ever hope to give back.  But for that, we have also made sacrifices.  My children have grown up knowing what it’s like to share their dad with a zillion other kids who look up to him.  To share his time while he is home, even on a day off.  My kids know what it means to look into the stands when they are the ones playing hockey and (more often than not) NOT see their dad sitting there, cheering them on, because he is out of town or playing in his own game. They know what it means to have to share.
I learned early on what it means to navigate through Dr.’s appointments and parent/teacher conferences by myself. To surround my oldest son with my girlfriends, like second moms and aunts, on his birthdays (that always seem to fall on a road trip) so that he doesn’t feel any worse about not having  his daddy home.  I have rocked babies to sleep while listening to road games, snuggled sweaty toddlers who ask incessantly about daddy and I have watched a pre-schooler stand by the door, on day 1 of a 5 day road trip, with his suitcase packed full of hotwheels, his favorite stuffed monkey named Melman and his winter boots, for hours- waiting for the bus to come and get him so he could be with his daddy, not having the heart to tell him that the bus wasn’t coming back.  Yes, I am grateful for what hockey has given us, but it has not come without sacrifices made. Compromise has been the rule of my life for so long that it has become second nature, to almost always play second fiddle during the season.  So, it only makes sense that when people start searching for the “savior”, I start to find myself more than a little annoyed that they can’t seem to take the time to appreciate the players that they have right in front of them.
I doubt that no one has ever thought for one moment that a lack of confidence from the fans could be part of the problem.  I can’t imagine on one hand, trying to do my job well enough to please 5000+ people and on the other hand, knowing full well they’re praying for someone else, who in most cases chose not to be here, to come back.  That they are praying for someone else to come back, to score goals, to save this team because you’re just not cutting it.
Sometimes it’s not a case of the team needing saving.  Sometimes it’s a case of the team needing support and confidence.  Believe me.  These boys deserve your confidence. Mr. Sometimes and I are not the only ones who have made sacrifices.  They all have.  Even the guys who do not have families of their own (yet).  These boys are someone’s brothers, someone’s sons.  They have family they never see.  They are here, to work, for you.  They leave their hearts and souls on the ice, for you. They play through injuries and illness, for you. I think it’s high time that you all notice that enough to stop wishing for a savior and appreciating what you have.
You ask these boys to be loyal to your team and return year after year.  Maybe it’s time you do the same.
Maybe it’s time to appreciate what you have instead of wishing for what you don’t.
**You can take this whole thing with a grain of salt, it’s not meant to offend but if you did take offense, please take it solely with me.  After all, I am speaking my own mind, I do not speak for these players or their wives/girlfriends/families.  I am not good at anything if I am not good at writing ranty, emotion-fueled posts.  What can I say? It just is what it is.

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