The Long Distance Fan
Today is the day, the home opener for our NJ Devils. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are abuzz, and like an unopened present on Christmas morning, a FB request to meet at the Digital Zone during the 1st intermission from fellow Devils General, Kim Sakavich, for Devils Opening Night awaits a response. I can not make the game. It is not because I have to work or have prior commitments, but I have moved out of NJ. I am not talking about leaving the Tri-state area or living on the other side of the Mississippi River but, rather, packing up the kids, pets and furniture and high tailing it to Washington. No, not Washington DC but the state of Washington in the Pacific Northwest where this Jersey girl flies an airline based out of Alaska to get there. I moved 2,500 miles from NJ to Seattle in a land where Russell Wilson of the Seahawks is a demigod, college football means something, and the Mariners are good for catching the Yankees (cheaply) when they are in town. No professional hockey and the closest team two hours away in Vancouver. I’m not sure how a Devils fan would be received in Rogers Arena now that John Tortorella is their coach and Cory Schneider is tending net in our house. Plus it’s Canada.
I respect the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), and I look forward to catching as many of their games as I can but it is not the same. I genuinely miss seeing people wearing hockey jerseys, t-shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with one of the best logos in the NHL. My definition of the Seattle Freeze: no small talk about the upcoming hockey season, no high-fives (in my head) when paths are crossed with someone wearing a Scott Stevens jersey, and lastly the God given right to catch a Devils game in a local bar. Those connections, sadly, will be far and few between. According to Professor Daniel L. Wann, a pioneer in the field of sports psychology, “The more passionate your fandom, the more positive the impact is on your psychological health”. Great, the rain and horrible pizza alone could send one into a deep, dark depression now the lack of common hockey bonds can officially put you over the edge! I can attest the relationships I have with other Devil fans play a significant part in my life. It is a combination of hometown pride, friendships with other people that “get it”, and equally as important the virtual camaraderie through social media. I have a good feeling that if you are reading this, you kind of know what I’m talking about.
I confess my heart dropped a little with each tweet about the preseason games. I was happy for my fellow Generals and social media acquaintances but could not help but feel envious. Dammit I want to hear Arlette sing the National Anthem too! I’m now in the fine company of Long Distance Fans who proudly wears their Devil jerseys to the puzzlement or outrage of others, watches prime time games at odd hours and who has made Center Ice their saving grace.
It is natural to take certain things for granted. Something as inane as driving to the Prudential Center is actually special, among you will be a sea of Jersey plates many sporting a Devils decal. Also, riding the train can mimic the arena when a diehard fan spontaneously belts out a Devils chant. The camaraderie is priceless.
I’m learning my heart grows fonder with distance so I’ll be wearing my Brodeur jersey and rooting for them even harder (if that’s possible). The voices of Long Distance Fans will not be heard during home games as often as we would like, so please, cheer for our NJ Devils just a little louder for all of us.
Happy Hockey everyone!