Guest Post Wednesday: Puck Huffers

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There are a lot of great Penguin blogs on the Internet. Over the summer we're asking some of those blogs to guest post over here. It's a great way to discover a new blog you may not be reading and it's easier than having to come up with our own material…

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Today: Puck Huffers.

So, we sat down to write our guest post for Pensblog this week, and the ensuing discussion almost led to a messy divorce.  If you're unfamiliar with our site, hi there, we're Kim and Zoë, and we do Puck Huffers.  If you are familiar with us, you probably know us because we post shiny pictures and occasionally liveblog drunken episodes with teen fantasy films.  We have a lot of fun doing that stuff, but we have lives apart from that too, which sometimes take precedence over calling people fat and knocking back the cheap spiced rum.  We're also separate human beings, believe it or not, and having to constantly edit something we write about hockey to use the plural pronoun gets tired sometimes, especially when we're trying to be Real with yinz guys.  So, for the following topic, we're going to split up and respond to a SRS EDITORIAL idea.  We both live away from Pittsburgh and our team and we deal with that all the time.  Consider this a throwback to those annoying prompts we had to answer on college applications, except this is something we actually care about.

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Cities, Teams, Fans, and Where We Fit.

Kim: Let me get the hard part out of the way – I like Philadelphia. Not only do I like Philadelphia, but I once worked for the Flyers. You may think there's treason in those words but I simply can't be convinced. Pittsburgh is a better city in all regards, the Penguins are a better team without question, and I still consider myself one of the most loyal Pens fans on the planet. One that lives in Philadelphia and has spent hours of her life carefully folding Jeff Carter's socks.

Before we line up the firing squad, let me take a moment to be high-and-mighty and explain what I think are the flaws in all of our thinking. Let's take Detroit, for example. The Red Wings are obviously minions of satan himself, sent to earth to spread misery and ruin hockey and probably to kill children when we aren't looking. But what does that have to do with the city of Detroit? Nothing. Despite our vicious attacks against the poverty and economic hardship in Detroit (and it's permanently chilly forecast), the hockey fans are the richest, most educated upper crust of Detroit and not at all a reflection of their city. Same with the players; the ancient ginger gremlins of the Red Wings have no connection to the city of Detroit. Yet, when we think of Detroit, we think of all of the evil that lurks there because of hockey (rather than extremely high crime rates.)

Possibly a terrible example, because who really wants to be in Detroit regardless of their hockey team, but still an interesting way of thought. Find a hockey fan who hates the Caps and a non-sports fan, both of whom have never been to DC – no question which one will be the person chastising DC for its flaws that have nothing to do with hockey. We will attack their education rates, poverty, crime, et cetera, all in spite of the fact that hockey fans are statistically considered the most rich and well educated sports fans. We aren't attacking the fans, even. We're attacking a city of people who mostly can't even afford to be fans.

Pittsburgh is lucky. They got dealt a hand where the city is in great shape for the times, the fans are respectful and don't reflect poorly on the rest of the city, and people's biggest complaint about our team is that Sid is overrated. Next time you launch into your rant about Philly, consider that while you are going on about their awful players, terrible fans, dirty city, et cetera, all they can complain about is who is on our ice. Maybe it's something in our special cult-like-city-love as Yinzers that makes us feel like insulting someone's city is the worst possible undercut. Which is actually kind of cute when you think about it.

There is a lesson we can take from this, of course. I'm not saying we should stop making fun of the fact that it's so cold in the D or that Philly is filthy. Philadelphians are always bitching about Philadelphia and Detroit is bulldozing half of itself; it's not like we're actually hurting anyone's feelings. Maybe we should, however, stop making displaced fans hate their lives even more by making them hate the cities they live in. On a general day in a Pens shirt on the streets of Philly I get at least five “Go Pens!” fist pumps, and maybe one (at most) comment from a Flyers fan. If you come here for a game, we're going to find you, lead you down the street to the Pittsburgh bar, and then show you where you can get a bitchin' post-game meal, because, as we can tell you, Philly is in its “food renaissance.” To hell with the Flyers and their obnoxious fans, that is not our city. Alex Ovechkin can suck it, I love a large portion of DC. Detroit…well…we can't blame your problems on the Wings.

So next time you get into an argument about how worthwhile a city is, take a moment to consider that hockey (and your two night visit to see a game) is not the extent of a city. Of course Pittsburgh is better. If your argument is with a rival team's fan, please, make sure they understand that Pittsburgh is better. But if It's another Pens fan displaced, calm down, collect yourself and just ask them to show you around next time you're in to see a game. There are 29 other cities out there in the world (as far as we are concerned.) Get to know them and maybe you can appreciate the game that much more.

Zoë: I didn't grow up in a city, and living in one isn't an idea I'm entirely sold on.  Right now I live in Boston (no, for real, it's official, I signed a lease and everything, excuse me while I cower in a corner at the cost of living in Massachusetts, OHMYGOD), and I grew up in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  I don't think I belong in either of those places.  Pittsburgh is by and large the greatest city in the world, but I'm pretty sure I don't belong there either–too close to home.  Despite any of these qualms, though, I could probably be enticed to live anywhere where they keep an NHL team–and that's because hockey alone is enough to charm me senseless, never mind the often interesting relationships between hockey teams and their fans and cities.  I'm well aware that my extremely useful college major isn't going to get me a real job (Writing, Literature, and Publishing, folks), so I'm really interested in working in hockey as a career.  Plus, if I work for an NHL team, that means that that team plays the Penguins at least once a year, so that should be enough to make me feel at least a little bit at home.  But be it far from me to be the type of girl to settle.  I have options.

Boston is a wonderful city, don't get me wrong.  It's clean.  It has great public transportation around the city and to various towns in the metro area, something that legitimately confused me having grown up near Pittsburgh.  It has an incredible public library where I can sit at a wooden desk with one of those little lamps with green glass shades and a lady will bring me rare books at my request, if I’m in the mood to be a pretentious lit student like I’m supposed to be.  I’d love to see the Bruins do well, because believe it or not they’re actually a pretty solid hockey team, full of nice guys who sign autographs for toothless hicks without complaint (just like the Penguins do!)–but then the fans in the city would give a shit, and we might run the risk of making them as insufferable as the legions of Red Sox fans, Patriots fans, and Celtics fans that roam the streets around me.  

It would, of course, take time, and probably a Stanley Cup.  The Bruins bested the East in 2008-09 and I never saw anyone in a jersey aside from one cute Hispanic kid at Emerson wearing Bobby Orr's number, who rode an elevator with me several times a week and never once noticed that we were soulmates (duh).  I wasn’t within a thousand miles of Boston (or North American hockey) during the leadup to the Winter Classic at Fenway, and I’m sure everyone was pretty stoked about it then, but the second half of the 2010 season was pretty blah in Boston from a hockey fan perspective.  I attended a Pens game at TD Garden (the one that the Pens won 2-0 in which Matt Cooke was supposed to die) and after a tasteful celebration of the 1970 Cup team and a ceremonial puck drop by Johnny Bucyk it deteriorated into a gathering of approximately 17,000 bitter drunk people.  It’s hard to keep people interested when they’ve been losing for that long and they’re not Canadian.  It’s not necessarily the fanbase I want to serve–but I know with a little love and care they could be better.  

Why?  Let’s face it: NHL hockey fans, as a rule, aren’t spoiled–their sport isn’t a popular or easily marketable one, not by a long shot, and the fan coverage suffers as a result–being a hockey fan, it takes extra effort and dedication.  Even Canadians who have the benefit of it being their nation’s obsession are facing a different kind of hardship–I mean, they’re Canadian.  At any rate, the sport is expensive to play in terms of equipment and setup, regionalistic by nature as a North American product, and goddamn quirky in its management.  Those of us who have an affinity for it are already one step slightly to the left of most people in the world who like sports.  And if there’s anything we should have learned by now at this point in our adult lives, it’s that being different is cool.  I don’t want to let the politics of the NHL or city rivalries get in the way of being part of something cool.

Finding out where I belong is a personal matter, obviously, one better suited to some ridiculous emo post on a LiveJournal than my guest post on Pensblog, but basically, I’ve discovered in the past couple of years, while traveling and changing cities more than most people get laid, that hockey is a family.  I’ll settle down after college somewhere good where the NHL is within driving distance–that’s all that matters to me. Well, and being able to never have to go to Detroit, Michigan ever, so sorry, Red Wings, I won’t be availing my services to you.  I know, I know.  Don’t cry.

It’s not like hockey is just my family or anything–it’s a family for all of us who love the game.  And I belong anywhere where there’s hockey.  Thank Mario I had Pittsburgh and Penguins fans to teach me that.

As you can see, even when we speak in first person, we come to similar conclusions, which is probably what led to our crazy version of friendship and hockey blogging in the first place.  Thanks for reading, Pensblog readers, and feel free to drop by the site if you ever need a dose of bitches being bitches.  Go Pens.

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