As a fan of any team in any sport, dealing with a lengthy winless or losing streak is not an easy thing. The longer it goes, the harder it gets on ones patience and enthusiasm. Perseverance is an easy bit of advice to give such a fan, but it’s simply not a term the fan enjoys hearing when things just don’t seem to improve. Especially if there does not seem to be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, it is quite easy to lose ones overall interest in their team.
If you are a long suffering New York Islander fan, well, the frustration and disappointment is only compounded. We, as a general group, have dealt with an awful lot of adversity and our share of losing streaks and losing seasons as it is over the years. However, with a season that promised improvements and seemed to indicate a team ready to take things to the next level, it has not at all been an easy situation to find oneself in the midst of having seen “your team” go 13 games without a win, and having only collected 2 points during that stretch.
It is very easy to lose hope. It is quite understandable to lose patience. When you add to that some of the “controversial” events that have embroiled the organization of late into the mix, there is no way one can not understand why there is a lot of disgruntled and plainly angry fans in Islander country these days. This rebuild stretch has been difficult enough and filled with a variety of ups and downs along the way. Now, at a time when many of us expected steps to be taken farther forward, instead, it seems as if the clock has been turned back to three years ago at the very beginning of this process. No, there simply has not been a lot for us to be happy and cheery about for sure.
As a fan facing this situation, you have two basic options. I know that this can be argued and debated, but from a general point of view, your first choice is to turn your back on your team and play the role of the “fair weather fan”. Wait for things to get better and be like the hibernating bear sleeping away the winter of hardship until your team starts winning again. You become a “fan” in name only, and you soon have little connection or interest in what is happening with “your” team. This, unfortunately, is the path many “fans” seem to take in situations like this, and, well, to be honest, it is, without a doubt, the “easy road” to travel.
On the other hand, one can travel the rough, winding road of the “hardcore” or “true” fan. This is a path that is fraught with difficulties and suffering, as one plainly “sticks it out” and remains loyal and supportive to your team. Regardless of how much adversity you face, how much abuse you take from the fans of other teams, you take the hits like one of your power forwards bulling his way to the net. You might get knocked on your can a few times, but you pick yourself up and remain steadfast and rock solid in your convictions that your team will prevail in the end. You take every loss to heart and rejoice in every victory in a way that only the “true” fan understands.
Frankly, I really don’t care what road any given Islander fan takes. That is the choice of the individual fan to make on his or her own. For me, though, it will be the hard and arduous path. I am an Islander fan, and I am proud of that fact. I have suffered and bled blue and orange for as long as I have loved the game of hockey, and for however long this winless streak continues, I will not withdraw from my belief and support of the players and the organization. Quitting on them is NOT an option. I do not turn my back on my friends, as figurative as, “friends” might be in this case.
Am I happy with losing? Do I think what is happening to a very notable blogger and long time supporter of the team is right? Do I agree with all of the moves and choices and directions the team has taken? Certainly not, but it is the game of hockey I am most passionate about, and to me, when the day is done, it is the 20 guys who take the ice for a game who I am firmly behind and who I care most about. Everything else is not as important as any of the guys who do a job I can hardly imagine myself doing on any given night.
I have no personal connection to any member of the team. I have not once met any of the current Islanders. I have no press credentials or relationship with any person in the organization. I cannot even play the game of hockey because of my physical disability. Yet, I understand perfectly well that this current situation cannot be easy on the players, the guys who have to go out there and try to play hockey each game. Imagine being a New York Islander and being aware of what is being said, and what is being written about you and your team every day. Yes, they are all professionals and they get paid to do what they do, but they are still as human as any fan, and have the burden of trying to get their jobs done on top of what we are saying and writing about them.
I am not one for fiery speeches or inspiring pep talks. I’d never have the chance to say anything to any Islander individually or collectively. Still, if I had the opportunity to “say my peace” to them, I have found myself contemplating just what I might tell them. It would, in fact, be something like this ….
No one has to tell you guys how many games it’s been, how long it’s been or ANYTHING pertaining to this winless streak. That is neither here nor there. What the media is saying …. what the fans are saying …. it all doesn’t matter. You guys are all professionals, and THEY don’t go out and play the games. YOU guys do.
Each and every guy knows that this team is not a “bad” team” Every single guy knows that individually and collectively, you are FAR better than what the “record” shows. At the beginning of this season, there was a complete sense of believing in yourselves and a quiet air of confidence in every guy. You guys expected to win. You guys WANTED to win. You guys all KNEW you could win. And you started out of the gate doing just that.
Well, now it’s time to forget about everything that has happened over the last 13 games. It’s time to cast your minds and your spirits back to opening night. It’s time to approach each game with that same mentality and attitude that you all had at game #1.
No, it isn’t easy and it’s not as simple as flicking a switch. However, as you all know, NOTHING is easy in the game of hockey, yet you all have toiled and labored throughout your careers to play in the NHL. It starts with each shift … with each play … with each period. You win every battle and go back on the ice your next shift wanting and believing you can win that one as well. One period at a time … one game at a time …. one WIN at a time ….. Whether you have to grind out a 1-0 or 2-1 ordeal or you run up a 10-0 beating, in the end, it is the W that only counts and the 2 points in the standings.
If it is in front of the home town crowd, it is in YOUR home … YOUR house. No one can take 2 points away from you in YOUR building. If it takes a little “piss and vinegar” in your game …so be it, but no opposing team leaves the “old barn” with an easy 2 points without having had to pay for them every shift of every period of the game. In fact, NO opponent leaves at all with 2 points in their pockets. It’s as simple as that. Each and EVERY ONE of you must assure THAT this is the case.
When you go into another team’s building, well, you TAKE those 2 points from them, by force, if necessary. Out work them, out hustle them, and out play them every second of every period. You are an invading army, so CONQUER them. You want those 2 points more than them. You deserve those 2 points MORE than them. Let them take out their frustrations on the next team that visits, but you skate away with the 2 points in the end.
Most of all, though …. above all …. foremost and forefront in your minds … as you did as kids playing pond hockey or pick up games at the local rink …. the most critical thing you should do when you take the ice for every shift is to have FUN. Stay loose ….. enjoy the game you all love to play. You cannot play the game of hockey without enjoying it and having fun and expecting to be winners. Winning is fun, but you can’t start to win until you start having fun. Play hard and work hard, but don’t forget what has made this game a big part of your lives and what motivates you to come to the rink each and every day. Win or lose, don’t let yourselves be robbed of that basic ingredient.
Beyond all of that, regardless of the outcome of the next game and the game after that, when the final horn sounds, also know that you have a group of fans who support you, who stand behind you, and who BELIEVE in you. Don’t ever forget that fact over the din of everything else you hear. Those are the ones who will be there with you when you turn the season around. Those are the ones who will feel the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment right along with you. You don’t necessarily play this game for them, and you might not even know a single one of them, but they care just as much about your success as you do. Win the games for yourselves, but never forget that there are those who share in your joys and your sorrows … who bleed as almost as much blue and orange as you do.
OK, so I’ve seen Gladiator ten too many times ….. In any event, as a “true fan” that is how I feel. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks, and God bless.
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