America vs. Canada: The Divisiveness of Hockey in North America

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America vs. Canada: The Divisiveness of Hockey in North America
(Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

Hockey has always been about the us versus them mentality, and apparently that train of thought has tainted the Board of Governors, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and now the best fans of any sport in the world.

When I played hockey, nothing thrilled me more than seeing a young hockey player fresh on his skates and learning (usually around six years old), asking me for help or advice. I always took pride in helping him learn the sport and spreading my love of the game.

Canadian fans, that's you. You're the experienced player with so much history versed in a sport.

Warm climates, such as Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, and many others are the young-ones. Hockey is popular in some, and others not so much. Usually regardless of the success or great fan bases of these teams, I usually always see them grouped in with less talented ones in Florida, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay, and that isn't fair.

Regardless of the talent of the team, winning record, or number of season ticket holders I see a lot of fans, generally when calling for team retraction, forget the fans of those teams.

I only became enraged enough to consider this article when I saw the Dallas Stars grouped in as a team that should be retracted on a Hockey News comment from a reader. It got me to thinking about what's wrong with fans today.

I'm not saying you're not entitled to your opinion regarding warm climate hockey, everyone is, but I feel too many get caught up in anger and emotion rather than clear thought.

While I do agree Canada isn't represented enough, I would have to say that the southern expansion of hockey was about spreading the game. Would you be angry at a young kid trying to learn and not doing well because he's trying to take your sport? No, of course not.

So why not hope for success in places like Phoenix? A place that until a move from their original home in Phoenix ripped the team away from much of its fan base. If Phoenix fans can step up to the challenge now with threats of losing the team, don't they deserve to keep it?

Yet there are other teams to consider. California teams have been successful, some in the past and others currently. Their fans are some of the most intelligent in the world, and I would point out I have met some Duck fans more die-hard about hockey than I am.

Teams such as Atlanta, Florida, and Tampa Bay though always come up in the argument, and I would argue due to the numbers I have seen two of the three teams wouldn't be bad for relocation. Atlanta's fans (although I can't say first hand) have been steadily decreasing over poor performances on the ice.

If the case becomes clear they have already given up on their team then the team should move. Furthermore, having two teams in the Sunshine State when it can barely support one is utterly brainless. Either way, when talking of relocation the fans have to be in the front of one's mind, and they're not.

Instead it seems the article has come to the have's vs. the have not's.

That shouldn't be the case.

I would argue Canadian fans should be proud of hockey in warm climates and at spreading their native game to amazing new fans. Some would say American fans could never be like Canadian fans; I'd argue that you've never been to a Stars game. Those are some crazy fans.

Hockey is about bringing people together; my being a hockey fan and writing for Bleacher Report has earned me many Canadian fans, and many more fans from warm climates. So remember the next time you get sucked into the relocation argument that the fans and the game are what matter, not your own selfish opinion.

Do what's best for the game and not you as a fan. Hockey isn't about making money (something Bettman and the Board of Governors forget), its about the camaraderie and spirit of the game. Remember that the next time you argue relocation or about how some warm cities don't deserve a team due to location and climate.

What's the answer? A fan's merit isn't based on their favorite team or where they're from. It can be clearly seen that some teams should be moved, and I can likely name three, two of which if they moved I would say should go to either Canada or far northern cities.

In regards to future locations, I think of those possible three teams moving, they should consider:

Seattle (just seems like a cool place to have hockey and they could use a hockey team after losing basketball), one to Kansas City (they built an arena and were strung along by the Pittsburgh Penguins—having grown up there I know first hand the fans who drive four hours as season ticket holders for the Blues), and one to Hamilton or another Canadian city, centrally located for a lot of fans.

Relocation can't be easily talked about, and should never have a lot of emotion in the conversation because it views fact from opinion. Going forward, stop seeing Canadian fans and American fans as separate; we are one in our love for the game of hockey. We're one big family, so why get so split over placement of teams.

Cheer for their success and know the pain those fans have when they lose those teams. Going forward as fans, let's do what's best for the sport and maybe one day we'll have a Commissioner and Board of Governors who will too.

Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at karmer@bleacherreport.com.

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