My favourite hockey memory happened two years ago. I was at a game between the Oilers and the Minnesota Wild, with my grandpa; who hadn’t been to a game in over twenty years. Less than 10 minutes into the first period, the Oilers had already scored three times; sending Wild goalie and NHL all-star Nicklas Backstrom to an early exit. And as Backstrom was making the long, shameful skate back to the Wild bench, the entire arena erupted in a standing ovation; and there was a certain magic in the atmosphere that had been lacking during another dismal season in Oil Country. Only in a true hockey market would you ever have the privilege of seeing such a sight.
I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know Sidney Crosby’s shooting percentage, I don’t know seating capacity of the Air Canada Center, nor do I know the offensive strategy Cory Clouston likes to use. However one thing I know is that I love hockey, and I love the Edmonton Oilers. It’s a pretty rocky marriage, but it’s survived the test of time: not once have I ever cheated on them, and yet year after year they bring me to tears. And yet our relationship continues. Call me a sucker, call me a softie, but it’s “till death do us part;” and there’s no ifs ands or buts about it.
In 2006, the Oilers went on an unprecedented run that saw them come within 60 minutes of hoisting Lord Stanley. During the run the city became a sea of copper and blue. Oilers flags, clothing and face paint were the norm. What also became the norm were bandwagon jumpers. You know who I am talking about. The 13 year olds strutting their Jari Kurri jerseys, the teenage girls with the Fernando Pisani tee’s, the soccer fans who can barely pronounce “Shawn Horcoff.”
In psychology, we refer to this as, you guessed it, the “bandwagon fallacy.” Essentially, the bandwagon fallacy is where people tend to agree with something based solely on the fact that a large number of others also agree with it.
Fast-forward to 2010, a year that will be remembered in these parts as the worst Edmonton Oilers team in history. During the darkest days of this franchise, these self-proclaimed “fans” were rarely seen or heard of, too ashamed to put on their jerseys; too much pride to put on that Pisani shirt. “The Oilers? They play in Edmonton?” I remember wearing my orange and blue jersey to school and actually getting ridiculed, having these cowards come up to me one by one; asking me if I knew the team was in last place. Oh no, but thanks for the info champ, nice Blackhawks jersey by the way!
Have you ever heard of a man divorcing his wife because she developed acne? Well that’s essentialy what these people did when they deserted the team last year and the years before.
And then we have today, where FaceBook profile pictures have become the new expression of dedication for these bandwagon jumpers. Instead of having a picture of me, I’ll have Magnus Svensson on instead, but if he goes more than 3 games without scoring, he’s lost the privelege to be my profile pic.
Bandwagon jumpers are not real fans, in spite of their thoughts to the contrary. They aspire to be real fans, they aspire to be like me and thousands of others who have and always will support this team, no matter how many tears we have to shed. They want to be a part of something special, but don’t have the guts to stick it out when things turn ugly.
This season we will, inevitably, see another wave of bandwagon jumpers; people who will attempt to tag along to the success that Taylor, Magnus, Jordan, Ales and the others will bring us. Well be warned folks. Steve Tambellini is not a magician, and this season will likely bring forth another top-10 pick. I just hope you have the guts to wear your jerseys when that happens.