Hockey fans are a special breed of human, and now that the 2011 NHL Playoffs are upon us, the crazy ones tend to come out of their shells.
Some, however, are crazy all year round. Crazy with obsession, that is.
NHL hockey has its moments and quirks that make its fans come running back for more, but there are some fans who take it to the extreme. Now that the most exciting time of the NHL calendar year has arrived, it's a great time for a reality check.
Just how obsessed are you in your love for the wonderful sport of hockey and the NHL?
In honor of the 16 teams that have made the playoffs, here are 16 signs you might be an obsessed hockey fan.
Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions.
Some people can never get their fill of hockey and are constantly checking NHL websites for the latest news about the league or their favorite team.
If said person has to venture away from the computer chair, you better believe their smart phone is equipped with every NHL-related application so they don't miss a beat.
An overload of NHL news doesn't cross this person's mind; there will never be too much hockey news to absorb.
Every NHL fan is familiar with these commercials that have become so popular in the last few seasons. They have appeared in national and local broadcasts of regular-season and playoff games.
They have also become especially popular on the Internet.
A quick search on YouTube will yield the "History Will Be Made" commercials aired on TV, along with some fan-made videos featuring the artist's favorite teams and/or players.
Making these short commercials isn't difficult nor does it take long, but it does take a certain amount of love for a team to download the necessary videos and music to create one of these videos, especially if you don't have much skill in the video-making field.
Plus, they require a thoughtful but snappy tagline.
The average NHL fan will attend a hockey game wearing casual clothes with their favorite player's jersey on their back. Maybe they won't even opt for the jersey, but rather, the team colors.
The obsessed NHL fan takes this a step further and goes all out to demonstrate how important the team's success is to the fan.
I'm talking about painted faces and chests (hopefully men only), excessive costume bling, obnoxious accessories and a crazy attitude to back it up.
And make no mistake, ever NHL arena has these fans and they usually become good friends with the camera operators.
Anyone who's willing to devote time to make himself or herself look ridiculous for the sake of team spirit is obsessed in my book.
When your team is in the middle of a seven-game winning streak, you're known as the jovial person who refills the toilet paper without asking, is quick to make your significant other breakfast-in-bed and holds the door those extra few seconds for the coworker juggling a briefcase and a stack of files.
If that team is amidst a four-game losing streak, you become the one with the foul attitude, who complains about roasted eggplant for dinner, uses the last of the toilet paper and doesn't refill it and tips the waiter 10 percent.
Honestly, it doesn't even have to be some kind of streak. One loss after three wins could turn an attitude 180 degrees.
Wins and losses are very much a personal matter to this fan, so tread carefully with these characters or you might regret it for the time being.
It isn't enough for you to go to 41 games a season, so you must attend as many away games as possible.
Travel, dining and lodging expenses are minor details. Your voice among the opposition has far more worth than any monetary value.
These fans will never let travel get in the way of their obsession with their team.
Anyone who is willing to dish out the cash in such a way has to be applauded for the complete dedication.
Based on personal experience, living in a city different from your favorite team is hard. Not only are you disconnected from the team, but from the atmosphere of the fans as well.
Recreating the fan environment may be impossible, but buying NHL's Gamecenter allows fans to watch their teams anywhere on the globe. The problem is, it isn't cheap.
Many fans without money, like myself, opt to find games through online streaming hoping that Internet and lag issues aren't too severe, rather than forking over the cash.
But it goes without saying that NHL Gamecenter is more convenient, because it allows the viewer to watch multiple games at a time.
Either way, subscribers to NHL Gamecenter are putting in good cash to watch hockey games that otherwise could be viewed for free. But the access to multiple hockey games at one time is a must for many fans.
Without one of these, it's difficult to classify you as an NHL fan, but having a full collection of NHL jerseys definitely puts you in the obsessed category.
I'm talking about constantly buying both home and away jerseys, with current and former players, classic and alternate jerseys.
These fans just can't have enough of them and spend their paycheck on these $150 to $200 products at the drop of a hat.
If buying NHL Gamecenter is tough for some people, then keeping up with the jersey collectors isn't a good life choice, because a lot is never enough.
For many NHL fans, wearing the team jersey happens on gamedays or days after particularly solid wins. For others, there is no reason not to be wearing the jersey.
These fans find no problems in constantly reaching for their jersey when it's time to get dressed in the morning and wear the team colors with pride, regardless of the funky odor from a lack of washing.
They don't want any mistakes in what is a priority in their lives.
Growing the playoff beard has been a long-time NHL tradition happily embraced by the members of NHL teams granted one of the 16 spots in the playoffs.
Often times, NHL organizations will host a playoff beard contest or something similar to get fans in the on act and they have become popular over the years.
Of course, any male fan (and hopefully only male fans) who tucks away his razor for the length of the playoffs certainly has some level of obsession in his blood, if only because he may be causing some discomfort for his significant other or family members.
Not to mention, it could be bad news if said playoff beard-grower can only produce Sidney Crosby-like results.
Outside of the playoffs, Deadline Day and the first day of Free Agency are two of the most exciting days in hockey, mainly because no team is excluded from the happenings of those days, and so much can happen to a team in the process.
Naturally, the obsessed NHL fan has to be there to experience it all and hear the news as it happens, not through a text message or constant refreshing of the NHL or TSN website. Taking the day off is a necessity, as is skipping any conflicting classes.
Simply put, you don't want to be in a meeting or lecture when you find out your team's general manager just traded your best goalie for some second- and third-line wingers.
If anyone asks you about players on your team, you can rattle off information, including where he played junior or college, his height, weight, stats, hometown, age and salary cap info.
If it's related to your team, you know about it.
These fans live within the bio sections of team websites and often frequent the stats page as well to keep up on the players' progress.
Every NHL player has a skating style.
What makes you an obsessed hockey fan is if you can differentiate members of your team just watching the movement of their bodies as they skate to the boards.
Some of them look slightly awkward because of their height, and others are smooth-moving figure skaters.
This tends not to come into play unless the player's number is blocked from view where even the announcer isn't sure who it is.
All in all, it means you're watching them way more than you should be. And probably a little too closely.
Everyone knows about the superstitions of hockey players because of the emphasis on routine on a day-to-day basis, but that doesn't mean the superstitions stop at the NHL level.
Some fans get involved as well, the obsessed ones, of course.
These superstitions can be anything from eating certain foods during the game or wearing a lucky cap.
Hindsight, there probably is no proof that following these superstitions guarantees success, but some fans are so obsessed that they are willing to do anything to ensure a victory.
In continuation of the previous slide, if your typical superstitions aren't doing your team justice, the obsessed hockey fan is more than happy to change it up.
Maybe it means sitting on the couch instead of the easy chair, or maybe it's switching from Miller Lite to Budweiser.
But again, this fan thinks the happenings in his or her living room are so important to the team's success that they will do anything in their power to make a win happen.
If it conflicts with the hockey game, you aren't attending.
Plain and simple.
It doesn't have to be an important game, it doesn't have to be a rivalry game. The fact of the matter is watching your team day in and day out is far more important than any other activities or TV shows going on at the time.
This NHL fan needs to get his or her fill of hockey on a regular basis, which is a huge explanation behind this behavior.
Going more than four days without a two-and-a-half hour hockey game wears on the psyche, which may or may not produce worse effects.
This is clearly more geared toward fans of teams within the playoff picture, and they aren't taking any chances with their vacation plans.
If the team makes the playoffs, they automatically have a good chance to win the Stanley Cup, and this obsessed fan is going to believe in that possibility until it's no longer possible.
These fans will ensure that wedding plans or vacations take place sometime after mid-June when the NHL playoff season would be undoubtedly over.
There's no point in possibly missing such a huge moment for the team because they are lounging on a beach in the middle of the Caribbean.
Being able to watch your team win is so worth the wait anyway.