What Are NHL Fans' Duties to Their Teams?

Laura FalconAnalyst INovember 5, 2010

BUFFALO - OCTOBER 22:  Fans of the Buffalo Sabres cheer as the Buffalo Sabres face the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at HSBC Arena October 22, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

NHL fans—or even fans of the NFL, NBA or MLB for that matter—are an integral part of a franchise, but what are their actual duties as fans of their favorite team?

Many organizations will recognize their fans as members of the team because without the fans, there really is no team. They bring in the revenue to support the franchise by buying tickets to games or team events, merchandise and so on.

For the players, the fans have a little more than monetary value. They're the support group for the team, cheering them on at their games, both home and away. They win with the team and lose with the team because the two have truly become interlocked over time.

However, acting as such isn't always easy for the fans.

As a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I have been witnessing an interesting phenomenon among fans surrounding goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Because of his recent poor play, many fans have resorted to bashing Fleury for his mistakes to the point where failure seemed preferred to prove their point that backup Brent Johnson should be in net.

On the other hand, many Fleury fans vehemently denied that he was at fault for his poor play and defended him to no end.

I asked myself, "Who is more justified in their actions as fans?"

From a personal perspective, I feel that as a girl who has never played organized hockey, I can't completely shoot down a player's talent because I can't truly understand the sport until I have played it at that level. But what about the people who have played before and understand the sport because of their experiences?

Is there a specific way all fans are required to act toward their team?

To be a fan of a team implies a certain love for that team, and I see this love translating in three different ways.

1) Unconditional Love

This kind of love comes from the fans who can never see any wrong with their team.

These are the fans who don't like any kind of change to happen to their team, usually because of some emotional attachment to the players or coaching staff. It doesn't matter that the team was winless in December; the team and staff stay put because there is no wrong this team can do.

Oftentimes these fans are in denial of reality.

2) Tough Love

These are the hard-ass fans that act like our moms and dads did when we were acting up as kids. This can be equated to a slap in the butt.

Tough love fans want what's best for the team despite what that entails. It's all about the business of hockey for these people, and winning is what makes the success worthwhile, not how much you love the personality of X player.

If winning means sending away half of a Stanley Cup championship team during the offseason, then so be it, according to these fans.

3) Hateful Love

Truth be told, many of these fans are under the influence of something, be it alcohol or some other kind of drug.

Nothing a team can do will ever make these fans happy because there is always something that can be improved to make the team that much better. The hate here often comes out as a team is struggling and fans have run out of excuses.

These fans are simply a frustrated group in many ways.

In the end, every fan has the duty to care about his or her team, and that caring, for many fans, quickly blossoms into an intense love.

While I have divided a fan's "love" into three categories, many fans will typically see a little of themselves in all three angles of love. All teams go through periods of time where each category seems like acceptable behavior based on how a season is progressing.

But is one of these behaviors ever more justified than another? Are some inexcusable?

What do you think?

Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins and a college writing intern for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter or email her at lfalcon@mail.umw.edu with any comments.