Down Goes Brown: 10 lies all NHL fans tell themselves

The rookie leader in goals and points for the week, to go along with a Mario Lemieux comparison, gives Patrik Laine the ROTW title.

You’re a liar.

It’s OK. I am too. So is everyone reading this.

If you’re a hockey fan, you lie all the time. And not just to other fans – we lie to ourselves. It’s part of being a fan.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize when it’s happening. So today, let’s run through 10 lies that NHL fans tell themselves.

It’s OK to admit that you’re guilty of some of these. Heck, it’s OK to admit that you’re guilty of all of them.

Of course, you could also claim that none of these apply to you. You’d be lying, of course, but that’s OK too.

It’s what we do.

Lie No. 1: My team doesn’t dive
Hockey fans hate diving. Whether it’s the full-on deep-six, the hands-in-the-air flying twirl or the only slightly more subtle embellishments like head snaps and overreactions, it drives fans crazy to see players try to work the refs.

While certainly not unique to the sport – check out basketball or soccer to see some real artists in action – diving seems to go against what we’d like to think hockey players are made of. And the worst part is, these days everybody does it.

Well, everybody except for your team.

No, somehow fans have convinced themselves that they happen to root for the only team that doesn’t do this stuff.

And if one of their favourite players stands accused, they’re willing to break down the clip frame-by-frame like it’s the Zapruder film, until they’ve found the one angle that proves his innocence.

And in the rare cases where a player is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt? Well, he was just doing what any reasonable person would do, you see, because otherwise the refs never give him a call. Speaking of which…

Lie No. 2: The referees are out to get us
Your team just lost a game in which they faced more power plays than they received.

What happened?

Was it bad luck? Just one of those nights? A case of a team getting outplayed and having to take the sort of shortcuts that lead to penalties?

No. It was the refs. The refs were out to get you.

Sometimes it’s a specific ref; he made that one questionable call against you 17 months ago, so this is clearly becoming a pattern.

Other times, it’s just a general league-wide bias. Maybe it’s because somebody in the organization criticized a referee once and has never been forgiven (even though it wasn’t anything that every other team has said).

Or maybe it’s because your team is a smaller market and the league clearly doesn’t want those teams to succeed (even though they shut down an entire season to get a salary cap specifically to help smaller markets).

Either way, you’re not saying that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sneaks into the officials’ room before every game, twirls his mustache evilly, and instructs them to screw your team over. You’re just not not saying it.

But look on the bright side: at least the referees have to give you a break every now and then. They’re not completely biased. Unlike some other people you could mention.

Lie No. 3: The Department of Player Safety is really out to get us
Those jerks.

The DoPS has never sided with your team. Not once. Every time your boys step over the line even a little bit, it’s an automatic suspension. And no matter what the other teams does to you, the DoPS doesn’t even look at it.

This happens literally every single time.

(OK, other than that one case. And that other one. Right, forgot about that one too. Look, don’t go bringing facts into this.)

The bottom line is that nobody’s quite sure how the Department of Player Safety manages to be transparently biased against all 30 teams at the same time, but here we are.

Lie No. 4: I bet if I yelled “shoooot” the whole time my team was on the power play, they’d find that really helpful
No. No they would not.

They’re NHL players. They’ve been doing this for a while. I promise you, they’re aware that they have the option to shoot.

Maybe let them get set up for three seconds before you start offering up helpful reminders.

Lie No. 5: Our prospect pipeline is stacked
Birthday presents are always more fun before you open them.

At that moment, they could be anything. Sure, they’re probably just dress socks, but what if they’re something way better?

Fans tend to treat their favourite team’s prospects the same way—and that’s why they’re almost always convinced that their team’s future is in good hands.

In some cases, of course, it’s true. Some teams really do have a flood of top young talent on the way.

But many don’t. Maybe they’ve drafted poorly, or traded away too many picks and prospects on short-term fixes, or just had some bad luck in player development. But sometimes, the future just isn’t all that promising.

But fans rarely see it that way. Just like those unopened presents, prospects can be anything you want them to be. And so fans will latch onto promising reports on anyone in the system.

Even if a team isn’t considered to have much of a pipeline, you’ll hear fans defend them with some variation of “OK, but it’s not like the cupboard is completely bare.”

Well, sure. Every team has prospects. It would be weird if they didn’t.

If you went to watch a team’s AHL squad play and it turned out to be just a bunch of helmets and sticks thrown out onto the ice, then you could say “That’s strange, these guys literally have no prospects.” But short of pulling a 1983 Blues and skipping the draft year after year, that’s not going to happen.

Every team has prospects. Some of those, by definition, will even be the team’s best prospects. But it doesn’t mean they’re any good. And just pointing out that they exist doesn’t mean the future is bright.

By the way, overrating your team’s prospects can lead to…

Lie No. 6: We could probably land that big-name superstar if we put together a trade package of…
Let’s just stop you right there.

First of all, your team isn’t going to pull off a big trade, because this is the NHL and nobody makes big trades anymore.

But if they were, they wouldn’t land a superstar by bundling up a half-dozen marginal assets into one package. That’s not how trades work. Your third-line winger, fourth-line centre, backup goalie, three C-prospects and two third-round picks aren’t going to get the deal done.

Granted, that approach might have worked for Cliff Fletcher 25 years ago. But it doesn’t work now. Nobody wants your spare parts. NHL trades aren’t Coinstar machines.

Rule of thumb: If you find yourself feeling compelled to toss in a sixth-round pick “just to sweeten the pot,” that’s your subconscious trying to tell you that this whole thing is a bad idea.

Lie No. 7: Our owner is awesome and/or our owner is Satan himself
Hockey fans are weird about owners.

When things are going well, they’re heroes. When times are tough, they take the blame. And we like to go to extremes.

That guy in the owner’s box is either the hero that stepped in and saved the franchise from ruin or the incompetent moron who’s single-handedly driving it there.

The reality is that your owner is probably just some rich guy with a big ego that makes him want to win but also leads him to overestimate his own ability to help with doing so.

He doesn’t know as much about hockey as he thinks he does, but he signs the checks and as long as they’re not bouncing, you can indulge him a little while he pretends he’s Jerry Jones.

Some owners are better than others, but the days of the Harold Ballard-style villains are largely gone.

Hockey is a business, and businesses need deep pockets somewhere along the line to keep things running. Your owner isn’t perfect, but he’s probably fine. Give him a little credit.

Lie No. 8: Giving our owner lots of money to pay for a new arena would be a great idea
OK, maybe not too much credit.

(While we’re at it: No, he’s not moving the team if the city doesn’t cave in to his demands. What thriving hockey market is currently looking for a team? The league just put a team is Las Vegas — they’re probably not going to uproot yours just because you only bankrupted two school districts instead of three.)

Lie No. 9: The local hero will come back home someday
Whether it’s the former star who went on to play somewhere else or the local kid who grew up cheering for the team but ended up elsewhere, every fan is secretly convinced that anyone with a connection to their team will return to play there someday.

It’s a satisfying thing to believe. The returning hero is a classic part of any great story, and if he arrives just as the good guys are facing their time of need, even better.

Winnipeg Jets fans think Jonathan Toews will return someday. Arizona Coyotes fans dream of one day landing Auston Matthews. Boston Bruins fans thought Jimmy Vesey was coming home. Montreal Canadiens fans think they’re the destination of choice for any French star.

Maple Leafs fans think they’re getting… well, everyone. (Leafs fans go a little overboard with this stuff.)

Much like the fabled hometown discount contract, it rarely actually happens.

With 30 teams in the league and strong incentives for players to stay where they are rather than test free agency, the dramatic homecoming just doesn’t make sense in most cases.

But you can’t blame a fan for dreaming.

Lie No. 10: Our homer announcer is not annoying
Homer announcers are the worst.

They’re always yelling, they’re embarrassingly biased, and they’re constantly trying to push their convoluted catch phrases into every run-of-the-mill icing call. Anyone who’s ever been forced to watch an opponent’s feed of one of their team’s game has cringed through the entire thing.

But not your team’s guy. No, he’s great.

See, he’s over-the-top and shamelessly roots for the home team, but it’s different. He’s doing it on purpose, so it’s kind of like a form of irony, maybe.

And his catch phrase is actually kind of clever. Also, he bumped into Mike Lange in a crowded hallway one time, so it’s sort of a tribute thing. We think.

Besides, he’s always been like this. It’s just kind of his thing. So our guy’s cool, right?

No, he really isn’t. And everyone else rolls their eyes every time we have to listen to him. Tell him to knock it off.

And by the way, the same goes for your anthem singer, your pre-game ceremonies, your goal celebrations, and your wacky post-game tradition where the hardest-working player has to wear a silly hat.

So what did you think of this list? Are there any items that I missed?

I’d love it if you’d let me know by posting your thoughts in the comments section.

(See? Sportswriters can lie, too.)

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