The Cost of Being a True Hockey Fan

I’ve been seeing a great deal of angst and judgement recently on what it means to be a true hockey fan. I’ve seen allegations thrown about bandwagon fans, puck bunnies, fake fans, assertions that you’re less of a fan if you’re female, or if you don’t play hockey yourself, or even if you like more than one team. I’ve seen statements that if you appreciate the inherent aesthetic of hockey and hockey players, then you’re not truly a fan, or if you haven’t followed a team since birth, then you’re a phony. I just can’t stay silent anymore. I’m sick of these messages.

I grew up in a town where there was no hockey. I loved the ice, begged Santa for ice skates every year because they were the only thing I wanted. I skated on ponds, bought used skates, and spent as much time as I could on the ice. But there was no money for lessons, or for driving 4 hours to find somewhere where ice skating was anything more than a hobby. I never stood a chance of playing.

Growing up, there were no hockey games on TV. Ever. So I didn’t see a hockey game in any way shape or form until I finished college.For the record? I fell in love the second the puck hit the ice. But being in love with Hockey is not cheap, or easy, and I think that it’s all too easy for so many folks to forget that.

I mean, let’s review:

To view hockey games on TV, it costs me $132/month to have Cable, and an additional $100 dollars (ballpark- that figure isn’t set) to be able to view NHL games. Next year, that cost will climb to over $200 before the NHL package. I used to try to watch live streams over the internet, but those crap out 6 times in every game, and I still have to pay $60/month for internet). Even going to bar to catch a game means that I have to spend at least $4 per game on a beer and nurse it through three periods for the right to sit and watch. Hell, I can go to friend’s house and beg them to put on the game, but I have to least bring cookies or something. Watching isn’t free.

Now let’s say I want to actually attend a hockey game. The average cost of an NHL ticket is $61.01 (which is, for the record, just about the lowest price ticket that I can get to see my team. Their ticket costs are above the average). In reality though, the Fan index reports that the average cost once you include parking, etc. is above to $90, making the cost for my fiance and I to attend a game $200. Not to mention the $40 to fill the gas tank. That’s for one gosh-darn game!

Jerseys can cost as much as $249 plus shipping, but I’m a savvy shopper, and have managed to snag us two on Ebay for a combined $80. Not bad, since Shirseys usually come in around the $25 mark, and even just a shirt with a team logo rarely dips below $15.

So far this year, I’ve spent the equivalent of three month’s rent supporting my hockey obsession. For the first time in my life, I’m at a point where doing that only makes me cringe at the cost and hope I can still afford to do laundry, instead of leaving me homeless.

I know that for folks who play hockey, the equipment costs and league fees and the gas and everything that is part and parcel of that is astronomical. It boggles my mind, and I am certainly impressed with your dedication and commitment. I also hope that you are aware of how fortunate you are to have the opportunity and the support to pursue your passion.

But I would really like if if we could stop defining a “True Fan” by how much money they spend. The number of games you spend, the TV package you have to watch the games, the fact that you can afford to play, the fact that hockey is a thing which is around you, or that you can watch a game instead of working and going to school 18 hours days— these are all privileges. These are all things to be grateful for. They are how you get to enjoy the game, they are not what prove your worth as a fan.

To me, there are only 2 things that matter in being a fan:
1.) Are you passionate?
2.) Do you still consider yourself a proud fan of the team and carry them in your heart, even when they’re losing?

Great! You’ve passed the test! Everything else- whether you play or don’t, are able to watch every game, own team merchandise, whether the players make your heart beat faster, or whether you’ve been following the sport for 25 years or 25 days…these are not factors in whether you are a fan- they’re part of how you celebrate, not your right to celebrate.

In my world, everyone is welcome, because every fan, new or old, regardless of how they cheer raises the profile of this sport, and that’s something I think we should all be able to champion.