Most of the time when we discuss visiting fans infesting Philips Arena, we aren’t speaking of them in glowing terms. We’ve all experienced the obnoxious supporter of the away team who has made his way into Philips Arena to root on…insert name of NHL team not named Thrashers here. Sometimes they have traveled from afar to see their team play in Atlanta. Sometimes these are people who live in the area who, under normal circumstances, pull for the home team but when the team representing the town they grew up in pays a visit…they revert back to they original allegiance.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
There are good and bad fans from each team of every sport, no doubt. Atlanta has their fair share of both sets as well. Normally, though, it’s the one’s who tend to peeve us off the most that we pay the most attention to and gripe about. But rarely do we opine about out-of-town guests that have that special ability to openly support their team while in hostile territory without smearing the good name of their hometown by their actions.
Among these fans are those who reside in the great state of Min-EEE-soh-TAH! Ya know, maybe that there are a few grade-A, USDA-prime jerks in that state… but if so, I’ve yet to meet one. They love their hockey, love their state, and love to chat it up with ya if you’ve the pleasure of sitting next to one.
Do I really like Minnesota fans? Oh YAAH…you betcha!
San Jose and Nashville fans are held in high regard by yours truly as well. Problem is, as is the case with the Wild, being Western Conference dwellers we just don’t get to see enough of them to develop that “friendly rivalry” thingy.
You might even be surprised to learn that I’ve never had any real problems with Rangers and Islander fans. Oh, I’m not ready to go off and pick out curtains with any of ‘em…but most of the one’s I’ve crossed paths with are very knowledgeable hockey people, love to have fun, yell to the top of their lungs for their New York team of choice but will laugh with you about whatever in between periods.
So, if you think I have issues with those from NYC and Lonnnnn-Gisland…fuhgeddaboutit!
However, there is one set of out-of-towners that I actually look forward to when they pay Thrasherville a visit. Heck…some of them I actually flat out like! They are the hockey fans that come from the Tar Heel state, our neighbors in North Carolina…the ones that refer to themselves as Caniacs.
Maybe it’s because we share a southern heritage and lifestyle with one another. Maybe it’s because so many of our kids have played one another while on travel hockey teams. Maybe…just maybe…it’s because they, too, have experienced some of the less-courteous type guests in their barn and have simply decided to not be that set of fans.
Either way, I just always seem to have a great time when the Hurricanes are in town and I get a chance to mingle with some of those fine folks.
Oh sure.. they yell, holler and scream and generally go nuts for their team…and they just love to walk out of the place with a big, fat hairy smile on their face if they are carrying 2 points away with them. I mean sure, who wouldn’t. It’s just that, win or lose, they don’t feel the need to play the “jerk” card during the process.
Last winter, about 150 or so local fans moseyed their way up I-85 to Raleigh to watch the Thrashers take on the Hurricanes at the RBC Center. They had a blast…despite the outcome, (a 2-0 loss). One of the reasons that they had such a good time up there was because of their interaction with the hometown Caniacs.
The outing was so enjoyable, in fact, that the Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club is planning other such outings this season. One of the co-founders of the club, Sean Grace of the Blueland Roar, said to me recently, “I like those folks and have nothing but good things to say” about our friends from Carolina.
A month after that roadie, Hurricane fans returned the favor as scores of ‘em rambled down our way for a Canes/Thrashers game. Oh, and I’m happy to say we returned the favor of sending them home with no points thanks to a come-from-behind 5-3 win.
Anyway, as I was hanging with the Nasty Nest crowd down in The Gulch prior to the game, I noticed a swarm of red jersey-clad hombres making there way toward us. Dozens of Hurricane fans that had blown into to town that day took up the Thrashers fans offer join the Nesters for the pre-game tailgate party festivities.
We chatted about each others teams, the Canes playoff push, the Thrashers good play of late, certain players, other NHL odds-and-ends, ate, drank, played bean-bag toss…basically had a fantastic time with some fantastic people.
When the time came, we entered into Philips to yell for our respective teams…and even at each other a little bit. Afterwards, we yucked it up a bit outside, bid them a happy and safe trip home and said our farewells.
Classy bunch of hockey fans, those Caniacs…and I look forward to more fun with them this season.