The most unflattering picture of Marty Havlat I could find.

Fandom is a tricky subject. Everybody has their own way of being a fan, their definition of “real fan,” their guiding principles, and their easily-pushed buttons (good and bad).

Your relationship to sports is as unique as your fingerprint. Sure, I find plenty of gals who also have an extra special thing for goalies, but I can’t find one who agrees on WHICH goalies. For instance, how many of you have a 20×30 poster of Barry Brust over your desk?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Brusty Fan Club President, right here, baby.

The things is, I can sit here and tell you why I adore Barry over every other goalie, but what I can’t tell you as easily is why some players and teams, I just can’t get a toe-hold on in the likability department (maybe they all need more beerability? I’ll leave that up to our editor, Justin Bourne, to decide).

Here are some characters I just can’t get on board with regardless of the evidence in their favor:

Shane Doan

I KNOW! He’s like the nicest guy ever and he’s good at hockey and loyal to that oft-downtrodden team he captains. As Bourne tweeted the other night, if you don’t like Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan, you’re evil.

So, maybe I’m only half evil? No problem with Iginla at all.

Not that I’d be disappointed to have Doan on my team, it’s just that I don’t trust people who smile constantly. Perma-smilers have bodies hidden somewhere, I just know it.

"Hey, guys, have you seen that show Dexter?"

If I ever got to interview Doan, here would be my questions to try and lull him into slipping up:

  • Do your cheeks ever get tired from smiling? “Haha, no! I’m just so happy!”
  • Remember when you were in Point Break with Patrick Swayze? That was awesome. “Haha! I’m not Keanu Reeves, but thank you!”
  • Where do you hide the bodies?  “By the giant cactu…. I mean, what bodies?”

Boom. I’m on to you, Shane Doan.

The San Jose Sharks

There’s really nothing to overtly dislike about the Sharks. Classy organization that’s consistently successful. Sure, they never go as far as anyone thinks they will in the playoffs, but if I’m not a loyal fan or wagering on them, it’s really no skin off my nose.

So, the giant eye roll I always have for them is hard to explain, but it something along the lines of: Teal? Really?

Also, the weather is so enviable in NoCal and being from Houston, where it’s a humid 100 degrees for 13 months a year, it just seems like they’ve got some kind of Valhalla over there.

Nice weather year round AND a good hockey team? Shut. Up.

And if you look at my NHL team, in the frozen tundra of Minnesota and as consistently mediocre as the Sharks are consistently good… well, it all just makes them kind of irksome for their seeming lack of suffering.

Martin Havlat

You would think as a fan of a team that couldn’t score at a Vegas hooker convention, I’d have been grateful for the 52 and 64 points he put up for the Wild the last two seasons.

Plus, he seems to be a nice guy with lots of loyal fans who defend him fiercely.

But he could have racked up 1000 points and taken the Wild to the Stanley Cup finals and I just wouldn’t like him.

His style is aggravatingly floaty, and his supporters are right that that’s probably why he is able to always find that quiet open space to take fantastic shots from.

But for me, Havlat is like the guy in the peloton who never takes the lead, reserves his energy, and then jets to the front at the end to win the race. I’m not saying it’s a fair assessment, or even accurate. But yeah, I kinda am (-19 and -10 those two seasons, BTW).

Still, it’s doubly aggravating that I can’t seem to look at the results — scoreboard, Ms. C! — and appreciate him for what he does well. But I can’t. You make me want to scoop my eyes out with a spoon, Marty, but I’m sure your heart’s in the right place.

On the other hand

Being the contrarian that I am, I really like a few guys who probably don’t deserve it.

Even before he broke his back eating a stack of pancakes, I liked Dustin Penner. I saw the show where he had his day with the Cup back as a Duck, before everyone decided he was fat, slow, and lazy, and thought, “Here’s a guy I’d love to have a beer with.”

And I still have a soft spot for him. Who, with his reputation, embraces the silliness of his most recent injury other than a guy who is really okay with himself? That’s endearing.

Seems very Canadian (at least to an American) to do something generous with their hatred. Photo from HanneHowardFund.org

The other side of the Havlat coin is Dany Heatley. Is there any arena in the league besides Minnesota where they don’t boo him when he touches the puck? Did you know Sens fans gathered up their Heatley jerseys and sent them to Africa just to eradicate him from their lives? He’s the J.R. Ewing of hockey.

But I love the guy. The more he gets booed, the cockier the quotes coming from him, the more smug he looks, the more I love his stones for just being who he is, even if he is kind of a dick.

And even before 24/7 showed us the pulse of the Flyers (the first proof to many that they actually do have a heart), I’ve had a secret fondness for them.

I know, I know… the effing Flyers. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d feel that way if I’d been a hockey fan through the Broad Street Bully days.

Even though they try to keep that image up, it’s just not practical in the new NHL and they know it. But I like that you know that toughness is somewhere in the heart of the team and the city. They have a clearly defined personality, and screw you if you don’t like it, they say.

So, what have we learned here? Nice guys, classy organizations, and consistent scorers fail to resonate with me, while lazy, overpaid guys, pricks, and meanies weasel their way into my heart?

Sort of, but it’s really just proof that what moves us to love or hate as fans isn’t always flattering or tidy or even logical. But for me, it’s what makes fabric of our community so lively. It’s in the nooks and crannies of our hockey hearts where the surprises (both good and bad) hide.

Who are your “I know lots of people like you but I just DON’T” characters? Who DO you have a soft spot for that would cause your friends give you some shit?

Comments (18)

  1. I have a big soft spot for Zenon Konopka. Not sure why… maybe it’s the name? or his nose? But a big part of me swoons at him…

  2. I understand, as much as you don’t like Havlat, that’s as much as I don’t like Heatly. At least Havlat has the nice guy thing going for him, can’t say the same for Heatley. Just overall unlikeable person.

    • Oh, I feel sure you Heater haters hate him way more than I do Havlat. I’m just very very very annoyed by Havlat.

      I think the hate for Heater goes even beyond sports-hate for Ottawa fans. It’s personal.

      And I’m sure some day he’ll screw over Minny and we’ll join your ranks. For now, I’m just enjoying that he’s not Havlat. Short of running over my dog on purpose, he can do no wrong right now.

  3. I’m not sure we can be friends anymore…Heatley AND the Flyers..ick. And this coming from a girl who agrees with you on the coolness that is Barry Brust…sigh. I used to have some of the same feelings for football players…specifically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I hated Brad Johnson, Warren Sapp and both of the Grammatica brothers haha.

    • Funny, I used to be a huge Bucs fan. I OWN a Gramatica jersey! :D

      We all have our quirks as fans, that’s my point here.

  4. Here’s one that I should put on my flame-resistant suit for: Wayne Gretzky.

    I’m born and raised in Edmonton, and I acknowledge his total greatness as a player. That said, he’s always come across as a big phoney to me. I think it’s partly that he has always talked about himself in the third person, and partly the way he carts his family out into the spotlight,

    Also, he publicly threw his wife under the bus over that whole gambling thing….what a douche.

  5. My feelings aren’t that strong but, I feel very lukewarm about Broduer, which I suppose makes him my least favorite goalie. Yes, I am a goaliephile. Just never felt like Broduer was to great golden boy. Regardless of stats, I think he’s over rated.

  6. :D I’ve never related to the godlike devotion to Grez either, Mike, but I wasn’t watching hockey during his reign, so I’ve always chalked it up to that. Glad to know it might actually just be the guy himself. Have always thought he was a bit selfish for hanging on so long in PHX, too. A good coach might have gotten them success sooner and avoided all this drama.

    Ann, I can see that. I love the guy. Like, I might cry if I met him. But I can see where the hullabaloo about him could be off-putting.

  7. Marc Andre-Fleury. As a goalie fan I feel guilty for not supporting the keepers of the goal but seriously I cannot even begin to like Fleury on any sort of level. Even his francophileness cannot make me like him.

    My stupid soft spots are: Daniel Briere (gotta love the tiny Frenchmen), Sean Avery (because I am a horrible person), and Severin Blindenbacher (gotta love navigating German language websites for DMen you only know from the olympics ok?).

    Of course there are goalies I have stupid soft spots for but they are goalies so I can just chalk that up to me liking goalies the best.

  8. Niklas Backstrom, I just don’t have the goalie love for him. Harding on the other hand I have soft spot for. I am such a goalie girl. As far as players go, I just can’t seem to like Bouchard. (Yes, I really only have Wild and former Wild player fetishes).

  9. I will always have a strong dislike for Ryan Ellis. His style of d just irks me, especially at the World Juniors. If you want to score a ton of goals and not do much in your own end then play forward, in my opinion. It’s called defense for a reason, and being an unsung hero isn’t for everyone. I also hate Pronger because he’s cocky as hell and Chara because he ditched the Sens. On the flip side, Wade Redden will always be my favorite player. I know he was the scapegoat in Ottawa for the last couple seasons he was there, but I don’t care. Sorry this is so defence-centric, tis my position.

  10. Great article again! I’m a Kings fan, but I also love the Leafs and Caps. Those two teams are pretty much the exact opposite of the Kings, so it’s a nice escape from the usual for me.

    I’ve always loved Ovechkin, he’s smug and flashy I shouldn’t like him but I do. He could be the greatest player ever if he bothered to try to develop different parts of his game, but he doesn’t. Maybe it’s because he’s Russian and I have a soft spot for them, I like Alex Semin too (mostly because they call him Sasha).

    The other player I love is Kris Versteeg. It takes some serious balls/liquor to rap in front of 3 million people at a Stanley Cup rally. He won my heart that day, and continues to make an ass of himself, and not care what anyone thinks, on a regular basis.

  11. I always have a few players that I can’t stand on my team, Gomez being the current hab I rag on. I also couldn’t stand Roman Hamrlik or Kovalev. Plus I can’t stand pretty much anyone who played for the London Knights.

    Players I am ashamed to say I like, Jonas Gustavsson, I don’t know why, but there is just something about him.

    I also love Todd Bertuzzi, which was hard to admit to for a while.

  12. I love the beerability concept. This should be how NHL 2013 rates the players.

    I think the picture of Havlat you chose is him eating invisible Kraft Dinner with a large wooden spoon. I wonder if he likes ketchup or mixing it with hot dogs. I prefer jalapenos myself but that’s me.

    A guy I don’t like for beerability is Jeff Carter. I just imagine he’d be fine to hang out with but he’d find a way to get a little too tipsy and get a high-ankle sprain when he awkwardly falls off a curb. Then you’d have to take him to the hospital.

    This is kind of my reason for disliking Rick DiPietro. I don’t need him swiveling like a little kid in a barstool and rupturing his labrum.

    How the heck am I explaining that to Garth Snow?

    I think Justin should work on the beerability of coaches post followed by the beerability of GM’s and league officials post.

  13. I always like players that show some of their personality – either on or off the ice. I LOVE how Matt Cullen says something (“drop the f&@*!&% puck” is one rumor) to the official and then gets chased from every face off for the rest of the game. He apparently cannot contain his passion to play!

    I never seem to cheer for the best player on any given team – they have enough fans. I always seem to like the guy who’s a bit of an underdog. My only current Wild player t-shirt is Jared Spurgeon… anyone outside of Minnesota or Houston heard of him?

  14. OMG Eric Staal – he’s just a bad hockey player. Not that he can’t score, but he’s so frickin’ lazy. I can just imagine when they were young and he was always cherry picking that his little brother started playing defense just to stop him as many time as possible.

    I disliked Mt. Messier enough that I had written off the entire Rangers organization for over a decade. Recently that has changed, mostly due to King Henrik. How can you not love a guy who rescues a parrot off his porch?

    Osgood is my guy that others loved to hate. I think he’s probably one of the most underrated goalies in all of the NHL. I was sad when he retired. I loved to watch him play. Classy guy all around as far as I’m concerned.

  15. Intriguing topic.
    I don’t know if he’s really all that liked, but I have an irrational hatred of Drew Doughty. Really, really dislike him.
    Patrick Marleau. Seems like a nice enough guy. Don’t like him. No idea why I react that way to him.
    Jonathan Toews. Team hate overrides any respect I have for him as a player. Still respect him, but dislike him.

    Guys I like that people would rag me for? Does Bertuzzi count? I’ll always have a soft spot for him. Still have a pin I made when I was 12 with his face on it.

  16. My inexplicably hated team: Boston Bruins. Everything about them is so good right now, but I hate them. Like, “throw things at the tv” hate them.

    Player – Olli Jokinen. I just can’t stand that guy. I think it’s because he has no eyebrows, so he always looks so surprised at everything.

    I’m an unabashed Oilers fan, but I, too, have a soft spot for Philly. And for players, Ryan Jones is the first player younger than I am whose jersey I’ve ever considered wearing. And Kimmo Timonen. I don’t know why I like that guy, but I do.

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