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?