How Did You Get Into Hockey?
There’s not much attention for hockey in my home country, Belgium. The only time I’d ever see anything worth watching was highlights during Men’s World Championships or the Winter Olympics on Dutch tv. During the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, there actually was quite a lot of coverage both on tv and the internet. I have a thing for Finland, so I quickly became a fan of the Finnish team, and Teemu Selänne and Kimmo Timonen in particular. For years after that I only saw the occasional Finnish highlights and not much else. In 2009 when I was in college, I met a girl who played hockey herself and she introduced me to the NHL. It wasn’t until the 2010 Olympics that I realized how huge hockey actually was in North America. I fell in love. For real this time, and I haven’t stopped being in love since.
What is your favorite/least favorite part about the sport?
My favorite is undoubtedly the intensity. In my opinion, there’s no sport like hockey when it comes to intensity. Which probably plays a big part in why I like hockey so much. I’m a pretty intense sports fan as well, so it’s basically a match made in heaven.
I dislike the fights. I’ve gotten used to them now, but especially in the beginning I didn’t get it. I never really associated any kind of violence with sports, so it was kind of a shock to my system. In general I still don’t like it and I would actually like to see it banned from the game. But I don’t see that happening. From what I’ve read on social media over the years, a lot of fans see fights as a part of hockey that appeals to them, so… And I have to admit, sometimes I get it. Sometimes I want to punch a player in the face because he’s taunting a player on my team but the fighting just to fight or “to get the team going”… Nope. Not for me. Players getting injured in a fight always makes me think “are you happy now!?”.
Do you follow any other sports?
I actually follow a lot of other sports as I always wanted to be a sports journalist. The list is pretty long but my favorite sports are probably volleyball, snooker, swimming, biathlon and tennis.
Are you strictly an NHL fan or do you follow other leagues?
Like I said earlier, I started out as a fan of international games between countries before I became an NHL fan. I’m still a big fan of Worlds and Olympics. The Belgian league is too sad for words, so I don’t follow that at all. I do try to follow the German team Eisbären Berlin a bit. I have attended a few games when I was in Berlin. But the main focus for me really is the NHL.
What is/are your favorite team(s)?
Anaheim Ducks! It started out as a well-thought-out decision during the 2010 Olympics. I already liked Teemu Selänne a lot, watched Canada with Niedermayer, Perry and Getzlaf… And then the Dutch commentator told the Bobby Ryan story. I was sold. It didn’t take me long to become an actual fan. In the short 4 years I’ve been a fan, I can honestly say it has gotten a bit out of control. But I like it. I think the Ducks are worth it. I try to follow Colorado Avalanche, Caroline Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators a little bit because they have players I like, not per se because I’m a fan of the team. And like I said before, I try and follow Eisbären Berlin a bit, but it’s not easy to find time when you follow a lot of sports.
Do you have a favorite player?
Back in the days when I had no idea what the NHL was, I really liked Kimmo Timonen and Teemu Selänne. But ever since I became a follower of NHL hockey it is Bobby Ryan. I’m still recovering from the trade to Ottawa and I probably won’t ever get over it, but things like that happen. Initially I was just affected by his life story. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a really good player (a lot of the time I feel like people underestimate how good he really is). And then there are the small things that can make a player into your favorite player: we share the same birthday. With the time difference, I don’t get to see him nearly enough now as it’s difficult enough to juggle one team’s schedule and getting some actual sleep. On the Ducks roster all my devotion now goes to Cam Fowler and Corey Perry. As far as non-Ducks are concerned, I also like Gabriel Landeskog, Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchene and Jordan Staal. For reasons ranging from “how adorable are they”, over “sweet moves” to “he’s just a bad-ass player”.
Do you follow/use/analyze with advanced stats?
Not really. Like I said, with the time difference it’s already quite a feat to just watch the games. I can’t read up nearly enough on hockey news, let alone that I spend time looking at stats. Obviously sometimes when it’s a really particular game or streak, or a player does really good things or really bad things, I may take a look. But it’s not really something I’m into. I like the game for the game, not the numbers.
Do you have a favorite hockey memory?
My favorite hockey memory is undoubtedly attending my first (and so far only) Ducks game. I spent pretty much all my year’s savings on getting a front row ticket to the NHL Premiere game the Ducks played against Buffalo in Helsinki on October 7, 2011. It was totally worth it and I would do it again. At the time I thought it was pretty crazy, because I had only been a fan for 1,5 years and it seemed a little soon. Usually it takes me a while before I warm up enough to a team to do the crazy things and go all out. Now the only thing about that trip that makes me a little sad is that I didn’t get to meet any of the players and get a picture or an autograph.
If you could change one thing about how NHL hockey is played, what would it be?
I don’t think I’ve been a fan of the game for long enough to be able to answer that question. I’m not a big fan of the very short OT followed by a shoot-out. I would like to see more and longer suspensions for players who injure an opponent. I’d like them to ban fighting but especially give referees ways to keep a game from turning into a “fight fest”.
How has your presence been welcomed (or not) by men/women- either on social media or at games/bars?
I’m not even sure you can follow any hockey at bars over here… Never even checked it out. Anyway. I’ve only been to a few hockey games and I can’t say men or women have ever commented on or asked questions about why I was into hockey. Same thing goes for social media. I’m a twitter person so you can basically follow who you want and block or mute everyone you wouldn’t want to interact with. To me it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman. If you’re into hockey and you have humor we’ll get along in some way or another. For the most part, people who are on twitter seem to get that. They don’t judge based on being a man or woman. I am surprised that in general in Belgium it’s still not seen as “normal” to be into a lot of different sports as a woman. I always wanted to become a sports journalist and that was frowned upon for a very long time. It has gotten a lot better over the years but I still get the “wow, really!?” every once in a while.
If you interact with other hockey fans on social media, what are your favorite and least favorite parts?
My favorite part is just the basic fact that I can interact with other hockey fans. Apart from the girl who introduced me to hockey and another friend, I don’t know anybody personally who is into hockey. That’s why I like twitter so much. Even though we live thousands of kilometers apart and it’s quite possible being into hockey is the only thing we have in common, we communicate, read each other’s remarks and watch a game “together”. My least favorite part is when people get disrespectful or rude. Can’t say it has happened to me a lot or that I’ve seen it happen in my timeline but I’ve heard some stories. During a game, I can get pretty intense and use some foul language directed at players or teams or fans but it’s all in good humor. You can make fun of other fans or teams but always be respectful. Don’t attack someone on a personal level just because their opinion is different from yours. But like I said, if you filter out the wrong people, twitter is a very nice place to be during a hockey game.