In my New Year prayer I mentioned receiving a game stick from my favorite hockey player. The story behind it is a great example of how sports can elevate the spirit and create community.
There’s a team on this planet that has a fandom like no other. When meeting a fellow fan, the question asked is: “When did you become infected?” Yes, infected, because the devotion to this team is so deep one could mistake it for an illness.
It’s the Swiss hockey team HC Ambrì-Piotta and I was infected by my husband who was infected by his aunt.
Some years ago they had an absolutely dynamic player. It was a minor tragedy when he left the team but we saw the silver lining: He was coming to the NHL! For my birthday this year, my husband got us tickets behind the visitors’ bench. We wore our HCAP gear, made a sign and got to the rink for warmups. Sure enough, Dominik Kubalik spotted our sign, smiled and flipped us a puck.
I’m sure he had a moment of confusion. “Huh, what are fans from my former remote Swiss mountain town team doing at Ball Arena?”
But he must have loved our ongoing cheering, because after the game, following our final pound-on-the-glass farewell, he gave me his hockey stick!
The reaction from those around us was instantaneous. Everyone erupted in cheers. It was a moment of euphoria and everyone around me was buoyed up too (though admittedly slightly confused, as Kubalik is not one of those instantly recognized stars).
When I tweeted my “coup,” all of my HCAP “friends” were equally thrilled. There was a true sense of community spirit; even though we’re strangers, we totally understand this aspect — the love of HCAP — of each other.
Kubalik’s HCAP connection made him my favorite NHL player, but this off season he put me in an impossible position. He was traded to the one team no Colorado Avalanche fan can ever support. It’s a conundrum that only an Avalanche-HCAP fan could understand. There is one among my Twitter followers and while we both agreed that only for Kubalik could an exception be made, I still feel sick any time I contemplate rooting for a Red Wings player.
I guess in a few short weeks I’ll find out just how serious my “infection” is.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]
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