Underappreciated Sens

The arbitration period of the summer is typically the low point of the hockey year. So little is going on that fans spend hours debating the merits of a player asking more than his employer on his next deal as if this was not an utterly predictable exchange and tactic. But it does shine a light on what is deemed valuable within the current mood of the NHL and who is assigned value.

Ottawa has had its fair share of heroes; players who have put up big points, scored crucial goals, or strung together remarkable victories. These players get a lot of ink, but what about the underrated and underappreciated? The guys who aren’t subject to round after round of Senators Revisionist History by bored fans on brutally hot summer nights. Who are the most underappreciated Senators?

Shawn McEachern

McEachern was part of the best Sens era in team history but gets overshadowed by offensive players like Alexei Yashin, Daniel Alfredsson, and Marian Hossa. Yet in his six years in Ottawa, McEachern twice finished second in team scoring to Yashin and finished third on another occasion. There was a period of a few seasons where Alfredsson had horrible injury luck and the Yashin saga was playing out when McEachern was the reliable veteran who could be counted on for top-six offensive production in the dead puck era. Two 30+ goal seasons as well as a season with 29 goals, Shawn wasn’t depth scoring, he provided key production, yet has been all but forgotten in the decade+ since his trade to the Thrashers.

Jason York and Igor Kravchuk

Neither were key contributors or flashy players. What they were is what we now crave: reliable blueline depth. Good for 25-35 points a season and generally more than 22 minutes/game, York was in Ottawa for five seasons and Kravchuk for three and a half. They didn’t take a lot of penalties, they didn’t hurt their team. They were just quietly steady. They were the kind of blueline depth that fans now crave but the type of players that are easy to forget when they’re in the lineup.

Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly

These two go together because my memory of one seems to always include the other. Young players during Ottawa’s golden age, Kelly and Vermette came up as inexperienced, inexpensive, depth players, the type good teams need to cultivate to stay good. They spent most of their time on the third line and killing penalties, where they were not only an effective shutdown force, but a force for good with a knack for chipping in shorthanded goals (8 between them in 06-07 alone). Trapped behind Spezza and Fisher, Vermette was too good for the third line but couldn’t break into the top six. Still, he had seasons of 19, 21, and 24 goals for the Senators, but never received the attention of the surprisingly comparable Fisher. Chris Kelly is remembered more as a useful, but limited, defensive specialist. However, he always hit double-digits in goals, and twice notched 15 as a Senator. That’s awesome production from a third line player, especially one who is so versatile defensively – the original Erik Condra if you will, but with twice the goals.

Nick Foligno

Foligno was another young player who the Sens moved in his mid-20s like Vermette. During his first couple of seasons with the big club, the Senators were still under the illusion they were an elite team. As Foligno continued to develop, he played on some truly crap Sens incarnations yet seemed to have trouble sticking in the top-six and often played a third line role under Cory Clouston (Q. how much did that guy fuck with things?) Yet Foligno kept contributing and his last season as a Senator was his best (15 goals, 47 points). His penchant for taking ill-advised penalties seems more an anomaly instead of habit in retrospect, but one which contributed to him being traded. He’s not the biggest guy in the league, but he’s a physical player who’s comfortable setting up in front of the net. Essentially, he’s the player Bryan Murray envisioned when signing the Colin Greening contract. Even his goalie hugs, which have become the stuff of legend in Columbus, were underrated in Ottawa.

Chris Phillips

It might seem odd to see Phillips on this list. A Senator since 1964, Phillips was key in choosing a new Canadian flag. But he also gets lost in the shuffle somewhat, as Ottawa’s blueline has traditionally been pretty strong. Behind Redden and Chara on the depth chart for the prime of his career, his pairing with Volchenkov was given its due, but his-hard hitting partner was the more celebrated of the duo. Since Erik Karlsson’s emergence, a litany of defensemen (Kuba, Gonchar, and Methot) have all been more vital to the Sens success. That Phillips was not one of the team’s two best defensemen for much of his career shouldn’t diminish the fact that he was a valuable one for the bulk of his years in the NHL and deserves the corresponding appreciation. His rapid decline post-35 is being weighted too much right now. His last days in the capital have surely been his worst, but like Bryan Mulroney or George W. Bush who also left at their lowest, there’s nowhere for Phillips to go but up.

Great Moments in Sens Off-Season History

Now that Bluesfest is over, we are officially deep into the summer and the news coming out of the NHL seems to be a little slow. You might think that slackers like Bob Mackenzie or Elliotte Friedman are doing it right by taking off to the cottage for two months rather than dissecting the minutiae of which RFA’s pre-arbitration salary request is the most preposterous, but you’d be wrong. The hockey off-season isn’t just about contract negotiations and salary cap escalators. There are some great hockey stories that come out of every summer, if only you have the eyes with which to see them.

Don’t believe me? Here are some great moments from past off-seasons in Ottawa.

August 3rd, 2014: Bobby Ryan calls his Aunt Louise to wish her a happy “Big Six-Oh”.

June 29th, 2009: Jim O’Brien is recognized by a fan while dining alone at Baton Rouge. The fan does not say hi.

August 4th, 2012: Chris Phillips tries to invite Chris Neil to his cottage for the weekend, but accidentally sends the text to Sergei Gonchar instead. Luckily, Gonchar declines the invitation.

July 22nd, 2003: Shawn Van Allen does an internet search for his name and learns a thing or two about astrophysics.

July 17th, 2008: Ray Emery has a quiet day where nothing remarkable happens.

July 3, 2014: Clarke MacArthur spends time with his daughter while his wife goes out for drinks with her girlfriends. After his daughter is in bed, Clarke catches the last two innings of the Jays game.

June 8th, 2007: During locker cleanout day, Dany Heatley finds a collection of turtlenecks thought to have once been owned by Alexei Yashin.

July 6th, 2013: Robin Lehner just so happens to be at home during the delivery window and receives or a UPS package he was expecting. The contents of the package were undisclosed, but are thought to have been “organic” in nature.

August 20th, 2002: Mike Fisher watches the classic Seinfeld episode “The Contest” for the first time. He feels guilty for laughing at it.

July 7th, 1999: Petr Schastlivy learns that Beavertails are both delicious and not actual beaver tails. His first Beavertail is a classic cinnamon-sugar flavour.

June 28th, 2012: Zack Smith remembers he is nearly out of paper towel before checking out at the grocery store. He does a small, private fist pump as he leaves the store with paper towel.

August 29th, 1996: Janne Laukkanen discovers a local Valu-Mart that carries his favourite brand of pickled herring.

Various Dates: Erik Karlsson goes to a concert.

August 12th, 2009: Chris Campoli throws out any of his socks or underwear that have holes in them. He buys new socks and underwear from the Joe Fresh section at a Westboro Loblaws.

July 27th, 2008: Joe Corvo declares that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ early stuff is “pretty underrated”.

June 14th, 2001: Wade Redden accidentally grabs a bottle of red Gatorade instead of his usual blue following a morning run. He drinks the red Gatorade anyway.

July 29th, 2010: Pascal Leclaire accidentally drops a plate following dinner, but the plate doesn’t break. However, the plate is slightly chipped and is only ever used when all other plates in the house are dirty.

August 17, 2013: Jason Spezza has an extremely desirable parking spot stolen at the last second. He just laughs it off and parks two rows further down.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

THE TOTALLY EMPIRACLE, OBJECTIVELY RELIABLE NHL FRANCHISE LIKEABILITY SCALE

It’s July. The draft is over. The “free-agent frenzy” *shudder* is over. The playoffs…(checks internet)…appear to be over. That means we’re as far from meaningful hockey as a person can be. Which gives me a little bit of breathing room to run as spurious an article as I can think of.

How LIKEABLE are the Sens, anyway? I mean, but really. I like them. You probably like them. But how about relative to other teams? Is that not the true barometer for likeability—comparing oneself to one’s peers in a way that undermines one’s confidence? I think so.

So here, in ascending order, are the 30 NHL teams in terms of likeability.

The Horrible Stinkers

30: Toronto Maple Leafs

Huge surprise, I know. This isn’t (just) Sens-fan bile. They’re a terrible team who are totally undeserving of the love they receive and whose overlords throw money around to the degree that should they ever win a Cup it should come with an asterisk. They got a little more likeable sans-Kessel, but the brand and market are so unlikeable that it transcends the actual makeup of the team. All these guys need to do to be the least likeable team in hockey (maybe even pro sports) is to put on that uniform and dominate the media regardless of performance. Leafs suck.

29: Philadelphia Flyers

I guess you could argue that these guys being unlikeable means that they’ve achieved their goal. They want you to hate them. Well, mission accomplished. Even their fans hate them because of how often they make laughably bad decisions in an attempt to recapture a glory that never existed. These guys are what you end up with when you take a “team identity” and privilege it over every rational metric for team building.

28: Montreal Canadiens

This might be an example of an otherwise only mildly obnoxious team and brand being dragged down by the most obnoxious fan base in hockey. Toronto is in a hysterical panic all the time. Montreal is trying to explain the meaning of the universe outside a bar and won’t stop dominating the conversation even though people are shooting looks at one another behind its back. Plus Brendan Gallagher.

27: Boston Bruins

See Flyers, Philadelphia. Totally willing to trade immensely talented players in an attempt to get “Bruins tough.” Also completely have Ottawa’s number. Saved from a bottom three finish because it’s a nice uniform and it wasn’t Chara’s fault Ottawa didn’t re-sign him. And Bobby Orr. Points detracted for Don Cherry.

26: Florida Panthers

Because you forgot they existed until now. Only exist because they’re attached to a shopping mall with valuable parking real estate. Elevated a bit by Luongo, who seems like a genuinely nice and funny guy.

25: Anaheim Ducks

Built like Philly, except with skill. Perry is immensely hateable…and awesome. Obvious deduction of likeability points for Things that Happened in 2007 That Shall Not Be Articulated Here. Stupid name for a stupid team. Product of capitalism synergy lifesuck peak oil go to hell.

24: San Jose Sharks

They have what seems like 6-7 really great players and have never scared anyone. They’re entering their desperate, “it’s all about identity!” panicky, scrambling-for-answers-before-the-window shuts mode, AKA Ottawa Senators 2008-2013.

23: Vancouver

Mediocre team with Toronto-lite hysterical market that employs Alex Burrows and once employed Matt Cooke. Fans burned down the town once, which is Montreal’s dick move.

22: New Jersey Devils

It takes a special kind of team to not just be uninteresting, but to actually ruin hockey for everyone else through their very style of play. Wasn’t even a particular coach that did it. Boring hockey is who they are.

21: Edmonton Oilers

An embarrassment for the sport. Yeah, those dynasties were awesome, but present day Gretzky is like the king of a minor country if he lost a bet and could only wear golf shirts for the rest of his life. Even has his own clothing line is mostly golf shirts. Institutional cronyism on skates.

20: Calgary Flames.

Hired Brian Burke. Hired Bob Hartley. Saved from lower finish because of (lingering) association with Jerome Iginla, Nicest Man in Dodge.

The Slightly Stinky Middle

19: Carolina Hurricanes

I could not generate an interest in this team if I had a gun to my head and had to name six players on their roster to prevent my own murder. Bad team that overspends to be bad, bad uniforms, obnoxious colors, flukiest bunch of flukes that ever fluked. Won a Cup, lessening the value of the Cup.

18: Tampa Bay Lightning

See Hurricanes, Carolina, except with the added detriment of having more money than god. Do gain some points by virtue of Stamkos being awesome and cool and Yzerman being awesome and cool if over-valorized for his GM work because he spends like a drunken sailor.

17: Pittsburgh Penguins

Points added for Lemieux, uniform with skating penguin on it. Points deducted for winning generational lottery, inventing the modern tank model, Matt Cooke’s career.

16: New York Rangers

They have the unfair advantage of being located in the best place on earth. But points added because every weekend I’ve spent in New York has been one of the best weekends of my life. Henrik is Handsome. Sean Avery was annoying but in a sort of innovative way?

15: Dallas Stars

Brett Hull: amazing hockey player who sort of lowers the tone…of America. Players only want to play there because it’s in a state full of insane anti-tax libertarian Tommy Lee Joneses so they get to keep all of their millions at the expense of schools and art and stuff.

14: Winnipeg Jets

Feel good story about getting their team back followed inexorably by realization they were the Atlanta Thrashers except in Winnipeg. All of these years later STILL not using classic Jets logo, which is a crime.

13: Los Angeles Kings

Good team playing modern style. Coach seems to hate life itself, but in a ha-ha way. Come back against crazy odds (except this year). I don’t know, I’ve got nothing against the Kings.

12: Arizona Coyotes

They’re boring and I don’t care about them and I’m seriously sick of reading about their financial problems, but Antoine Vermette is, what, a top five most likeable guy in the league? And he went back there after winning a Cup with Chicago? I’m rooting for them, if only because I’m rooting for him.

11: Washington Capitals

They’re sorta due for some vintage love. Never quite a bad team, never quite a threat. One of these days they’re going to go on an insane run, and I get the sneaking suspicion that most of us will be closet Cap fans. That might be a bit strong. We won’t actively be rooting against them to lose in the first round again.

10: Colorado Avalanche

Roy leaves Montreal, wins Cup in Colorado, cements Colorado at #10 on this list. Joe Sakic.

The Teams with Hardly Any Stink 

9: New York Islanders

Former embarrassment of the league turns into seriously fun team to watch. Dynasty memories. Moving to Brooklyn (which…I don’t know, could seriously impact their place in these standings one way or another…). Jack Capuano’s hair is so, so bad. He looks like fat Def Leppard.

8: Ottawa Senators

Probably higher than what other people would rate them, but come on! Hamburglar! Poor ass team wins over cynical city hearts on miracle run! Loses points for every single iteration of their uniform ever and Eugene Melnyk, but Erik Karlsson is an angel sharing mana from heaven through a diamond trumpet.

7: Minnesota Wild

People can love or hate that high-concept puma headed logo, but this is a hockey crazy state that, for me, sorta exemplifies what you want the sport to be. They sort of suck and have a GM who rails against player salaries and then pays out $200 million for two players. But it’s not like they’re unique in that.

6: Buffalo Sabres

They were one of my least favorite teams as recently as 3-4 years ago. They employed guys like Steve Ott. Their uniforms are awful. They’re an embarrassment to the league most nights. But being the #1 underdog goes a long way in my books, and they were one of the historically worst teams in league last year. Imagine poor old Matt Moulson having to actually put on skates and do that night after night. And the good people of Buffalo have suffered – oh lord have they suffered. So I hope this #6 spot on an Ottawa Senators blog wipes away all of that indignation, which I’m sure it does.

5: St. Louis Blues

Sort of so unremarkable that you forget they keep demolishing the regular season and have some killer players on their team. Classy uniform. On the verge of becoming the San Jose Sharks by overcompensating for never winning, but for now I like them. Which according to this scale, makes them likeable!

4: Nashville Predators

Play prototypical moneypuck hockey. Them against the world, since nobody cares about them. Philly tried to push them around with the Weber offer sheet and they matched. Speaking of which: Second best defenceman in the league. Guitar strings running through the numbers on the uni. Points deducted for Mike Ribeiro.

3: Chicago Blackhawks

Toews. Kane. Modern dynasty. Nobody unlikeable on them (maybe Bollig?). Hossa. Keep having to lose the lineup for cap considerations; keep being good. The rare original six team that isn’t totally drunk on its own history, mostly because they don’t have to resort to history. They’re good right now.

2: Columbus Blue Jackets

Loveable losers and misfit toys who take it in the teeth over and over. The market loves them. The team loves the market. There’s not a person alive who would hate for the Jackets to go on a nice long playoff win streak. Giant fever-dream bee or wasp or something in Civil War uniform for a mascot. That is, when it isn’t a cannon that looks like genitals.

1: Detroit Red Wings

Sigh. It’s like this was destined. Nobody hates the Wings. Maybe Colorado fans, but even they respect the Wings. They’ve got everything: fun players to watch, great vets to admire, a winning history, a smart system, beautiful uniforms, and a city that needs good news. Nobody hates the Wings, and in this league, that’s the same as loving them.

Watching from the Stands

(Content warning: anxiety, harassment, assault, sexual assault, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia).

Earlier this week I wrote about what sports fandom means to me during transition. It was an introductory post on a new site and I hadn’t intended on writing a series on mediating being a sports fan and transition. But I went to a ball game on Tuesday night and had to go through all the typical trials of that experience. On Wednesday, I wrote about how difficult it is to make it from your house to your seat when attending a game if you’re not cisgender. I’ll return to writing more about the Sens soon, but before I do, I want to pick up where I left off in Wednesday’s post and talk about what it’s like to watch a game live when you’re not cis.

Most sports maintain, enforce, and rely on the traditional gender binary.

Certain sports like hockey, which generates and enshrines toxic masculinity as its core value, are particularly invested in keeping this status quo. To attend a sporting event when you do not fit the traditional definitions of femininity and masculinity is to take a risk that threatens your safety. If something does happen to you during the course of the game, very few people your back.

Sports crowds have documented issues with racism, homophobia, and sexism. Often stadiums and arenas are only partially accessible if you live with a disability. Trans people exist at the intersection of these issues and their gender identity.

Chances are you’ve thought a lot about the location of your seat if you’re trans and the view of the playing field wasn’t top of the list. Maybe you’re most comfortable if you only have to sit beside the person you’ve come with, so you’ve chosen an aisle seat. Maybe it’s easiest for you to get through the game if you don’t have to look at other fans so you chose a seat against a railing or a column. Maybe you chose to sit in the last row of your section or against a wall so all the action, including other fans, remains in front of you. Perhaps you want to be close to an exit in case things go south. If you’re MTF, FTM, agender, or non-binary and you use a mobility aid you have even less options for controlling your surroundings. Some sporting events, such as the Pan Am Games and university competitions, have unassigned bleacher seating. Many people, including trans people and people dealing with mental illness, show up early to secure seating which makes navigating public space and a crowd more manageable. Before you ask someone to move over so you can get the seat you want, consider that many people chose where they sit deliberately. Being a good ally means being aware that not every disability is visible and privileges you enjoy are not always shared by others. The same goes for swapping seats at a sparsely attended baseball game and while using transit to and from the game. Be aware.

Trans people face so much discrimination just by sitting in their seat. There are numerous announcements during the course of the game, often starting with the anthem. Sometimes these announcements ask fans to stand or give their attention to something happening in the crowd or at ice level. Facilities that are actively inclusive begin these announcements with “fans” instead of “ladies and gentlemen”. “Ladies and gentlemen” is a common expression and is seen as polite. It might not seem like a big deal to you if you’re cis, but if you’re not, it can feel like an erasure of your identity and serves to underscore the fact that you are not welcome.

Just sitting in your seat might lead to problems with other fans and stadium employees. Fans passing by to get to their seats or to the stairs say “sir,” “ma’am,” “miss,” or any of the multiple gendered descriptors we use every day without much thought. A worker climbing the steps selling water, pop, and cotton candy genders you incorrectly. You exist outside of cisnormativity but get called a lady when buying 50/50 tickets. I worked as a cashier for a number of years and employees who interact with customers are often taught to ask “may I help you ma’am?” and “is there anything I can do for you, sir?” Many people see this as a sign of courteous service, but simply asking “may I help you?” without gendered terminology is a lot more inclusive.

Even simple game day rituals can contribute to misgendering. You identify as trans feminine but sometimes pass as male so you think twice about buying that beer and not because it’s going to set you back $10. When you are gendered a certain way by others and then partake in activities typically associated with that gender (like passing as male and buying a beer at a hockey game), the likelihood the person serving you the beer is going to call you “man,” “dude,” “bro,” or “buddy” increases dramatically. That gendering doesn’t end there. If you’re ordering a beer you’re most likely going to hold it, and, unlike in beer commercials, you’re actually going to drink it. Some people read that beer as a signifier of maleness. This can be useful if passing as a certain gender is important to you, but it might also contribute to continued misgendering by the fan who wants to slip by you to head to the concourse or the person beside you who wants to high five after a goal.

Misgendering happens. It’s a regular part of life for people who aren’t cis. If you misgendered someone, apologize and move on. Don’t make it about you because it’s not about you. For some trans people, misgendering is a normal part of life that isn’t upsetting unless in extreme situations. For others, it’s deeply distressing. There is infinite variety in gender identity, and the trans experience is one that differs from person to person. If someone misgenders you and they see it upsets you, sometimes that person keeps doing it with the purpose of upsetting you. That’s happened to me at games. Consistently misgendering someone isn’t an accident or mistake. Consistently misgendering someone is offensive, abusive, and compromises the safety of the person being misgendered.

Sometimes sitting in your seat is a threatening experience if you’re trans. A rink is a gendered space: traditional masculinity is on display in the form of the players on the ice and the toughness of the game; traditional femininity takes place on the margins. Ice clearing crews are formed primarily of, or exclusively of, women filtered through the heteronormativity of the male gaze. It’s a situation that makes a lot of cisgender people feel uncomfortable and fosters an environment hostile to all but those who meet this narrow definition of masculinity. Consequently, it’s common to use gendered language and insults to abuse the opposition or in some cases, the home team. These insults, spoken casually around you in the stands or abusively hurled, yelled for all to hear, are sometimes racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic. This behaviour can be encouraged by alcohol but it’s the product of a society that actively hates women and those who don’t conform and a game which encourages players, and by extension fans, to “man up”.

Someone beside you insults you. A person four rows down and eight seats over is yelling homophobic insults at the opposition. Cis people don’t always have the option of saying something to a fan who is being offensive. If you’re alone or in a small group impacts whether you say something. If you’ve brought you’re kids to the game, you might not feel comfortable confronting the group of dude bros sitting in front of you making offensive remarks. Whether you’re a man or a woman or a person of colour impacts you’re ability to say something. If you have anxiety or another mental illness does too. The same holds true of sexual orientation. Trans people have to make these considerations as well. But we have additional barriers when confronting discrimination in game.

Sometimes our voices out us.

If you’re non-binary, sometimes the sound of your voice leads to you being misgendered. If you’re trans, speaking can out you. Listeners might make assumptions about which gender you were assigned at birth. Say you’re a 27-year-old trans man who’s started T. Your voice is likely changing, getting deeper, and yeah, might even be cracking. Some trans people go through puberty for a second time as an adult and it raises several issues that can prevent someone from speaking out. That’s not to say that those who do not fit traditional gender binaries don’t speak out against discrimination, many do and they should be listened to. It’s just that there are barriers for many of us when it comes to speaking to say nothing of the barriers cisgendered people deliberately put up when it comes to listening to trans people.

There are lots of valid reasons why people don’t say anything about the abusive and discriminatory language that’s common at sporting events. But consistently, cis people fail to pick up the transphobic overtones of this environment. This oversight jeopardizes the safety of all trans people.

It gives bigots an invitation to insult, harass, and assault us.

In plain sight.

There’s a sort of paradoxical nature to my fandom experience. I’ve been accepted by many in the Sens online community. I’ve met some truly wonderful people and gained some cherished friends. But my in-game experience is quite different. There isn’t a noticeable show of support, there’s just silence. There are valid reasons not everyone can speak out, as I’ve mentioned above. But I wonder if some part of that silence is a different sort of acceptance. That hearing, seeing, and experiencing hatred is viewed as a problematic, but natural, part of the game. That those doing the hating, by virtue of always having been there, have become somehow fixed, like a ubiquitous, bigoted foam finger.

When I’ve talked about the harassment I’ve experience, people respond with things like “where do you live?” “who are these people?” “didn’t anyone say anything?” and “how did this happen?” as if this sort of thing doesn’t happen all the time in front of them. I’ve been to games where people around me openly debated my gender. Whether done in a mocking tone or with genuine interest, this sort of behaviour is incredibly offensive and frankly, none of your business. Men and women have used transphobic insults against me for nothing more than trying to watch a beautiful Erik Karlsson rush. A man told me I had “nice titties” as he flicked my nipples with his fingers and called me “bro”. Think it makes things better by challenging these assumptions or objecting to this transphobia? It doesn’t. It makes it worse. When your body isn’t read as meeting cis standards, you are often considered suspect. For objecting to insults I’ve been called a sexual predator.

Cisgendered men and women have contributed to this discrimination. However, most of the abuse I’ve received has come from cis men. There are cis men who have been among my biggest allies when attending games, who consider my needs and offer support in a variety of ways. However, there are also cis men who are invested in actively maintaining the toxic masculinity that empowers them. Toxic masculinity gives them the faulty impression the public space of the arena is their birthright and must remain aggressively male, aggressively white, aggressively straight, and aggressively cis.

When cis men with this view speak nostalgically about what it used to be like to go to a game I get uncomfortable. Some fans just want to cheer loudly and ensure their team has the best home ice advantage. Cool, that’s not what makes me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable because often this type of nostalgia is coded. When English soccer fans yearn for the days of terrace culture and when North American fans want to replicate the rowdy, raucous atmosphere of European stadiums, what many of them aren’t saying is those space are desirable because of who was kept out. Hostile to women and people of colour, these spaces were celebrations of a certain type of maleness and as a result, also homophobic and transphobic.

Sports teams and arena management groups do little to curb the discriminatory behaviour still present in our stadiums. Little changes can make these spaces safer for everyone. Something as simple as posting signage with team/arena discrimination policy, clearly outlining that all types of discrimination, including transphobia, are prohibited helps non-binary people know there’s a chance their concerns will be heard. It’s common for teams or the companies running sports facilities to save money by cutting down on the number of ushers working at any given game. Not every section has stadium personnel, not every area is monitored. If an usher is present, not only can they intervene on their own when they see or hear objectionable conduct, but they also provide an easily identifiable source for help. Further, many trans people have a distrust for security and law enforcement personnel. Ushers can act as intermediaries between fan and security. But they can only do this if they receive training on issues of disability, race, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Assuming your employees have the resources available to address the insectionality of fan conflict, is not a sound policy. Greater diversity among ushers and security personnel can aid in establishing this type of institutional knowledge as well as improve the approachability of your game day staff for women, people of colour, and LGBTQ folks.

Assuming every fan can access stadium personnel when needed is also problematic. There are numerous valid reasons why someone is unable to physically go and seek out this kind of help. For trans people sometimes getting help means being on the receiving end of more discrimination. Making official complaints to stadium personnel or police can be problematic for trans people if you have to give your name. Lots of people are transphobic and many don’t hide it because it’s still socially acceptable to hate people who are not cis. Some of those transphobic people work in rinks: at the concessions stands, as part of the cleaning crew, as ushers, ticket scanners, and security, to say nothing of the management of the organization itself. When people hate you, they don’t see you worthy of help and they don’t care about the abuse you’re suffering. In recent years, some teams have set up a system allowing fans to use texts to report abusive behaviour and lodge complaints. Making this sort of accessible system available enhances the safety of not just trans people but all fans.

Transphobia doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To eliminate it we must actively work to eliminate racism, homophobia, and sexism from these venues as well instead of accepting discrimination, bigotry, and hatred as the cost of going to the game.

Whatever happens on the ice or field, leaving usually has additional hurdles if you’re not cisgendered. While it is customary to leave a Blue Jays game in the seventh inning or a Sens game with five minutes left in the third period, the crush of fans trying to exit their row and down staircases, on their way to the concourse after the final whistle blows, is hard if you’re dealing with mental illness. The close proximity means some bumping between fans, which is anxiety-producing for some people. But some see this as an opportunity to grope, press and otherwise take advantage of the crowd to harass and assault other people. Those who exist outside of the intersection of cis, straight manhood are often the victims.

For trans people this time can be really stressful and hard. It’s not just that the ride to the rink and the experience of the game has been mentally draining, it’s that the mental preparation that is required before you even leave for the game compounds things. You’re just tired and drained. You’re less likely to be able to come up with quick, alternate plans if things start to go south. You might be rushing to catch a bus and trying to not worry about what happens if you miss it.

Some of my worst interactions with other fans have been on the way out of the rink. It’s hard to ignore the impact alcohol has on this part of the game day experience. Many fans are at least a few drinks in, some have been overserved for most of the night. What might have just been insults in the first period can easily turn to physical abuse when it’s time to leave.

Once in Detroit I was harassed by two shitbags. They were on my radar from the moment they took their seats. If you’re fortunate you don’t have to scan the crowd around you looking for people who might cause you problems. If you’re trans, you don’t have that luxury. These particular shitbags made several sexually explicit comments about women and started drinking during warm up. During the first intermission they noticed me as I was walking back to my seat. I was familiar with the way they stared at me because I’ve seen that look a thousand times. It’s the look of cis people realizing there’s something different about me. During the next two periods they looked across the aisle at me at regular intervals. But it wasn’t until the end of the game that things got really dangerous. They followed me down the stairs of the section. On the concourse one walked behind me bumping into me, the other to my right, pushing me and knocking me off stride. There had been a promotion that night; cardboard signs reading “Go Wings Go” were given out. The shitbag beside me held his right in front of my face so I couldn’t see where I was going. The shitbag behind me was bouncing his sign off the back of my neck, cutting me with the edge of the cardboard. The whole time they were saying transphobic things to me and threatening me. I wasn’t alone and we were surrounded by other people. It was in plain sight.

It’s not like things like this don’t happen at my home rink. This sort of stuff can happen anywhere. The last time I went to a Sens game in Ottawa it was a pretty good experience as far as these things go for me. The Sens won in overtime and fans went home happy. I rushed to catch my shuttle bus and was able to get there before anyone else and grab a set at the front. Four drunk shitbags got on the bus and suddenly I had a problem. I had made a mental note of them when they got on the bus at the start of the night, but now they were drunk and we were alone. I was sitting looking out the window and one of them punched me in the back of the head. They laughed and fist bumped and called me “pussy” and transphobic slurs. Then they took their seats like nothing happened. The bus finished loading and we started for downtown. We cheered for the same team.

I am not ashamed to say I cried for most of the trip back downtown. The only shame in that situation should be felt by the people who see difference and can only acknowledge it with violence.

That was the last time I went to a Sens game. I don’t know when I’ll be back.

Going to the Game

So you think the NHL is inclusive? You think the team you cheer for is accepting? You think You Can Play has solved the NHL’s homophobia and transphobia problem?

This is a massive discussion and I want to focus on one small part of it: what it’s like to walk into an NHL arena and get to your seat if you are not cis.

Not everybody starts their trip to the rink by remembering to bring the tickets before getting into their car. If you’re trans, there are other considerations. If you’re trans, you’re not trans in isolation but live at the intersection of race, illness, disability, and sexual identity among other things. If you are trans (or if you’re someone dealing with mental illness) you’re probably checking out the arena if you’ve never been there before. Googling images of the parking lot, exterior, concourse, and seats helps people dealing with anxiety or other mental illnesses get to the game. Knowing what you’re walking into helps. You might check out the rink’s website hoping they’ll have specific information that’s necessary for a game day visit. It likely won’t and teams that own the facility they play in are doubly at fault here. If teams were welcoming to all genders/agender people, washroom policies would be clearly articulated online. Security policies would be clearly and specifically articulated beyond acceptable bag size. But this information is rarely, if ever, available.

If you’re going to a game how you dress is important. Maybe you have a lucky ball cap or specific jersey you have to wear. Maybe you dress only in team colours. Whatever you’re look, fans think about presentation when headed to the arena or stadium. Trans people think about how they present too. Some of these concerns are the same: what jersey do I wear? Do I wear red or black? But trans people also have to navigate another side of presentation: balancing presenting in ways to ensure safety with presenting in ways that express who you are. I don’t have knowledge of all trans experience. Each trans person’s identity, expression, and experience are their own. Unlike some trans people, I have passing privilege: I’m tall and broad and often pass. But I’m still concerned if things like wearing shorts to a ball game will be worth the hassle. Should I dress in layers to better hide my breasts? Things many trans people do for their well-being and happiness like wearing makeup, packing, binding, tucking, breast forms, and wigs (google it if you don’t know), to name just a few, become things to reconsider for some when attending games.

Lots of us think about who to attend games with. For a lot of cis people this means monetary, transportation, and enjoyment consideration. For some cis people, attending a game with your partner is made more difficult if you don’t fit heteronormative ideals. These things enter into it for trans people, but there are other issues as well. A group from work is going to the game but you’re not out at the office or store? Friends ask you to a game but you’re not sure how they’ll handle it if your gender identity becomes a problem at the arena? These are things that cause you to hesitate.

Many trans people don’t have a lot of money. Trans people exist on the margins of society and that includes employment. If you’re trans and lucky enough to afford a trip to see the Sens play, there’s a good chance you’re taking the bus. The OC Transpo ride to Kanata is a challenge at the best of times, but if you’re trans, the bus is not safe. This problem is made worse by the overcrowding. Think you’re better off taking a shuttle bus from one of the many downtown bars and restaurants providing this service? Not really, you’re at the mercy of the other riders. Sometimes it’s fine and sometimes you’re verbally harassed and physically assaulted. Best case? It’s an anxiety-producing ride that leaves you mentally exhausted by the time you get to CTC.

Following the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the NHL, MLB and other pro sports leagues heightened security at entrances to arenas and stadiums. While security has value, without critical examination of other issues which threaten fan security on a far more regular basis (mainly the sale and consumption of alcohol at sporting events), these security measures serve to add accessibility barriers to those already marginalized and at times are just plain harassment. Bag size might not matter to you if you’re a dude going to the game with your buddy, but it targets people who aren’t valued by teams and the NHL. Women carry purses for many valid and vital reasons. These new measures make it harder on the father who brings his chronically-ill child to the game and has to carry medication/equipment at all times. Yes, after some explanation that man could probably get an exemption and bring his bag in, but he’s had to disclose and justify a serious illness. Metal detectors are a frustrating and upsetting experience for the woman who needs to wear a knee brace and pass through security. You want to go to a Sens game wearing medically necessary braces or equipment? Well, it’s winter so you’re likely wearing long pants and layers. It’s a process that irritates the people behind you in line but makes the individual experiencing it feel unwelcome. If you’re dealing with mental health issues, the security screening process often exacerbates what you’re feeling. If you’re someone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment, the screening process can be incredibly triggering. Trans people deal with all of these things in addition to their trans identities.

At some point in the recent past, teams/leagues/security companies realized having predominately male security personnel check, wand, and at times frisk everyone was a huge liability in addition to being incredibly invasive to people. Security lines are often divided into male and female. You want to know what that process feels like if you don’t fit the traditional gender binary? Fucking awful. You can’t tell someone’s gender identity by looking at them, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s told this to security personnel. If you’re a woman and don’t present in traditionally feminine ways or if you’re a man who doesn’t present in typically masculine ways, security is more difficult. If you’re trans and don’t pass as either male or female, you have to make a choice in that moment to be either male or female. That in itself can really mess with your head. But you might also encounter a situation where you have to “prove” your gender identity. This can go smoothly (some very insistent statements on your part, a flustered security person who eventually lets you through, and some serious emotional fallout afterwards) or degrees of worse. Many trans people don’t have access to proper identification that can “prove” things to security’s satisfaction (ditto to trying to get a beer in an attempt to enjoy yourself after getting harassed at the door).

Training could actually help this process. Training about mental illness, sexual assault, and LGBTQ acceptance could make the process easier for both ticket holder and security personnel. Less triggering, less mentally draining, and more compassionate are actually good things for everyone.

If you make it through security, you’re confronted with washrooms that don’t have stated, inclusive gender policies visible on signage outside the washrooms. Why is this important? So trans people know what kind of environment they’re walking into and that it’s inclusive. What a clear, written policy that’s visible in stadium also does is inform cis people that there’s no place for their intolerance. You want to really pull out all the stops? Have all gender facilities as well. This type of washroom builds on family washrooms you sometimes see at malls or amusement parks. It’s necessary for parents to take their kids of any gender to the washroom and it’s necessary for trans people to feel safe and welcome in a washroom.

Say you’re with some cis friends who wanted to go to the new 19+ (or 18+, 21+ depending on location) bar that are all the rage in ballparks and rinks these days. If you’re a trans person who looks younger or if everyone is being carded to get in, it’s a no-go for a lot of trans people. If you’re cis, you think “they’ll just check my license for my age”. If you’re trans you have to worry not about age, but if they glance at your gender and your name. If your id doesn’t match your identity, there’s further interrogation. Hopefully you’re friends aren’t assholes (but no guarantee, a lot of allies are all talk when it comes to support but fail miserably on the follow through) and are ok with just finding your seats. Having to out yourself to gain access to spaces that are allegedly welcoming is unacceptable and in many cases (such as an amped up, possibly intoxicated, sports crowd complete with dude bros) is simply not safe.

You’re in your seat now, but the challenge has just started.

Off-season Changes

This off-season is the same, but different.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the Senators off-season moves, you’ve heard the headlines before: goalie controversies, unpopular trades/roster decisions, and terrible branding. The specifics and particular players change, but the subject matter is the same.

A few months ago it all would have worn me down.

I would have simply tuned out the endless twitter debates, not clicked on the latest hot take. I might have written something generic and not betrayed much of my own thoughts. It was what I could manage at the time. I didn’t have the energy to debate the minutia of Sens fandom or rehash old marketing ideas. I was interested in those things before and suspected I would be again, but during the season those things didn’t matter that much to me. The Streak helped, but it felt like an endlessly negative season. Being a Sens fan mattered to me more this past season than in previous years. It made such a difference to me this season that I didn’t want to keep writing, to be so immerse in something so negative. I didn’t want anything more than what we had during The Streak: Sens games that mattered, different things to talk about, and burgers before every game. I thought I’d take a prolonged break from writing about the Sens.

But something changed. I started to have ideas I wanted to write about again.

Bryan Murray and company decided not to extend Erik Condra in the final days of June and then doubled-down on the decision by not matching the offer he received from Tampa on July 1. The decision was a polarizing one and widely panned on twitter and various Sens blogs. Sick as I am of debating the particular merits of Condra, what interested me about the fallout were the larger questions it raised about Sens management. For those who have seen the Corsi light, it was particularly distressing to see another example that Murray and friends haven’t said the same vows. When you think about the game in a certain way and the team you love doesn’t, you start to wonder if it’s the best fit.

Last week the Senators revealed the team’s 25th anniversary logo to unsurprising vitriolic anger. It’s indisputably a crap design but the anger flows more from the organization’s continued resistance to creating quality team iconography on a permanent basis. Time and again Sens fans have vocalized what they’d like to see from the organization and only once have they delivered. Fans commit to teams through a variety of organic and inorganic actions. Rather than stimulating connection, the Condra departure and 25th logo fostered negativity and just furthered separation between the two parties. Not the most significant events, just the latest in a long line of missteps.

Identity is hard.

The Hamburglar might have been the name behind The Streak, but the identity of the Cameron-era Sens was that third line, its DNA was Condra’s game. The Sens have struggled to carve out a sense of self over the last two decades situated between two historically obnoxious franchises. The organization has compounded the issue through continued marketing and design failures.

Even when there aren’t millions of dollars at stake, identity is hard. For me, being a Sens fan is defining in a way that has much needed permanency.

Identity, defining and accepting it, has preoccupied my mind for as long as I can remember. This task got more pressing over the past year. As the urgency of the task increased, as the need to come forward and explain myself to my friends grew greater, things which defined me without the need for further explanation – school, art, fandom – grew even more important.

When you’re in transition, the things that aren’t – no matter how insignificant – matter quite a deal. Those things are comforting, those things are stabilizing. Those are things you can hold up and show acquaintances and friends that you’re the same person, that you’ve always been you.

It’s not just a transition for you, but also the people in your life. The way other people see and perceive you is adapting. Every relationship you have changes and is challenged. You’re still you and the things that make you who you are, like being a Sens fan, take on greater significance. Not just for anchoring who you are, which they undoubtedly do, but, at least for me, being a Sens fan has opened me up to the kind of support that’s necessary for me to do this.

There have been some changes this off-season. I didn’t think I’d return to writing about the Sens for a while. It had just become too difficult to write about the team I love when the byline didn’t fit. I thought it would take a lot longer to have the right name there, months and months of small steps. But this team didn’t just provide me with stability, it also offered community. I’ve been overwhelmed with the acceptance, love, and well wishes I’ve received. That reaction helped me get back to something I love doing the way I wanted to do it.

I’ve always been me. Now the byline’s right.

Summer Reading: Hi, this logo thing is a piece of shit.

Ugh…just…

Hi, if you follow my DELIGHTFUL garbage on twitter you may be aware of a running joke I dust off virtually every time the team trots out some new trope like “Young and Hungry” or “#FEARLESS” or infinity. My reaction to these…uhh…eventnnouncements is that I need to make some changes and get a job in the Sens PR department (thxu for favouriting and retweeting btw). Each time a say it I am joking less and less…frankly, I wasn’t really in the first place.

After hyping up a big announcement all weekend which turned out to be “Something something Canada am 2017 it’s the millenniums!” the organization decided to “sweeten the announcement pot” by revealing the Sens 25th anniversary patch pictured above. Yeah, that thing is going to be on the uniform. No, not just sometimes…apparently all year.
When they dropped this piece of dog shit on our heads…well, if you spend any time on twitter you’ll know people including myself were worked up over it. Now, getting worked up is not an unusual reaction for the Sensphere, of course, but this feels different than having a grouchy knee jerk take on a trade, free agent signing or draftee. Nah, this felt like the fans were just tired of being embarrassed by the organization with stuff like this.

Yes, I will admit I was I was excited to see it because my Karlsson heritage jersey still needs a captain “C” and I plan to get one this season (Yeah that’s right I was in on that ground floor with this Karlsson guy). Anyway, I thought maybe if the 25 year patch is nice enough that down the road, I’d get one put on there as well. Hey, after all, I paid extra to get the commemorative Heritage Classic game patch put on my Hertiage Classic jersey for no reason other than that it looked really nice. Turns out if the Sens design a nice thing I CANT WAIT TO GIVE THEM MY MONEY FOR IT.
BREAKING: Money is something the team is apparently greatly in need of.

The Heritage design by Le Collectif is so nice that the team basically hung a different colourway of it in front of me and I couldn’t resist it. Why are we not moving forward with it?

Sure, there was a time before the Heritage and, yes, I have a home red. A Daniel Alfredsson #11. I’ll always want something to wear to the game or out playing pick up. It is about repping my city and my team more than looking cool but here’s the thing. In the time since the Heritage jersey came out and I immediately copped one here’s how many times I’ve worn Old Red:

  • December 1, 2013: Daniel Alfredsson returns to CTC as a Detroit Red Wing
  • December 4, 2014: Daniel Alfredsson signs one day contract with Ottawa Senators, takes pre-game warm up

If this doesn’t prove I was wearing that thing more for the name on the back than the logo on the front I don’t know what to tell you.

The first time I pulled on the Heritage jersey, however, was way different. I felt truly proud. The logo, the colours, the shoulder patches, hell, every name and number combo looks good on it. Even Wiercioch’s dreadful 46. So many numbers on the current home and away just look weird. The heritage design was obviously inspired by the simplicity of original 6 teams and when it came out even hockey writers who typically love to go in on Ottawa’s follies had to admit it looked great. Ahh, the Goode Olde Days of the OG 6, it was a special time when you had to win 8 whole games and slip on a puddle of butterscotch to win a Stanley Cup and the simple design of those simpler times also allowed you to get away with a lot. Here’s what we’re competing with in our division alone:
Montreal Canadiens

The colours are admittedly great here. Ah, the red, white and blue of the Canadian flag. WHO KNEW THAT COMBO WOULD WORK!? But Ima call epic bullshit on this logo. We’re just used to it more than it’s at all nice. That C is stupid and weirdly stretched out in a way that would never fly if it wasn’t so old. Also, H? Can’t spell mHoHnHtHrHeHaHl cHaHnHaHdHiHeHnHs without it. OHhhhh, OHHHHHH my bad turns out it stands for “Club d’Hockey.” Oh, donc, je m’excuse! #ACTUELLEMENT THAT’S NOT THE NAME OF THE FUCKING TEAM.

Toronto Maple Leafs (sic)

It’s bad enough Montreal has a spelling error this one has a grammar error. Do not try to #actually me on that army squadron name thing. Just because some military guy made it up don’t mean it looks right. Isn’t that right, several borders drawn by European colonialists in the Middle East / Africa!? Also, very creative using the national symbol as a logo. Personally, I would have went with the Toronto Canadians…toss an “H” in the mix just to make it real.

Boston Bruins

It’s just a goddamn B with some spokes. You know what? It looks worlds better than pretty much any NHL logo designed in the 1990s or beyond. And it’s a goddamn B with some spokes. Room for improvement: Needs an “H” for the word Hockey.

Detroit Red Wings

K, this one isn’t fair. I’m not asking for the moon here. I’m of the opinion that a sports logo should be simple enough that a child could draw it but this one gets a pass. I don’t care if your kid is Michael Angelos or Leo Nardodelvinchi, they’d only capture but a whisper of the conceptual majik going on here. This is like the Nick Lidstrom of designs. Quietly destroying the opposition…Fuck you, Detroit. Their logo should be a horse shoe.

HOTTT TIP 4 All U YUNG D-ZIGN’RS OUT THERE:
Follow the Major Legaue’s Basebulb model. The teams are so old that the league is just rich with amazing unis…and here’s the secret, they all tend to look pretty much the same and that is okay. Here, I’ll take a team that I’m not even a fan of and, as such, will make an unbiased case as a uniform done right:

BSox

See…it’s not that harrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.
Notice the wild variations on the hat…NONE. Look at all the piping, striping and funky accents: Not that much if any! Sure, the word SOCKS is spelled incorrectly but this thing is so clean (with just the tiniest bit of flare) that I’ma let it cook. Alright, maybe the red one’s a touch zesty for me. This design is so nice your team can trade one of the greatest players of all time to your hated rival and become a laughing stock in their wake for nearly a century and you can STILL not feel embarrassed by what you’re wearing to the ball yard for up to 86 years!
Heyyy speaking of embarrassment, even the Toronto Maple Leafs of baseball have a pretty damn tight kit they can at least be proud of:

CC

See…its not that harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.

Baseball: Just write the goddamn name of the city or team across the chest and put the first letter of the city and or team name on the cap and BOOM, stack paper.
But beware, even baseball has its horrid moments when a team tries to think outside the bun!
Just ask…


Sure…yeah…timeless.

Now THIS is happening:

Ugh.

Real Talk: That pirate head is not exactly worlds away from our 3D logo guy.

Life

In conclusion, I care so much about stuff like this because we as Sens fans have SO LITTLE to hang our collective hat on. The most our franchise has done in just over two decades is get destroyed in one Stanley Cup Final…against the motherfucking Mighty Ducks THE ONLY TEAM WE COULD ACTUALLY LOOK DOWN ON UP UNTIL THAT POINT.
This year our expansion sister franchise Tampa Bay nearly won their second Stanley Cup for their adoring legion of Canadian retirees who go to their games when wintering in Florida. If Ottawa was in the hunt for Cup number 2? Shit like this wouldn’t even be on my radar screen of things I care about. I would do 100 years of SNES garbage for one Cup in my lifetime. EVEN CAROLINA HAS ONE. See what I’m sayin?
Planting a team in between two of the oldest and most storied franchises like Montreal and sort of Toronto, surviving bankruptcy and currently navigating still more economically uncertain times, making it to 25 years is actually a big fucking deal to us as fans. How the the Senators design team and focus group (maybe?) thought that:
An even shinier version of our widely derided 3D logo (even if you like it, it’s undeniable that league-wide it ranks in the bottom 10 or even 5 of any rating you look up), stacked on  a font I’ve never seen connected to the team before, stacked on some out of place Wrestlemania lookin ass Roman numeral mess, stacked on dates that look more like an obituary than a celebration of legacy was acceptable is beyond me. Then again, they haven’t paid attention to how no one outside of our own fans thinks our current logo is at all good since the emergence of the Senagoth a decade ago. If we’re going to play like Cowen can we not at least look like Karlsson?
I thought with the heritage we were turning a corner but stuff like this makes me think it might have been an anomaly.
Yeah, I’ve heard it…the O looks like a zero for how many Cups the team’s won. Guess what: that’s true. Also, let me think of a way to fix that …hmmmmmmmmmmmm…mmm.

Until then, crap like this logo “celebrating” the Senators will continue be embarrassing to the legacy we are still trying to build around the team we so love.
Now that I think of it, the Heritage jersey design itself started as an online petition by a fan who was fed up with the team’s poor design choices….maybe we’ve still got 2 years to make this thing right.