The Personality of Hockey: Part 2, Encounters

By Letangueray

Due to unforeseen events today, I’ve decided to put the social media blog on hold.

I wrote in Part 1 of this series about how some players have a special ability to make a fan feel as though they are part of the game.

I’ve encountered Pens many times off the ice. Sometimes at meet and greets and other times out in public. The week after the Pens won the Stanley Cup, my brother and I were at the zoo with my son and we saw Pascal Dupuis with his family on our way out as they were entering. We kinda threw a silly thumbs up in his direction to show our appreciation for the Cup, but also not to disrespect his privacy and this special day with his family after he had spent so much time away from his wife and beautiful children.

Once after work, my brother and I stood outside of our building waiting for the bus and Jordan Staal walked by us. He nudged me, as I was preoccupied and had not noticed immediately. We said not a word to him as he pressed on down Wood Street with his bag from Sacks.

We didn’t feel right in either of those situations disturbing them. Why? Because they are people, just like us who have lives to live.

A little over a week ago, I did something completely out of character. A girlfriend and I were on our way to have lunch when I noticed Simon Despres walking toward us. I stopped and said “Excuse me, are you Simon Despres?” He answered that he was. I stuck my hand out and introduced myself, identified myself as a Pens fan and asked him how he felt. He said he felt okay. I asked if he would mind taking his photo with me. He said he did not. We snapped a quick picture, I said my thank yous, wished him well and we parted ways.

Why didn’t I get his autograph? I don’t know. I felt weird taking up the time that I did of his, but I suppose being new to the NHL stage that he didn’t get recognized often, especially to casual fans. We were on a side street with no one around.

Today, the big one came. I was walking to Market Square to find a place to plop myself down and allow my mind to wander into the arena in Panem and continue reading Catching Fire, needing to escape the confines of my building for awhile. I walked past the branch at 3 PNC Plaza just as Sidney Crosby was exiting. Our eyes met, I said “Hello” and asked how he was. He said “Good, and you?” I said I was good as well, smiled and continued on to my destination, Kindle in hand.

It took another block of walking before my brain fully registered the encounter. My hand was shaking as I attempted to call my mom. Her reaction: “Did you give him your number?” My heart sank. That thought never entered my mind and disgusts me quite a bit.

I didn’t want anything from Sid. Had he not caught my eye, I would have continued walking. To see him out on the street was something humbling. Sid isn’t very big as far as players are concerned. In his jeans, grey ringed t-shirt, track jacket and signature black baseball cap, he could have been any college aged student on the street. It is so easy to forget as fans that most of these players that we place on a pedestal are just barely adults and still children in so many ways.

The question when I got home: “Did you ask him what’s up with his neck?” No. It’s not my business. And why remind him of why he is able to be downtown at the bank at noon on a game day when his team is in Toronto without him?

I look around my room now: a photo I took of Sid while sitting against the glass, a photo of my son leaning against the boards against the glass with his Crosby jersey, a ticket stub featuring Crosby lifting the Stanley Cup high above his head with the most genuine smile across his face that a person could possibly muster.

No. Sidney Crosby does not owe me a thing. Not an autograph, an explanation, or even the simple pleasantries that we exchanged on the side walk. The only other thought that had entered my mind as the words slipped past my lips with so much ease was not to call attention to him. Not here. Not now. Not with all of these people milling around the streets of Pittsburgh. Something felt awkward about talking to him as it was. A guy with so little respect of his privacy, though I was speaking out of politeness of the situation, I hope now that he was not taken aback.

We have all seen crazed fans. Fans with little to no shame. Fans who ignore the presence of a player’s family for their own gain. While these men may lace up their skates each night with the support of the fans around them, we know that for many, for players like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that they will always show up, even when the fans do not. They will always play for themselves because hockey is so much more than a sport or a career to some players.

Players need fans and fans need players for the relationship to exist, for the NHL to exist. But as I wrote before, hockey will still exist without fans. It’s life will be vastly different, but it would still exist in some form.

Behind all of the fanfare, the meet and greets, and obligatory photo ops, these guys are people, just like you and me. They breathe and bleed the same as we do. The very least we can do, is show them respect. They give up the luxury of a normal schedule, a normal day, a normal life so that fans may fill arenas and cheer their names as they win or condemn them at their lowest points.

They owe us nothing more than what they are already doing, and some, go above and beyond.

The Personality of Hockey: Part 3


10 responses to “The Personality of Hockey: Part 2, Encounters

  1. You’re a better person than I. I probably wouldn’t have been able to contain myself and would’ve asked for a pic so I could plaster it all over the internet in 1.7 seconds.

    Just to say, I met him! Here’s my proof! He took a picture with me! I think for me, my reasoning would also be that I will more than likely never have this chance to meet them again in a situation where I would be able to stop and talk to him for a minute or two. I don’t know how big Pittsburgh is that you see all these players, I don’t see anyone in Toronto. Ever.

    It’s easy to forget these guys are just normal, everyday people. I’m sure someone as big as Sid is used to it, but I think even when players are starting out, they do have some idea of the fame they’re going to gain. That includes the crazy fangirls (obviously not me, I’m classy) who would throw themselves at certain players given the chance (I would never do this). Pyatt.

    Sorry, laptop has Tourette’s.

    Anyway, great article. It’s a good thing to remember though. Plus, I think you have a better chance of landing a hot hockey player by not acting like a deranged fan. That being said, please feel free to give Sid all my contacts if you see him again…for research purposes, of course.

    • lol Thanks Darlene. Pittsburgh is super small. I’ve seen players at the mall, at restaurants, all over the place. James Neal, Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen hang out at the bar one of my girlfriends bartends at a lot. I know Dupuis is at a certain Starbucks almost every morning because I have a friend who is at the Starbucks every morning on their way to work. It really is a small town and so many of the athletes live here in the off season too so seeing them from any of our teams is not uncommon ya know?

      It was funny because I went to the grocery store last night and I opened my wallet to get my debit card out to pay and in my wallet I had tickets to a game that is in March. Crosby is on the tickets. I let out this groan and then called my friend that is going to the game with me laughing and said that the regret had set him that I didn’t get him to sign our tickets. Honestly, I had forgotten they were in my wallet anyway so wouldn’t have mattered to begin with haha.

      I told Jordan when I got home that I had talked to Sid and his eyes lit up. He was fully alert and asked what he said haha. I was like “He said ‘Hi'” and that was it.

  2. I agree with about 95% of what you’re saying, and could go on about it for hours but unfortunately I’m at work. However, just to play devils advocate, the amount of money these athletes get paid, I know much less so in the NHL, I think makes them slightly different than us ‘normal people’ and making them give up a ‘normal schedule’ is a small price to pay for being a (multi)millionaire.

    But again I agree with basically everything you said in this article, there is a time and a place for being a fan, and a certain respect must be given either way, but its just the way that you paint them out to be just like us, yes in some aspects, absolutely, but in others, not at all.

    • I try not to think of people in terms of the amount of money that they make. I like to even the playing field on this one in the sense that there is still a certain respect that people should grant one another on the basic human level. I get what you are saying completely though.

      Culture creates celebrity. Our society allowed these guys to reach that celebrity status. Not that it is a bad thing. I don’t really see it as good or bad because of course there are pros and cons to having that type of “power” so to speak. Like that a lot of the players have the ability to help others in need and we see them doing that for our community all of the time, which is great. But yes, there is an appropriate time for everything and they should expect that people will approach them. If I had had my son with me, I may have said something more to him because my son just absolutely looks up to him, but the experience then wouldn’t have been about me, but about my son (who is looking forward to starting hockey in the fall) and his favorite athlete. Most athletes will not turn down talking to a small child and I feel that people in general have a lot to learn from children because they are so innocent and honest.

      Ok, end tangent haha. Thank you for your comments and for stopping by! Hope you’ll keep reading!

  3. Stevie, I enjoyed both parts of your blog. As for Part 1, my fangirl adoration of Matt Cooke is well-documented…lol. I do appreciate the fan favorites and what they bring to the party, even if they are not my personal faves.
    I smiled more and more as I read Part 2. I’m proud to declare that I am of the same mind as you when it comes to how I react to encounters. I wish I had Penguin encounters to speak of, but alas, none yet. I may indulge the fangirl in me for a Matt Cooke meet & greet should the opportunity arise.
    If you had known me 30 years ago, in all of my fangirl glory, you might have trouble believing that I could ever give an athlete his privacy…lol. You see, my love of sports ( football in particular ) has impacted alot of the decisions I made in my life. And somehow, fate has rewarded me with proximity that alot of people only dream about. My first job was as a vendor at 3 Rivers, where I had regular access to Pirates and Steelers. Dave Parker stopped to yell at me for wearing a Red Sox T, Robin Cole gave me a lift into town. Kaufmann’s had Steeler players for meet & greets alot, and I went to every one of them. I drew pictures of players and Tony Dungy liked one so much that he asked for one, and introduced me to his parents.
    Fast forward some years, and the company I worked for started doing film processing for the Steelers. With that came the privilege of sideline passes. I was walking side by side with the players, and taking all the photos I could. But with this privilege came the need for professionalism. I was not permitted to cheer for the team I love more than most teams. This is probably when my metamorphosis from fangirl to respectful fan started. I began to see that it was possible.
    I don’t really go into downtown or the Southside on a regular basis, so I don’t see Pens around. My son takes buses into & out of town 5 days a week. He told me he saw lesser known Steelers wearing other NFL gear in an attempt to remain unnoticed. A particular pub that I go to is frequented by various Steelers. During the Pens playoff run last year, I happened to watch an entire game while seated next to a Steeler. I did not let on that I knew he was a player. Rather, we talked about hockey, and he even gave me a margarita recipe. Eventually, the conversation did turn to football, and he did admit, he doesn’t always like to be bothered about it in public. We did talk football, and we kinda laughed about that. Had I not been sitting next to him, I wouldn’t have even spoke to him.
    And so, while in the comfort of home, I am fangirl supreme, ( I just ordered a pic of Dick LeBeau from his NFL days ), and I wear my player shirts, when I go out, I respect the players and their privacy. Seeing players on Twitter talk about movies, food, their kids, etc. , you see more that they are people just like us. I respect people who are able to be fans and yet are mature about it. At times it feels like they are a very small group.

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  7. I love this. I agree with so much of this. There is a time and a place to stop a player and ask for a picture/autograph…whatever it may be.

    I remember standing outside after a game once and I was listening to the people around me talk. I overheard one person say, as players drove past us, that it was rude of them to not stop. I was taken aback by this comment. First of all, it was a night game and many of them had just played a 60 minute game of hockey so they were tired and probably wanted to get home to their families and their beds. Second, absolutely no one made us all stand outside and wait for them. These players owe us nothing. They are people just like us and deserve to be treated as such.

    With that in mind, on occasion, it is ok to ask for a picture or exchange pleasantries. But don’t ever think that they “owe” you something. They play the game that you love to watch so much.

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