A Knights Fan, in a Sea of Spitfires
I’m usually not, “that guy”. but in this case, I was him.
I sauntered through the quickly clearing hallways of the WFCU Centre with my mind in deep focus on the beverage I carried in my hand. The golden ale hugged the lip of the glass and threatened to make it’s escape for freedom before I even had the chance to sit down. Concentration has never been considered a “strong suit” for me, but I was more focused than I’d ever been as I fought gravity’s sinister influence.
I was still another twenty feet from section 108 when a deafening eruption stole the attention from my beer. The goal horn screamed in excitement, and fans leaped from their seats in celebration of the 1-0 lead now held by the spitfires.
The game had started, and I was missing it.
So a few minutes later, there I was, asking an entire row of hockey fans to stand up so I should shimmy my way down to my seat. I was “that guy”.
Too make things worse, I was wearing the wrong hat – at least according the five thousand other people in at the WFCU Centre on Thursday night, I was. The spits are currently in the middle of their first round OHL playoff series with the London Knights, and the rivalry is alive and well. I could feel playful scorn of the people around me as they got a glimpse of the green and beige hat proudly adorned on my head. The man beside me looked at me, rolled his eyes, and turned back to action on the ice. I was Knights fan, in a sea of spits fans.
Yes, that’s right, I’m a Knights fan.
Unlike you, I was not blessed with privilege of being born in the Windsor region. I did not grow up with the almost snow-less winters this city boasts; I was not raised on the best pizza in Canada; and, and I was not fortunate enough to be able to take day trips into the states for shopping like you were. Nope, I was born and raised an hour and half up the 401.
However, regardless of whether you are in London, or Windsor, there is nothing quite like the energy that emanates from a hockey rink during the playoff season. It’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly – perhaps It’s the idea, or the hope, of what is to come; or maybe the knowledge of what is on the line; or even the distaste that burns in your heart as your rivals step on to the ice. Whatever it is, you could feel it in full force this week at the WFCU Centre.
Of course, history helps too.
Being so close, geographically, the scheduling in the OHL for the last thirty years has resulted in the Spitfires playing the Knights on a more constant basis than any other team in the league. London always had skill, boasting legends like Brendan Shanahan, Daryl Sittler, and Dino Ciccarelli, but the blue collar spits, would always fight back, just as hard, often gaining the upper hand. In fact, speaking of fighting back, there are few nights that live in infamy in the London/Windsor Rivalry – like November 7th, 1985:
It wasn’t just fisticuffs that Windsor fought back with, through the years, the spits would earn an impressive list of all stars as well. Hanging from the rafters today are names like Joel Quenneville, current coach of the Chicago Blackhawks; or NHL legend Adam Graves; or Windsor native and former NHL defensemen Ed Jovanovski. Not to mention the club boasts Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuck, and current NHL Stars Taylor Hall, and Jason Spezza.
All those stars have made for exciting games through the years, even the current Mayors of both cities getting involved in the rivalry, placing bets on the playoff series.
Who knows what current players, will one day be hanging in the rafters with others. Sergachev? Bracco? Brown? DiPietro?
As I sat there floating in an ocean of enemy colours I took solace in the sighting of green jerseys sprinkled throughout the rink. We had our brief moments of brotherhood, exchanging thumbs-up as the knights took a 2-1 lead, but it did not last long. The tense, action packed game crescendoed to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation. Overtime was in order.
Five minutes of action later, the puck bounced off the boards and Graham Knott was off to the races, just him and the knights goaltender, parsons. A quick move the backhand hand, and the goalie couldn’t keep up, the puck was in the back of the net.
The crowd erupted in a deafening cheer, every single person on their feet, except for us sullen knights fans who sat surrounded by people, yet alone.
I stayed in my seat, as the friend I came with exchanged high fives and hugs from strangers wearing similar colours.
It always amazes me, the way sports can bring people together. Men, who otherwise wouldn’t even exchange glances as they passed each other on the street, now embraced each other as if long lost brothers. They were growing, and bonding over their shared elation, and my desperation.
Desperation indeed. That overtime goal gave the spits a 3-1 series lead on the knights. Friday night, failing a knights win, the spits move on to round two of the OHL Playoffs; However, like a cat toying with the mouse before he makes him his dinner, the Spits may want hold off on the final blow until game six, which is scheduled to be back in Windsor on Sunday afternoon.
Yes, I will be there, wearing my green and beige London Knights hat, rooting for the bad guys.
Feel free to say hello.
Just go easy on me.