As I was leaving the Ducks/Coyotes game this past Wednesday I was run down by three drunken guys wearing New Jersey jerseys.
It took me a second to realize what was going on, but I realized that they were patting my back and shouting “Niedermayer! Woooo!” I was wearing my No. 27 jersey.
Apparently the guys were in town from New Jersey, and I’m guessing that they’d become “sort-of-Ducks-fans” because of Scott Niedermayer. One of the guys pulled out his phone, switched it to the camera, and asked my girlfriend to take a picture of all of us. She obliged them, I got in the middle, gave a tumbs up, they got their phone back and high fived me, and left.
My dad was standing next to me as they walked away, he was laughing and said “Man, and they didn’t even know that you’re a Jersey fan, too.”
When I was in college I played rugby for my school. We would get together on the weekends and play hard. we’d beat the living hell out of each other on the pitch. We’d yell and scream and sometimes fight. Lots of dirty little tricks in the scrum and in the rucks, all the good stuff.
But there was an unspoken rule that everyone understood: on the pitch, we’ll try to murder each other. Off the pitch, we’re all rugger. The hosting team would always take the visiting team out after the game for beer and pizza or BBQ. The same people who broke our nose an hour before was filling up our glass and we were all singing songs together.
And that small moment outside of the Honda Center kind of reminded me of that. A player like Scott Niedermayer inspires that kind of love and appreciation for a sport that can transcend our established borders between cities and teams.
Niedermayer will get a well deserved welcome tonight from the Devils, a team he left on his own accord, when they retire his number. No bitter feelings, just respect for a fantastic player and person by hockey fans. It’s wonderful, and we ought to be fans worthy of players like Scott Niedermayer. To be able to cross those lines and pat people wearing other jerseys on the back, realizing there here in Southern California, hockey fans can be a little hard to find sometimes.