Rivalries need not be cutthroat

There was like 400 people wearing Senator jerseys and about eight people flaunting Leaf ones piled into the Irish pub that I bartended at in Ottawa.
It was like a stadium in there. We removed all the tables and added hundreds of chairs, and watched as the people wheeled in ready to watch the most anticipated game of the season—Game 7 in the playoff round between Ottawa and Toronto.
Rows and rows of people sporting the black, white, and red were gathered, beer in hand, around the projection screen—and all I could hear was chirping from all corners of the pub.
I was standing behind the bar observing. Okay, I may or may not have yelled a few things out myself at the blue and white minority, but mostly I just made them wait a long time before I served them up their rye and coke or beer.
It was all in good fun. After all, Ottawa and Toronto is—and always has been—a healthy rivalry.
Kind of like the Muskies and International Falls. Sure, they may be more physical—and there’s a possibility that when they are exchanging words on the ice, they’re not discussing the recent snowfall but rather dropping ‘F’ bombs like it’s their careers.
Then again, that’s all part of a great rivalry—the intensity makes the game.
But what about when that intensity passes a healthy stage and moves into the “I’m going to kill you” stage?
Take the FIFA World Cup, for example. Fans leave the stadium with black eyes, broken bones, or injuries that wind them up in the local intensive care unit—or even dead.
Not to mention the rioting that goes on afterwards.
(I know, I know, rioting can be fun. But it’s like my mom always said: It’s all fun and games until somebody pokes their eye out, loses a limb, gets shot, or winds up dead).
Or what about when the Muskies played host Baudette last month and the refs were calling the most ridiculous penalties—all because they didn’t like to lose on home ice.
It just goes to show the kind of sportsmanship the Muskies portray when we all know it could have been rage-fest 2005. But our boys took what Baudette was offering and still smoked them 7-2 in the end.
So I guess the question I have is when does it go too far? What’s healthy and what’s not?
The sad thing is there’s no real answer. All I know is what encouragement the healthy rivalries bring to the teams. I have interviewed a lot of athletes and players and if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s their love of the fans and their love of the rivalry.
They all say there’s nothing better than playing on your own ice in front of a ton of your very own fans. And let’s admit it, what’s better than sitting in your home rink watching your very own team?
The way I see it, a healthy rivalry can contribute to how well a team does.
I believe my Sens’ support has gotten them where they are today (just kidding). But I’ll warn you now. When Ottawa is in the Stanley Cup final this coming spring, I will be sporting my Sens’ jersey.
Heck, I may even bust out some facial stickers, a flag for my car, and perhaps a large window covering that says, “GO SENS GO.”
Please, Leafs fans, don’t key my car or throw a brick through my window. And don’t bother with the booby traps—I’ve already hired someone to start my car for me.

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