If I could offer you only one tip for the future, watching hockey would be it.
The long-term benefits of hockey have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and skill of your favorite team. Oh, never mind, you will not understand the power and skill of your team until the roster has been completely changed. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of these guys and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before them and how fabulous their chemistry really was.
They're not as tentative as you imagine.
Don't worry about the opponent. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to make your team score by wearing your lucky socks.
Wear your lucky socks.
The real troubles your team will run into are, to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that come out of no where with the teams at even strength and four minutes left in the period.
Watch one play everyday that scares you.
Sing along with the national anthem.
Don't post obnoxious things on other teams' message boards.
Don't put up with people who post obnoxious things on yours.
Don't feel guilty for knowing if your team should focus on offense or defense, youth or experience, speed or size.
Some of the most interesting teams I've ever watched didn't know which of those paths to take.
Some of the most interesting teams I watch now still don't.
Be nice to your voice. You'll miss it when you've cheered yourself into a state of laryngitis.
Maybe your team will make the playoffs, maybe they won't, maybe they'll win the championship, maybe they won't.
Maybe they'll relocate to Outer Poduck, maybe you'll be at the Booster Club's 75th Anniversary banquet.
Whatever happens, don't get too puffed up with pride, or too depressed either.
Your team's choices are half chance. Ditto for all the other teams.
Enjoy your fandom. Show it every way you can.
Don't be afraid to wear your team's colors or of what other people think of you. It's one of the most exciting uses you'll ever find for your enthusiasm.
Do "The Wave", even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room.
Read the scouting reports, even if you put no stock in them.
Do NOT read trade rumours. They will only make you feel paranoid.
Get to know and appreciate the players on your team. You never know when they'll be headed to another city or league.
Be nice to your fellow fans. They're your best link to the team's history, and the people most likely to empathize with you in the future.
Understand that players come and go, but a precious few you should follow throughout their careers.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and different hockey leagues, because the older you get, the more you will need to cheer for the players whom you've followed since your team drafted them.
Make the team's superstar your favorite player, but when you see his great skill, don't become arrogant.
Make the team's unknown fourth-liner your favorite player, but if he's a "throw-in" in a trade, don't become disillusioned.
Travel to road games.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Player's salaries will rise.
UFAs will jump ship for more money.
You too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, salaries were reasonable, players were loyal to their teams, and they also respected the officials.
Respect the officials.
Don't expect anyone else to understand you. Maybe you and your friends bought season tickets together. Maybe you joined the booster club together. But you never know when your best hockey buddies might move away or jump off the bandwagon.
Don't eat too much junk food during games or by the time your 40 you will look 85.
Be careful who's advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia.
Dispensing it is a way of taking an old game-tape from the rack, popping it in the VCR, fast-forwarding through the commercials and enjoying it during the off-season.
But trust me on watching hockey.
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