Wow, quite the controversy going on today in the state of Ohio. This morning when I was posting my daily NHL 3 stars feature I made reference to how the Blue Jackets came out on the wrong side of a controversial call last night against the Dallas Stars. On a whim I embedded a link to a YouTube video of the incident in question and included a poll asking readers to weigh in on whether they thought the NHL made the right call in disallowing Manny Malhotra's apparent overtime winner.
A couple of hours after putting up the post I checked my traffic stats like any good obsessive blogger, and was surprised to discover a steady stream of traffic coming from HFBoards.com. Curious to see what was going on I followed the link back to a thread titled The OFFICIAL Let's burn down the War Room in Toronto thread. I had a chuckle over that, and then proceeded to comb through to find where my traffic was coming from. It turns out one of the members of the forum had stumbled across my poll and had posted a link in the forum, prompting other Blue Jackets fans to surf over and cast their vote.
Since then I've been following the thread with interest, and people continue to trickle over and vote. At the time of this posting the count is now 42-0 that Malhotra and his Blue Jackets teammates were screwed out of a victory last night.
However those 42 represent only a small percentage of the traffic on the thread itself. There are legions of angry Blue Jackets fans venting their rage over the botched call. To be quite honest, the thread was a bit of an eye opener for me, but one that has left me with a very positive impression on the state of the game of hockey.
Here in Canada hockey is a religion for most of us. We were weaned on the sport, and ever since our childhood we've eaten, slept and breathed hockey. For the good people of Ohio the same cannot be said. Though I'm sure they are as diehard as any sports fans in North America, they did not get an NHL franchise until 2000 (Yes, I know they had the Barons in the 70s), and have had less than a decade to become knowledgeable and passionate about the sport. Well, they've gotten up to speed in a hurry in the past 8+ years, and I am ecstatic to see the support that exists for the Blue Jackets franchise. I realize that this is just a small yet vociferous minority, but they are representative of the city's sentiment towards their NHL team. If they get this pissed off at the 30 game mark of the season imagine the firestorm should the NHL make the same call in game 82 with a playoff spot on the line.
I've always questioned the NHL's aggressive expansion into the US market. With the American love for NFL football, NBA basketball, and Major League Baseball it seemed to me that little time, passion or interest would be left over for NHL Hockey. I'm happy to discover that, at least in the case of Columbus, Ohio, I was dead wrong. I still have my doubts that such fervor exists in all US markets, and with the current economic climate the NHL may yet lose some fringe franchises (particularly if the NHL keeps aggravating their fan base by making bad calls), but I think most will survive the storm.
I feel for you Columbus fans. We Canadians know what it's like to have so much emotion riding on the outcome of a game, and when our team gets cheated out of a hard-earned victory we feel it almost as strongly as the athletes involved. I'm glad to see there are at least some south of the border who feel the same.