I grew up near Atlanta, Georgia, the city I still call home. I say “y’all”, I’ve only seen snow four times in my life (once was in Montreal), and I don’t know how to ice skate. But I love hockey.

Compared to most hockey fans, I’m new on the scene and my introduction to hockey isn’t exactly one for the books. Hockey culture does exist in Georgia, but it’s not as visible or readily accessible as up North. I attended my first live game on December 26, 2003 at Philips Arena. It was a special day that I’ll always remember. The tickets were a Christmas present from my dad, who had been following the Atlanta Thrashers since their inaugural season. He was so worried I wouldn’t like hockey, and yeah I was a little skeptical. I’d seen the Thrashers on TV, heard people laugh about them (a hockey team in the South?), and oh I knew what had happened earlier that season (everyone in Atlanta did). Most of all hockey was “that thing my dad likes to watch on Thursday nights.” I wanted to go because he wanted to go. The hockey gods were smiling that night because the Thrashers had a nearly sold out crowd and won against Tampa Bay, cementing my love for them. It was like something clicked and I was instantly hooked. My eyes stayed glued to the action throughout the whole game while my dad explained everything from players’ names and stats to penalty kills and power plays. The speed and intensity of the game, the sound the puck made when it hit the boards, the players slamming each other into the glass…it all grabbed my attention. I instantly wanted to learn more about the game. My dad and I now have a standing tradition that we go to a Thrashers game for Christmas every year. The joke was the very next season was the Lockout, so the season after it I came back to hockey like a starving person. I bought my first jersey (and every bit of merchandise I could get my hands on) and went to every home game that season.

Of course, I learned quickly that the Thrashers are not an easy team to love. As of now they’ve completed ten seasons, made one playoffs appearance, and won zero playoffs games. If someone has a mean thing to say about them, I’ve probably heard it before. But they’re my team and I can’t picture myself supporting another team as much as I support these guys. Recently, though, I’ve branched out and started following other teams, especially during the postseason. The Montreal Canadiens caught my eye when I attended a game at the Bell Centre earlier this year, but they’ll never be my Thrashers. I’m hoping for the day I don’t have to “adopt” a team for the playoffs.

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