Staying Warm In A Cold Town

The fall feeling is officially upon us here in Crimmy. And even though the Germans prefer not to celebrate Halloween (a holiday so full of excess that only North Americans can properly understand it), all other things fall apply. Pumpkins, though not carved, are abundant. Leaves are changing from green to orange and red. My fetish for wool caps is coming in handy again.

Along with these crisp fall days come cold fall nights. And when I say cold, I mean freezing in the literal sense. And when the mercury dips below 0 degrees Celsius (that’s 32 for those of you working in Fahrenheit) it becomes VERY difficult for me to stay warm. The Radiator Wars of 2007 have officially begun in our house, with Dave dramatically declaring he is ‘sweating to death’ ( which I still say is not even possible) when I choose the temperature, and me even more dramatically saying my final goodbyes through chattering teeth when Dave has his way with the thermostat.

My morning walks with Falcor take more preparation, since I lack that charming fur coat that is finally coming in handy for him. I need leggings under my wind pants, my 1970’s Duofold long-john shirt under my fleece which is under my windbreaker, mitts and a hat. I’m considering a full on snowsuit for the months to come.

The cooling temperatures and gusting winds might be cause for more layers, but the cold weather doesn’t bother us much. We’re people from the frozen plains of Manitoba and the snowy woods of northern Michigan. We grew up bundling. We enjoy the idea of layers. We prefer mittens over bare hands. Unfortunately, a cold front of a different sort has swooped in on the tails of the autumn breezes. A chill that scarves and fur-lined boots (currently en route to their new home on my feet) can’t thaw, in the form of icy glares and cold shoulders.

What I’m saying, with poorly formulated weather metaphors, is that the town of Crimmy is ready to send the entire roster of the Ice Pirates (yes, that really is the name) into exile, starting with the North Americans. As with fans of any team, some dissent is expected during a losing streak. From Motor City to Bako to Holland, I’ve always enjoyed perusing the message boards, reading all the vicious gossip and uninformed opinions of fans with too much time on their hands. Certainly there have been moments where I’ve fantasized about hunting said fans down and telling them what’s what while choking their ignorant fat necks. But I don’t, because we all know that message boards and booster clubs and other places where fans gather can’t be taken entirely seriously. My skin has thickened and my patience has grown with regards to these matters. Until now.

Picture this: the team from Crimmy plays a well-fought game, the score stays tied until the end of the third period, forcing overtime. Overtime is exciting, with chances and near misses, but no one scores. The shoot-out begins, and sadly, Crimmy falls by one shoot-out point. Does the crowd cheer on their fallen heroes, still reeling from the excitement of such a battle? Not even close. Do they shake their heads in disappointment but clap their hands in encouragement? You wish. Instead they scream profanities, shout ‘Raus! Raus!’ (Get out! Get out!) and whistle madly (the European equivalent of booing). They name names, they point fingers, and they turn their anger towards our section once the men-folk have left the ice. The drunkest (and usually largest, loudest and hairiest) fans wait in the vestibule of the rink so they can just make sure the point is hammered home as the coach and players exit the dressing room. Ava, the 3-year old daughter of one of the other imports, put it best when she pointed directly at a particularly belligerent man and said “Mommy, he isn’t nice.” No Ava, he really isn’t.

I’m not so naive as to expect the fans to take the high road and realize that the reasons and explanations for losses are many and varied and do not rest solely on the shoulders of the players or, more specifically, the players with a Canadian passport. But I do expect a bit of tact, some loyalty, and perhaps even manners. Dave’s first pro season was spent in the suburbs of Detroit, on a team that played hard but generally lost more than won. Not only that, the team was an expansion team with no loyal fan base to rely on. And still, the fans cheered for the team, did their bitching privately, and supported the guys on an individual basis, perhaps hoping their kindness could somehow lift spirits and win games. Aside from the odd, lone jerk, we’ve had good experiences with fans in each city we’ve been on, through good times and bad.

Despite my frustration and even disgust at this behavior, there is little I can actually do. Sure, I throw out the odd “Halt die klappe!” (Shut up!) or the universal middle-finger when something really atrocious is said or done. But mostly, I just leave the rink feeling uncomfortable, disappointed, and unwelcome. If I were to write a letter to the fans, after editing out profanity, it would explain that their behavior is not only sad and inconsiderate, but inhospitable. My opinion of the German people, while quite high from previous visits to this lovely land, has gone down several notches. While I try to avoid generalizing, my patience has grown thin and I don’t have the energy to sort the good out from the bad. A classic case of ‘one bad apple spoiling the whole lot’ is emerging.

As someone with a much too intimate relationship with the ways of hockey, I know a win isn’t far away. When this happens, the Crimmy fans will make sure to outdo themselves by celebrating as if we just won the Stanley Cup and I’m sure each one will be saying “I always knew we could do it.” I’ll put my middle-finger in storage and sigh heavily as Dave tries to assure me that this is just the way of things here and I’ll roll my eyes at his “que sera sera” attitude. Here’s me crossing my fingers and toes that this annoyingly patronizing change of heart happens in the stands before I lose my cool and embarrass us all.

Until then, I’ll be bundled up against the late-October winds of autumn and the early-season icy stares of Pirate fans.

Stay classy, Crimmitschau.

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