Fans must seize the moment

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

You can tell a lot about a person simply by checking out their iPod -- have you heard this before?

Well, buried deep within my iTunes list is the rock ballad (and I use the term loosely) that Hockey Night in Canada tends to play around this time of year: The Chance May Never Come Again.

I think this admission elevates me to a newfound hockey geek/Velveeta level previously unattained.

Unfortunately, you'd be hard pressed to find this bit of musical advice being taken up by the majority of citizens in Ottawa lately. But this has nothing to do with crowd participation at home games, or organized fan rallies.

We've seen vast improvements in these areas. I'm talking about fan excitement and representation in everyday life.

Case in point: I drove around the city, several hours before the puck dropped on Game 1 between the Senators and Sabres. Frankly, it was the downtown core's display (or lack thereof) that really surprised me. Nothing blatantly indicated this city's NHL team is in the process of making a Stanley Cup run.

Car flags were virtually nonexistent. I spotted three over the course of a 40-minute period, and it took me nearly 20 minutes to find a single person wearing Senators gear. Remember, this was on a game day against one of the team's biggest rivals.

A lone Senators flag on top of the Westin Hotel, and an odd window painted with the team logo on Elgin St.?

I thought the hub of team activity, Kanata, might prove more fruitful. But since the first round, there's been a very slight increase in the number of car flags and overall playoff buzz surrounding the suburb. Barely a handful of businesses have used their own outdoor signs to post personal messages of goodwill to the team.

Does such a small (yet visible) gesture really take so much effort?

I can think of three reasons to explain this phenomenon, and none of them are positive: Indifference, cynicism or a sense of entitlement. Let's tackle these one by one:

- Indifference is the easiest to explain, because there will always be some residents that don't follow the team or sport. Every NHL city experiences this issue.

- Cynicism is the hallmark of a fair-weather fan, burned one too many times. I can't count the number of e-mails I've received, claiming a refusal to acknowledge the work done by the Senators thus far in the playoffs. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist is always, "Why bother? When they're knocked out, it'll be the same thing, different year." Where in this post-season has anyone been given the impression that the Senators would fall victim to prior self-inflicted foes -- goaltending woes, scoring droughts, an absence of grit and the like? There's nothing wrong with acknowledging success as it comes.

- The sense of entitlement is the most nonsensical of the three. "I'll celebrate when they win something important." Spoiled? These Sens followers barely bat an eye at a decade of playoff berths, which is a revelation they should run past teams like the Blue Jackets or Blackhawks. To me, this type of thinking is the equivalent of riding the last 2% of a roller-coaster: Sure, you're on the ride, but you missed everything that made the end result a euphoric one.

There are plenty of people in Ottawa who have outwardly celebrated the Senators' playoff success: To those of you who decorate your homes or businesses and wear the gear, keep it up. To those of you waiting for proof that this post-season run isn't a fluke before you commit: Get over yourselves and seize the moment, because as Hockey Night in Canada's musical fromage homage states, "The chance may never come again."


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