Along for the ride

ANN MARIE MCQUEEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

It happened Saturday night, just seconds after musician Barry Williams wrapped up his cover of Stompin' Tom Connors' beloved The Hockey Song.

That's when hundreds of sweaty patrons packed into the Byward Market's Irish Village burst out into some impromptu "Go Sens Go!" chanting.

Talk about a bandwagon.

Even Leaf fans are having a hard time resisting the pull of an entire city's enthusiasm.

Jim Cullinan, 47, owns an industrial supply business and has loved the Leafs since he was a kid. His three kids are all Sens fans, and they want dad on the bandwagon, too.

"I am trying to get a foot up," says Cullinan.

His younger brother Brian, 43, a server and fellow Leafs fan, says there is no other option.

"I'll go back to being a Leafs fan," he says. "But you gotta vote for Ottawa."

FLYING OUR FLAG

Kirk Cox, a 36-year-old business development consultant, normally cheers for the Calgary Flames, but has also been brought onboard the Sens bandwagon.

"I went to the rally last week and I've been buying Ottawa Sens paraphernalia. I have a flag on my car," he says. "I don't know how long it will last after the Stanley Cup, but for this series I am certainly supporting them 100%."

As Cox points out, even people who don't follow hockey suddenly care about it.

"You see them walking around with a Sens jersey, they've got a Daniel Alfredsson poster up in their cubicle," he says. "Everyone's just getting caught up. It's hard not to like what's going on."

All this Sens fever is about much more than an exciting, one-time sense of community, explains Jim Olsen, a University of Western Ontario psychology professor.

"Much of our personal identity involves our group memberships," he says. "We feel good when either personal or group parts of our identity are successful."

Olsen notes that studies have shown students are more likely to don university-branded sweatshirts and clothing after their team wins.

LOSER MENTALITY

And as much as we like backing a winner, as anyone who has seen the city's mentality toward the Sens collectively harden after they've flamed out in past playoffs, we don't take long to distance ourselves from a loser.

A trio of researchers at the University of Western Ontario analyzing newspaper articles found a sharp difference in how the media described Ben Johnson before and after he was stripped of his gold when tests proved he was doping.

Though post-win he was most commonly identified as "Canadian," says Olsen, "when he was disqualified all of a sudden it was 'the Jamaican runner.' "


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