The Leafs won, did you hear?

Not the Stanley Cup, a trophy of little importance or interest. And not the Leafs per se, but their fans. Toronto has successfully defended its title, as per a Twitter poll, of the NHL’s most annoying fanbase.

As a starting point, it’s worth acknowledging that this is an entirely correct result. Of course Toronto is the most annoying fanbase. Who else would it be? The Leafs are the most overdiscussed franchise with a huge media footprint and fans in every corner of Canada, as well as several corners of the no-longer-especially-United States. We are a fucking plague. Even if we were affable (we’re not), balanced (we’re unhinged) and restrained (FEEL THE PASSION), we would be obnoxious through sheer ubiquity. So yeah. We’re Number One, baby.

I do feel, however, that there is some misapprehension as to what activities and characteristics make an NHL fanbase annoying. For example, opposing fans will sometimes complain that Leaf fans are annoying because “the team hasn’t even won anything”. Please take my word for it that if the Maple Leafs ever actually do win something we’re going to be incalculably worse. We would make the New York Yankees look like Ned Flanders. It would be apocalyptic.

This misunderstanding is echoed in the self-perception of almost every other fanbase. As Leaf fans, we know we’re unbearable; everyone tells us so. But with us as the big blue blob to absorb all that well-earned dislike, some of y’all have gotten off too easy. No more! In the words of Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.

I could just set to work trying to shred the NHL left and right, but in my role as an ambassador from the Centre of the Universe, I feel like I shouldn’t just be a total dick the whole time. So I’m going to add one characteristic of each NHL team/fanbase that I find endearing. For balance. Seems fair, right? Also, the line between “fanbase” and “team” is blurry in this exercise, and that’s fine, because it’s my list and I get to do what I want. This is about the feeling I have when I hear who you cheer for. Make of it what you will.

One final note. Please recognize that NHL fanbases are mostly chance geographic or social associations, and they all have a wide variety of people in them: good, bad and in between. Probably none is really much worse than any other, and sweeping statements about any of them are as unfair as they are imprecise. In the end, we’re all just hockey fans, and our shared love of sport should bind us together in the spirit of friendly competition and good fellowship.

Got it? Cool. Now I got some goddamn complaints.

Anaheim Ducks

Why are you annoying? When I try to name all 32 NHL teams, there is a moment where I’ve thought of 31 of them and I’m fumbling for the 32nd. That moment is Anaheim’s house. Anaheim has built a neighbourhood there with a homeowners association and a post office.

Why are you endearing? When I was a young man, in the Before Times, Jean-Sebastien Giguere led the Ducks on a heroic Finals run with nothing more than hope, determination, and pads with the square footage of the Goodyear blimp. The Ducks lost to the New Jersey Devils, a team of boring war criminals, because life is ultimately about injustice, but for a moment I truly believed that Paul Kariya would get to lift the Cup. I will always treasure that after I remember who the third team from California is.

Arizona Coyotes

Why are you annoying? The Coyotes are annoying in the same sense that a dead body in your living room is annoying. It’s not really the body’s fault for being there—it’s dead—but it’s irritating and someone really ought to have moved it by now. To Houston.

Why are you endearing? In an ever-darkening world, Coyotes fans are a triumph of human resilience. They could, and probably should, have given up by now, but they didn’t. They will go to the new Coyotes Arena, which is located in a McDonalds’ PlayPlace, and they will chant Clayton Keller’s name because the team has bombed most of its other high draft picks. That is heroic. God bless them.

Boston Bruins

Why are you annoying? Every Bruins fan complaint about anything is a billionaire complaining about the wait staff on his yacht. They got their Cup in 2011, they got Patrice Bergeron playing at a Selke level for four thousand years, they got Zdeno Chara who apparently had the NHL equivalent of James Bond’s license to kill. This is in a city that had the Red Sox, the Celtics, and the fucking New England Patriots win a combined eleven championships this century. I hope their yacht sinks and they have to go into next season with first-line centre Charlie Coyle, but they’ll probably sign Nazem Kadri and he’ll become mysteriously immune to playoff suspensions once he’s a Bruin.

Why are you endearing? [remember to complete before publishing]

Buffalo Sabres

Why are you annoying? There used to be a really heated Toronto-Buffalo rivalry, but at this point I feel like I’m kicking a Dickensian orphan when I talk about the Sabres. Ask me in three years when they have a defence built around Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin and I’ll remember how mad I am about Domink Hasek in 1999.

Why are you endearing? Sabres fans have a lot of crossover with Buffalo Bills fans, and they have some of that same moxie, by which I mean chutzpah, by which I mean pluck, by which I mean they’re all super drunk. Don’t judge. If you were a Sabres fan you’d be drunk too.

Calgary Flames

Why are you annoying? As per the Lanny McDonald Treaty of 1981, Flames and Leafs fans go easy on each other so we can prioritize our true enemies (Oilers and Habs fans, respectively.) I honour the old ways, so I will say only that I still don’t want the Flames to win a Cup before Toronto does. Well, another Cup. You know what I mean.

Why are you endearing? Everyone loved Jarome Iginla. I cheered for the Flames in the 2004 Finals, and cheering for other Canadian teams is normally against my religion. Flames fans talk about Iggy as if he was a divine spirit of hockey sent down to lead them, and you know what? Fair enough.

Carolina Hurricanes

Why are you annoying? “You’d love Tony Deangelo if he was on your team.” No, motherfucker, I would not!

Why are you endearing? I liked the vibe around the Canes a couple of years back, it was fun and relaxed and everyone seemed to have a sense of humour. Nothing gold can stay. Oh, and it was kind of funny that Carolina offer-sheeted Jesperi Kotkaniemi even if the resulting contract was very stupid.

Chicago Blackhawks

I feel like the moral issues Hawks fans have had to wrestle with in the past year have passed beyond the realm of “annoying”, don’t you?

Colorado Avalanche

Why are you annoying? An embarrassment of riches. It’s nothing personal. It’s just, how the fuck is your team good enough to win a Cup with .902 goaltending? That’s ridiculous.

Why are you endearing? Everyone was content with the Avs winning the Cup, but that’s over now. Nobody likes Goliath. You are no longer lovable. Be aware.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Why are you annoying? Columbus has to try five times as hard to matter as any other NHL team. Usually they don’t manage it. Patrik Laine scored at a 40-goal pace for them last year, and he could have taken the whole season off instead. It wouldn’t have made a difference.

Why are you endearing? At least the Cannon is a distinctive quirk for a team that really needs an identity beyond “a place to leave in free agency.” It’s neat that the team name honours the Union Army, too, since the losing side of that war seems to get commemorated awfully loudly in other parts of America. Make the mascot William T. Sherman and invade the Canes arena.

Dallas Stars

Why are you annoying? I don’t know that this is specifically anyone’s fault, but the Stars are the champions of having accomplishments that I get reminded of and think, oh, that was weird. The Stars made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020. That was weird. Jamie Benn won the Art Ross in 2015. That was weird. They won a Cup on what should have been a disallowed goal in 1999. That was funny.

Why are you endearing? At one point the Dallas Stars had a team logo that looked like a diagram of the uterus. They couldn’t do it today because anything that contributes to understanding the female reproductive system is now illegal in Texas, but it was fun while it lasted.

Detroit Red Wings

Why are you annoying? Red Wings fans treat their team like a priesthood whose arcane workings are beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals. They used to be even worse about this when the team was winning championships (here, let me tell you the secret: get some big draft hits and outspend everyone in the pre-cap era). It’s a little funny remembering how they talked up Ken Holland now that he’s bumbling around the Oilers. But the Detroit fans moved on to treating Steve Yzerman like Hockey Socrates even though in his three years at the helm the team has been total dogshit. Look, he’s a good GM, but dial it back a lil’ bit.

Why are you endearing? Detroit as a city, team, and fanbase, has done what they never could when they were running out ten Hall-of-Famers: they’ve developed genuine underdog energy. Some year soon (my guess is 2023-24) they’re going to make a surprise run to the Eastern wild card and everyone’s gonna be happy for them.

Edmonton Oilers

Why are you annoying?

Why are you endearing? I truly enjoy a lot of the Oilers fanbase, because they’re like a sane person stuck in a Three Stooges movie. They’re constantly shouting things like “stop putting forks in the electrical outlet” or “don’t trade Jesse Puljujärvi for a bucket of tacks”, and then they watch as Ken Holland dumps all the tacks into the toaster. This has gone on for fifteen years and, a hot run to the WCF notwithstanding, there’s really not much evidence they’re going to get into a different movie.

Florida Panthers

Why are you annoying? The problem with being a small fanbase is that a single vocal representative can influence perceptions around the league. If one fan memorably flies off the handle while making a crazed homer argument that no one else takes seriously, that can  tar the whole group with the same brush. Keep that in mind, Allan Walsh.

Why are you endearing? The Panthers whirled through several stages of the team life cycle in about two years: they were a pitiable sad sack, a plucky underdog, a conference-crushing juggernaut, and a playoff flameout. I haven’t had time to really fix my opinion on them lately, although I’m sure I’ll be mad when they inevitably knock Toronto out in seven next spring.

Los Angeles Kings

Why are you annoying? My understanding is that every single Los Angeles Kings fan is someone who relocated to LA to get a job in show business and has either succeeded, thereby becoming a narcissistic rich jerk, or failed, thereby becoming a narcissistic broke jerk. This may be terribly unfair, but what are Kings fans gonna do? Sign Drew Doughty to too much money at me?

Why are you endearing? You’re not. You’re not! Don’t steal Auston Matthews from us in two years. I know you’re thinking about it!

Minnesota Wild

Why are you annoying? Any fan who talks earnestly about the beauty of defence is someone you want to avoid at a party. It’s like cheering for milk. It’s like fantasizing about dry humping. Stop it.

Why are you endearing? The Wild fans I’ve known are actually so nice that I feel bad for saying they fantasize about dry humping. I hope fans of the Minnesota Wild have pleasant and fulfilling sex lives.

Montreal Canadiens

Why are you annoying? Well, there’s the fetishizing of a distant past, the delusions of present grandeur, the fact that if so much as an offside call goes against them Habs fans howl as if they’re being burned at the stake, the incredible overrating of every prospect they have, the subsequent fury that the prospect hasn’t met their ludicrous expectations, and the xenophobic segment of the fanbase that thinks you can only win if you’re led by Francophone players who shout vive le Quebec libre each time they complete a pass. Other than that they’re great.

Why are you endearing? As painful as it is to admit, the Habs are the Joker to our Batman. We need them. If I can’t get a Cup before I die, and let’s be honest I probably won’t, it’d be pretty great to at least beat les Canadiens in a series. It’s a shame we haven’t had the opportunity at any point during my lifetime. You’d think it would have come up.

Nashville Predators

Why are you annoying? Why is Tennessee where it is? Doesn’t it feel like it should be further south? I don’t know, this has always bothered me.

Why are you endearing? The Preds always have great defencemen and are struggling to be good enough at forward. It’s weirdly reassuring that I don’t have to update my mental image of them basically ever. “But this year Matt Duchene scored—” Hush, little one. It doesn’t matter. Go to bed.

New Jersey Devils

Why are you annoying? I am never going to let this go: the New Jersey Devils dynasty (or whatever you want to call three Cups in eight years) was a goddamn travesty. They combined the soul-crushing boredom of the neutral-zone trap with the vicious headshots of Scott Stevens. They damn near killed our sport. You will still get Devils fans to this day who insist “New Jersey actually scored a lot for the era” or “Martin Brodeur was an exciting goalie and it was cool watching him clear the puck out 15 times a game.” These people are disgraceful. The Devils were a menace.

Why are you endearing? Enough misfortune can make almost anyone sympathetic, and the Devils have been floundering for a while now. Anyway, let’s watch Damon Severson play a two-on-one worse than anyone’s ever played anything.

New York Islanders

What makes you annoying?

If you’ve got a persecution complex and you know it clap your hands [clap clap]
If you’ve got a persecution complex and you know it clap your hands [clap clap]
if you’ve got a persecution complex and you know it and you’re struggling to let go of it
If you’ve got a persecution complex and you know it [boo John Tavares like he murdered your children.]

What makes you endearing? Well, I can’t blame them for being a bit jilted-lover over the whole Tavares thing. Maybe the experience will help prepare them for when it happens again with Mat Barzal.

New York Rangers

What makes you annoying? Any fanbase that shouts about how it’s Defying The Stats becomes unbearable in a matter of seconds, and the Rangers did it this year. We get it. You have a very good goalie and a top power play unit and you beat two teams that were playing their third-stringers. GOOD FOR YOU.

What makes you endearing? The Rangers haven’t really been successful enough to be hated yet. I still think of them the way I thought of them through Henrik Lundqvist’s reign: a good goalie sustaining an uneven bunch of skaters. It’s like watching a guy try to plug holes in a boat with his fingers. You can’t really be that mad about it, and he’s probably gonna drown anyway.

Ottawa Senators

What makes you annoying? Have you ever known someone who was pretty relaxed and funny, and then you met them around their family and they just warped into an excruciating human being? That’s Sens fans with the Leafs. Every time Toronto comes up they turn into someone’s bratty little brother going “Mooooooooom!!!” because they had to use the second controller. Fine, we’ll be Luigi this time, they’re the same anyway. God.

What makes you endearing? Credit where it’s due: the Sens have embraced the whole “entertaining weirdo” thing in the last few years and it’s been very hard not to like them. I’ve still managed it. But I had to work at it.

Philadelphia Flyers

What makes you annoying? Flyers fans hate everybody. They hate you. They hate me. They hate other teams. They hate their own team. They booed Santa Claus at one point. If the Second Coming took place at Wells Fargo Arena, Jesus would have about five minutes to tap in a power play goal before they would boo his ass back to heaven.

What makes you endearing? Actually it’s the same thing I just described. Say what you will, they stick to their principles.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What makes you annoying? In 2015-16, I saw a Penguins fan with a sign during the finals that said “we’ve been waiting seven years.”

What makes you endearing? Like the sign actually said “we’ve been waiting seven years.” Like that was a long time to wait between championships. This person had this on a sign that they made.

San Jose Sharks

What makes you annoying? Hating on the Sharks and their fans feels a bit like hating on King Lear. Okay, yes, he made mistakes, he gave his wealth away to the wrong people (Goneril/Marc-Edouard Vlasic), and he came heartbreakingly close to success before failing (Act V/the 2016 finals). Hasn’t he suffered enough? Can’t we watch a comedy or something?

What makes you endearing? The Sharks play the Jaws theme for their power play and I’ve always thought that’s fun. :)

Seattle Kraken

What makes you annoying? Nothing...yet.

What makes you endearing? Nothing.........yet.

St. Louis Blues

What makes you annoying? One of the classic annoying things fans do—and every fanbase has done this at some point—is to go to the mattresses defending a player that everyone else recognizes is an asshole. Jordan Binnington, who was a good enough goalie to win a Cup for St. Louis and who is by any measure an enormous pissbaby, is a great example. Look, Blues fans, we get it. He’s your guy. He’s sometimes a decent goalie. But in a larger sense, he sucks.

What makes you endearing? The Blues fans feel like they just kind of hung in there despite disappointment over and over and eventually got to the promised land. I like that. It feels fitting.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What makes you annoying? Anyone who roots for a dynasty is instantly annoying by definition. Also—and this is unfair, but so’s this entire article—I ran into a Bolts fanalyst on Twitter who insisted the league was out to get them with penalty calls. Perhaps if the league wants to conspire against Tampa they can say something the next time the Bolts twist the salary cap into a pretzel by pretending Steven Stamkos has the vapours.

What makes you endearing? Bolts fans have embraced their team and become a real, strong hockey fanbase in a place it never snows. Granted it was easier because they’ve won three Cups in their decades of existence, but I’m not bitter about that! No sir!

Toronto Maple Leafs

(If you want this done in full.)

Vancouver Canucks

Why are you annoying? Canucks fans are an unholy mix of Ottawa’s little-sibling sourness and the Islanders’ paranoia. Toronto is out to get us with 4PM start times!

Why are you endearing? [whispers] Do you want to know the truth? We are out to get you. We rigged the 2011 finals. We kept Jim Benning in charge of the team way too long. We’re going to steal Elias Pettersson in free agency. You cannot stop us. We are everywhere.

Vegas Golden Knights

Why are you annoying?

Why are you endearing? In their first year, the Vegas Golden Knights were among the best stories in NHL history. A grab bag squad of players who, by definition, were deemed expendable by other teams; an effortlessly lovable goalie and team leader in Marc-Andre Fleury; an old-school coach who got fired in ignominious fashion and who roared back to win as well-earned a Jack Adams Trophy as the league has ever given out. It was better than a movie. Now, since then the team has operated with an utterly ruthless focus on star talent and failed to match those early heights while seeming more and more dickish in the process. But it was a great first year.

Washington Capitals

Why are you annoying? “Your Honour, my client, Thomas Wilson, is being scapegoated for the victim’s unfortunate decapitation, just as in the previous fourteen cases. Also, since you suggested concussing people is bad, I’m going to post a picture of him with the Cup and shout RENT FREE like a real jackass.”

What makes you endearing? Caps fans seem to genuinely love their core players in a way that you don’t always get to see in modern sports. Nicklas Bäckström is facing an uncertain future and may not play again, but the outpouring of support for him as a lifetime Washington player was really cool.

Winnipeg Jets

Why are you annoying? The Best Fans In Hockey (TM). Nothing is more annoying than constantly hearing how great somebody is; you want to point out flaws by reflex. On that note, Jets fans bellowing “True North” in tribute to their ownership during the Canadian anthem somehow turns a silly exercise in forced patriotism into a silly exercise in corporate branding. It sucks!

What makes you endearing? The Jets lost their team once, and they’re still struggling to retain free agents, so there’s a definite feeling that they have to swim hard against the tide. And as an inspirational fish once taught us, all you can do is keep swimming. Let’s hope Pierre-Luc Dubois grows to like Manitoba.


In conclusion, all of us are just awful.