Why it’s not cool to wear the jersey of a player who’s younger

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHL)
(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHL)

It’s this editor’s proudest moment in three years at The Hockey News.

The email was in response to his “Fan Faux Pas” article in the May 26, 2014 edition of the magazine:

Ronnie Shuker writes that “wearing the jersey of a player who is younger than you” is the No. 1 hockey fan fashion faux pas (Inside Hockey, May 26). So fans over the age of 45 should not wear a jersey with a current player’s name on the back? How moronically ageist is that? A senior Blackhawks fan who grew up watching Stan Mikita and Pierre Pilote shouldn’t rock Jonathan Toews’ No. 19? I wonder if that young punk whippersnapper Shuker will feel the same way when he gets up there in age?
Hart Stoffman, Lake Echo, N.S.

“Whippersnapper”? That’s all kinds of awesome.

Stoffman wasn’t the only fan that took issue with the list, particularly No. 1. Many voiced their views via Twitter, so much so that the debate calls for context and rationale.

First, a disclaimer (from the original article): “fans can do, wear, say, shout, scream or yell whatever the heck they want, short of verbal or physical violence. They’ve paid their money, and the M.O. of any sports zealot should be to cut loose and have fun.”

Now the claim: it’s not that fans can’t wear a jersey of a player that’s younger – it’s just not cool to do so.

Yeah, not at all cool, in any way whatsoever, for a middle-aged fan to wear, say, a Jonathan Toews jersey. (Players’ parents are exempt.) When it comes to being a fan, there’s a fine line between support and idolatry. Wearing the jersey of a team is support, wearing the jersey of a player 20 years younger is idolatry.

It’s not that idols are a bad thing. It’s that they’re child’s play.

Really, idols are for children.

As a kid, said editor’s were Steve Yzerman and Wendel Clark. As he grew older, however, he grew out of them. Case in point: he rode an elevator up to the press box at the Air Canada Centre with Yzerman once last season. Twenty-five years ago he would have been wide-eyed and tongue-tied at the sight of ‘Stevie Y.’ Now Yzerman is just the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So what are fans in their mid-40s and older supposed to do? It’s a fair question, but there’s an easy answer: wear their team’s jersey without a player’s name on the back. That’s where allegiances should lie anyway. Players move on, through trades, free agency and retirement, but real fans stick with their team. Recall that well-worn hockey cliché: “play for the crest on the front, not the name on the back.” Substitute “cheer” for “play” and the same goes for fans.

That said, if a fan really must have a name on the back, at least wear the jersey of a player who’s older. If that means wearing one of a retired player, so be it. To Stoffman’s point above, legends like Stan Mikita and Pierre Pilote would be fine names for Chicago fans to have on a Blackhawks jersey.

After all, it’s not about fashion, it’s about coolness.

As offered to fans in the original article, “Feel free to tweet your agreement, disagreement or hair-raising hostility to this list at @THNRonnieShuker.”