Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Katrina Cady of Psycho Lady Hockey about an aspect of the game which receives less recognition than perhaps deserved: the fan experience.
Katrina was gracious enough to agree to share her thoughts with the readers of MLHS on a variety topics, including the culture of hockey in traditional and non-traditional markets, the impact of social media in terms of coverage and fan involvement, and of course, your Toronto Maple Leafs.
GB: Thank you for taking the time to chat today.
KC: No problem! I am always thrilled to talk hockey!
GB: Let’s start off with a quick introduction, for readers of MLHS who may be unfamiliar with your site. Who is Psycho Lady?
KC: Psycho Lady is essentially my alter ego. She is a hockey addict who travels around the hockey world getting into all sorts of strange situations. I think we all have a different side to our personality when it comes to sports and supporting our team, my â€œsideâ€ just happens to have her own website.
GB: Part of what makes your site unique is the way you approach writing about the games you attend. Would it be fair to say that your focus is on sharing the fan experience with your readers?
KC: I wouldnâ€™t say that my goal is to share the fan experience … I really only aim to share my own. I purposely donâ€™t include game recaps because there are a thousand other websites out there that offer that information. Truthfully, Iâ€™d rather enjoy the game than take notes about what Iâ€™m going to say about it later. And, of course, when Iâ€™m not on the road I try to stick to hockey culture, although the business side does come out from time to time.
GB: My own perspective has always been that the final outcome is only a part of the experience as a whole, and there is much more to the game than the boxscore itself. Have you found, in your experience meeting fans of all walks, that at times there can at times be too much emphasis placed on wins and losses, and the larger experience itself – that which creates the passion for the game in the first place – can be easily overlooked?
KC: Growing up in Canada, I think itâ€™s hard to be untouched by the culture surrounding the game. Living in Toronto I find that the personal lives of the Maple Leafs are sometimes front page news in even the most mainstream newspapers. I think itâ€™s this culture that creates the passion for the game, and sometimes I think we arenâ€™t even consciously aware of it.
GB: Have you found this to be the case in the non-traditional hockey markets you have visited?
KC: In untraditional markets, places where hockey isnâ€™t lurking around every corner, there is a lot more emphasis on the boxscore. It is kind of unfortunate that, in these markets, the fans will abandon their team as soon as they hit a rough spot. Then you look at places like Toronto. Those fans will continue to form the strongest community in the league even if they never win another Cup. I donâ€™t know a single person in this town that wouldnâ€™t jump at the chance to catch a Leafs game, and that includes Habs and Sens fans living in T.O. Here hockey means something more than wins, and losses.
GB: It certainly does, although I have often found it difficult to put what exactly it means into words, beyond simple â€œa love for the gameâ€. It seems almost a transient sort of thing, something intangible and thus difficult to explain to the casual observer.
KC: One of my theories is that in less traditional markets, fans tend to be more player-centric, and in places like Toronto they are more teamâ€“centric. Itâ€™s that whole name on the front of the jersey versus the name on the back thing. When a fan base is player-centric, they can easily fall in and out of love with the whole team when a certain player gets traded or struggles. In a team-centric environment it seems that the logo symbolizes not just the present-day roster, but rather it embodies decades of history, and a hopeful future.
GB: Speaking of which, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask for your thoughts on the current state of Toronto Maple Leafs. Here in Toronto, the team is rebuilding and an unfortunate part of the rebuilding process is the fanbase having to suffer through multiple losing seasons. What advice would you give fans of a struggling team, as their frustration naturally begins to mount?
KC: I donâ€™t think Toronto fans need any advice in this category. They have formed a united front throughout their historical horrible periods. If I had advice for these fans, it would be to remind them that the players are aware of their support, and that their efforts as a fan go a long way in their clubâ€™s future prosperity. And, hey, if it makes you feel better, you could have a good sports betting thing going by putting money on the visiting team! [Laughs] All kidding aside, however, there is still nothing more satisfying than watching your team rise from the ashes.
GB: For me, the fan experience is all about believing in the team, and cheering them on because they are representive of not only the city, but the fans themselves. Supporting them through the dark days will make the good days all the more enjoyable, and that much more meaningful to those who were unwavering in their passion.
KC: Absolutely! It will be truly rewarding for those who have stuck by the team, when they are competitive once more. And they are closer than people realize.
GB: Let’s switch gears, for a moment, to a topic that garnered much attention this past year. The use of social apps such as Twitter and Facebook skyrocketed in 2009, giving fans, media, and players a voice, and a sense of community, unlike ever before. While many would argue that such connectivity between fans, media, and the league is a good thing, there do exist concerns over misinformation, misrepresentation, and the relative anonymity at the core of the technology. As a writer who uses social media quite regularly, where do you come out on that?
KC: In terms of news, I still only trust major sources like TSN.ca or NHL.com. So, I tend to take everything else with a grain of salt. My major issue with social media is with the playersâ€™ use of it. Some NHLers out there do a great job, while others seem to need a serious lesson in not trying to rub the noses of their fans , who have done nothing but support them through the scoreless streaks, and the numerous trades. Some player tweets I’ve seen have really offended me, even though I personally donâ€™t follow any athletes or celebrities.
GB: Along similar lines, there has been some debate over the role of bloggers versus the traditional mainstream media. Many members of the media have embraced bloggers for their contributions (the “you’d be amazed what the average person knows” perspective) while others have been more hesitant in their approach to the rise and impacts of social media. What are your feelings about this debate, and do you believe there will be a place for both as social media technologies continue to develop?
KC: Bloggers that offer the same information in the same tone as the mainstream media will probably struggle. As I mentioned earlier, if I want that kind of information Iâ€™ll go to a major source before I go to a blog. That being said, blogs arenâ€™t going anywhere. If anything, mainstream newspapers and magazines will likely be a thing of the past before blogs are. As a blogger, if you can bring something new to the table, beyond repeating the same stories found in the mainstream, you will succeed.
GB: The Barilkosphere certainly does have its variety, from humour blogs to game analysis to fan perspective, and just about everything in between.
KC: And that is exactly why those blogs have become so popular! They each offer something different for the fanbase to enjoy.
GB: Thank you again, Katrina, for taking the time to share your thoughts on these topics as they pertain to the unique and always fascinating culture surrounding the game of hockey. Before we close this out, I have to ask: where can we expect to see Psycho Lady turn up next in her travels?
KC: Youâ€™re in luck because I havenâ€™t been keeping my next trip Top Secret like I normally do. I am heading to the Windy City for my first game ever at United Center. Catch me if you can!
[Author's note: I thought I'd do a little something different than the usual Q&A interviews with the media or with hockey personalities, and instead focus on the personalities behind some of the more interesting hockey fan sites. If you enjoyed this sort of interview, and perspective, let me know and I will seek out more opportunities to do this type of Q & A in the future.]
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,