How becoming a true sports fan improves the game-watching experience

Spectator sports like hockey and football provide great social activities, and games draw in thousands of fans and for teams like the NHL’s Calgary Flames and CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. But there is more to the game than the half time shows and tail gate parties; for some fans, it’s a complete hobby.

The Krupas are a hockey loving family in Calgary who used to cheer for the Calgary Cowboys of the World Hockey Association back in the late 1970s. When the team folded in 1977 they no longer had a local professional hockey team to root for until the Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980.

Logan Krupa, 27 was born into being a Flames fan. Some of his earliest memories go back to being put to bed in his crib by his mother as the Flames won the Stanley Cup in Montréal in 1989.

“I always grew up around hockey and being a flames fan. Ever since I was a kid it has just been my focus every winter, cheering on the flames,” Krupa said.

Logan Krupa was born a Flames fan and loves to take in the live games at the Scotiabank Saddledome and become part of the ‘C of Red.’

Photo Courtesy of Logan Krupa“The atmosphere of the ‘C of Red’ during the playoffs is nothing like I have ever experienced at any other sporting event,” Krupa said. “The noise of the crowd is amplified, the passion of everyone and the celebrations before and after the games is incredible.”

During the season Krupa often sports one of the jerseys from his collection from different eras.

A bittersweet memory for Krupa is being at game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. He remembers the flames were going into overtime, on the brink of winning the cup.

“The Saddledome went from being so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, to so quiet you could actually hear the Tampa Bay Lightening congratulating each other on the ice as Martin St. Louis scored the overtime winning goal,” said Krupa. The atmosphere at that game was chilling, he added.

With the help of Twitter and following players’ social media accounts, Krupa feeds his hunger for hockey news.

“Twitter is actually really big for me,” he said. “I love following not only the NHL teams and their official accounts but as well as individual players.”

Krupa notes that following players’ accounts lends a more personal feel to following the NHL. For example, he said, Jiri Hudler of the Calgary Flames had some funny tweets with photo of his dogs wearing teammates, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan jerseys.

“Following that sort of personal insight into the game and what’s its like being on a NHL team hasn’t been possible in the past before social media,” Krupa said.

Krupa is also a subscriber of Rogers NHL GameCenter, which helps him watch non-Calgary games.

A tradition that Krupa and his friends have is a playoff pool. The winner gets the pool and a trophy and the last place finisher has to pay for the engraving of the plaque on the trophy for the winner.

Krupa notes that being a part of the pool can really help a fan get into a game by paying more attention to individual players.

Diana Lutz, 27, is also a huge Flames fan and watches every game.

“If I have to miss a game because I’m out doing other stuff, I always check the score and know if they won or lost,” Lutz said.

As a born-and-raised Calgarian, Lutz has always cheered for the flames; even when former elite Flames like Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla were on the ice together.

“[The players] make it entertaining for the fans and they play their hearts out every night,” said Lutz.

This past season Lutz scored tickets to watch the Flames face the Vancouver Canucks on home ice in game six of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was the best game of her life as the Flames eliminated the Canucks, and swept the series after an incredible three-goal comeback.

Krupa was at that game as well and recalls going to the Red Mile [17 Ave. SW] after.

“The atmosphere was just one big party,” said Lutz. “I know that the Red Mile has rightly received some criticisms for negative incidents but that night, there were families celebrating and everyone was having fun. It was really well policed and wonderful.”

Kim Somers gets a photo op with the Grey Cup in Fort McMurray, Alta during the Northern Kickoff.

Photo Courtesy of Kim SomersKim Somers moved to Calgary when she was 16, instantly becoming a fan of the Flames, and of Dave Dickenson ever since he was playing as a quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders.

Somers now, 42, lives in Fort McMurray and often drives to Edmonton to catch the Esikmos take on the Stampeders.

“I love going to Calgary games in other stadiums,” Somers said. “We wear our colours, make lots of noise and have the playful banter with the other teams, it’s so fun,”

Somers can back up the banter because she’s a super fan, but she says it can be fun getting to know other fans at a game.

Somers now shares her love of football with her son.

“We’ll go to the games in Edmonton ’cause it’s a little bit closer and he learns to learn how to be a good sport. You’re with other teams and fans and you don’t want to be a jerk or alienate people — you just want to have a good time.”

This summer Fort McMurray hosted two CFL games, and Somers wore her Stampeders apparel even though one game was between Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

A highlight for Somers was when she made the 800 km trip from Fort McMurray to Calgary in 2013 to attend It’s a Snap, a women-only event where they get the opportunity to meet Stampeders’ players and coaches.

Attending events like It’s a Snap where fans can meet players offers an inside look into the game. By following the game that much closer, fans get to understand the game and become more involved.

With the football season well underway, check out the Calgary Stampeders as they defend their Grey Cup championship.

The Calgary Flames will be returning to the Saddledome Oct. 7 for their home opener game against the Vancouver Canucks.

mwalsh@cjournal.ca