Negative Reviews: What I Learned From an Angry Hockey Mob

May 18, 2013

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A few years ago – when I was living in Toronto – I met a lovely girl who overheard a conversation between myself and my fellow teachers:

“Sorry – I know this might be weird – but I just moved here from the States and I was just wondering if maybe you could give some tips about where to find teaching opportunities around here?”

There was nothing bothersome about a fellow teacher asking for help.

I arranged to meet her for coffee after figuring out that we both lived in the building upstairs from this café.

Let’s call her Taylor.

During coffee – and after some pleasant chitchat – I noticed Taylor kept mentioning that she and her boyfriend moved around and that his schedule was a little unorthodox.

“What, if you mind me asking, does he do?” I couldn’t help it.
“Oh, he plays for the Leafs.” As in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now, to a Montrealer, having coffee with someone whose boyfriend plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs is akin to a vegan meeting with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

However, Taylor was so kind, and so sweet, that I couldn’t get up and leave. Not like I would have anyways, let’s be honest.

“Are you a hockey fan?” She asked.
“I am. When they’re winning.”
“Would you be interested in coming to a hockey game with me one of these days?”

Didn’t have to think of that one for too long.


When we decided on a game to go to – Taylor met me downstairs in the building and we took a cab to the Air Canada Centre.

“So – we can either watch the game with the other hockey wives in the private box – good food, all that – or, we could watch it from the stands – which I actually prefer.”

“Stands.” I liked this girl. Her and her boyfriend were college sweethearts and I appreciated how she cared more about the game than about schmoozing over cocktails – once removed from the fans.

The game tied and led to a shoot-out – a situation where each team chooses three players to go one-on-one with the goalie to win the game. Her boyfriend – now husband – had the deciding shot.

He missed – as all athletes and other mere mortals are wont to do from time to time.

The crowd was livid.

Snippets of:

“We should have never traded for him.”
“What an idiot.”
“My time would have been better spent at home instead of this crap.”

And much, much worse: I don’t feel comfortable mentioning the rest here.

For the first time, I felt the second-hand sharpness of negative criticism. And it wasn’t pretty.

Taylor started to cry and I tried to rush us out of the arena. The invectives continued and she apologized for crying – needlessly.

At that moment it didn’t matter that this was our rival team – I saw the situation in a human way and it was heartbreaking. She didn’t deserve to hear those harsh tirades no matter what you say about athletes and how much they’re paid.

Now, of course, this has a point:

The books on this website – all of which I read – are recommended out of my personal connection to them – or – out of the understanding of what others appreciate about a book even if it isn’t my cup of tea.

When visitors to the site ask me why I don’t write negative reviews there’s a simple answer:

“There’s no need.”

There are enough film, television, movie, and literary critics out there who write scathing reviews that I don’t feel it’s my job or my place to do so.

As a writer, I know how much work goes into any piece of writing.

As a former employee in the media – I know how many hours everyone working on a film puts in to the project – no matter what the critical reception may be. Same goes for television. And so on and so on.

Had I not been in the angry hockey mob I wouldn’t have been sensitized to how hurtful negative criticism may be.

I always encourage my students – should they dislike a book – to come up with valid reasons as to why – it’s not enough to say: “It sucks.”

I endorse everyone’s right to an opinion and I – by no means – like everything: quite the contrary.

But, if you are going to dislike something, dislike it with class and generosity. It could be you on the other end one day.

And keep sitting in the stands. It will thicken your skin. Thanks for this, Taylor.


  1. So well written, Andrea… and so true! Got a good laugh reading your comments on the Leafs. Spoken like a true Habs fan!
    Looking forward to your next blog.

  2. I really enjoyed this story. Thanks for making some of us realize that sometimes if you have nothing nice to say, it is better to not say anything at all….

  3. I left Toronto 20 years ago and haven’t missed it for a moment. However, the Leafs have imprinted their sorry selves on me and I couldn’t stop backing that team if I tried. You cannot imagine the abuse I take over it; however, it’s not the ribbing I hate, it’s the uneducated killer statements. i agree, if one has something against my team, make a statement worthy of conversation, chanting “67” doesn’t cut it and just makes hab fans seem stupid.

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