I am a New Jersey Devils fan.
And I support Steve Bernier.
It is my hope that any other Devils fans who come across this post will be able to say those same two sentences with me.
I've had time to think. I've read the reports, how his teammates, his coach, and his GM told him they didn't blame him. I've heard his explanation that answered my incredulous initial question when I saw his hit on LA's Rob Scuderi in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals: "What was he thinking?!"
And I debated how I felt about that.
Then I read how Bernier felt about the fan support on returning to Newark, and I realized something vitally important that I would encourage all Devils fans to remember.
We're too good not to forgive him.
The 2012 Devils are not the 1986 Red Sox or the 2003 Cubs or the 2010 Cavaliers. Steve Bernier, despite having a credit now for "the costliest penalty in Devils' history," is not Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman or LeBron James. He is not any of these things because the Devils are not a team defined by losing. Over the past two decades they have been the second most successful franchise in the NHL and easily the most underrated.
Beyond that, without Steve Bernier, the New Jersey Devils would not have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals this season. Without Bernier's opening goal in Game 6 of the Florida series, do the Devils force overtime so Travis Zajac can extend the series? And what of his assists in Game 5 and Game 6 of the Rangers series?
Is it appropriate to love him when we win, and hate him when we lose?
Not for me.
Martin Brodeur's rookie season was my first as a fan. I loved the team then; I continued to love them after that awful series in 1994, the beautiful sweep in 1995, missing the playoffs in 1996, raising the Cup again in 2000, muting the TV so I didn't have to hear Ray Bourque's age again in 2001, raising another Cup in 2003, the awful loss to the Canes in 2009, and missing the playoffs again in 2011. I still carry my towel from Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Flyers in 2000 when the Devils completed a then unheard of comeback from 3-1 down in the series to win and move on. When the Rock hosted its first ever Devils game—a 4-1 loss on 27 October 2007—I was there.
In the good times and the bad, I have supported the whole team.
So how could I stop now?
I am a New Jersey Devils' fan.
Steve Bernier is a New Jersey Devil.
I support Steve Bernier.