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In an attempt to understand the lived experiences of those individuals who grew up within the fan region of one professional hockey team yet chose instead to identify with a nonlocal alternative, the authors interviewed 20 Ontario (Canada) based fans of distant National Hockey League teams. Utilizing Brewer’s (1991, 2003) theory of optimal distinctiveness to examine the stories of participants, it was found that these fans maintained their team allegiances over time because doing so allowed them to achieve feelings of both uniqueness and belongingness. Sport managers can help facilitate feelings of belongingness by utilizing various communication and marketing strategies to better recognize and include their distant fans. Such strategies should ultimately result in the strengthening of the fan-team bond.
Andrijiw and Hyatt are with the Dept. of Sport Management, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1.