Chris Wagner knows the feeling all too well.
The chirps. The glares. The grandstanding from that one guy in a Joe Flacco jersey down the other end of the bar — reveling in a failed third-down conversation, or a field-goal attempt sailing just a bit too far to the right.
Such is the reality for New England Patriots fans subjected to watching their team take to the gridiron away from the friendly confines of the Commonwealth and any of its neighboring states.
Success breeds contempt — and the Patriots have accrued plenty of both over the past 20 years. And for most of the last decade, Wagner often had to hear it every Sunday when it came to watching his football club.
Wagner’s hockey career has taken him all across the U.S. — starting with a move to New York for his two seasons at Colgate, then three years down in Norfolk, Virginia while in the AHL ranks before making stops in Anaheim, Colorado and back in New York with the Islanders.
One memory that sticks out? On a fun-filled, five-hour bus ride from Hershey, Pennsylvania back to Norfolk, Wagner and the rest of his AHL team found a pit stop to watch Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks.
One of the few Patriots supporters in attendance, it wasn’t the most welcoming environment — especially after Jermaine Kearse’s circus catch down the sidelines in the waning minutes of regulation. Of course, Wagner would get the last laugh minutes later.
“When Malcolm Butler intercepted that pass,” Wagner recalled. “Everyone was heckling me and then that happened. That was pretty awesome.”
Scrolling through his Rolodex of memories, Wagner quickly singles out Super Bowl LI as his favorite Patriots-related moment — another dynasty-definition game that Wagner had to watch outside of New England, as he was earning reps on the West Coast with the San Diego Gulls back in February 2017.
“It’s got to be the Atlanta game, I think,” he said. “I don’t think you can top that.”
The 2018-19 season has been a bit of a homecoming for the Walpole native and Bruins fourth liner, who has been able to watch the Patriots advance to their 10th Super Bowl in his lifetime without catching too much flak along the way.
Flak or not, it doesn’t have much of an effect on Wagner — who has relished being part of a generation of New Englanders that have seen the Patriots establish themselves as one of the greatest sporting dynasties in history.