Be a Better Hockey Fan
When you head out to see your local boys lace ‘em up and bang, please keep in mind the following tips for being less of a knucklehead:
-Banging on the glass. Has any clear pane of material ever been erected that was designed for grown men to slap their hands against and scream? No. This might seem obvious, but the glass is there so you can see the game and not fear for your safety. It is not a fishbowl…and if it was a fishbowl, would you really taunt the fish? What kind of sicko are you? These are professional athletes, supposedly entertaining you. Are you going to disrespect the years of training and continuous effort it took them to reach the pinnacle of their profession by yelling in their face and playing patty cake with the glass? Sit down, cheer and clap like a sane person. Kids bang on the glass. Hipster posers bang on the glass. Bandwagon-jumping, fair weather fakes bang on the glass. Fans don’t bang on the glass. Fans respect every player on the ice.
-Booing the visiting team’s star player every time he touches the puck. We get it: you don’t like the guy. Maybe he scored on your team a lot in the playoffs. Perhaps there has been a war of words in the press. A personal rivalry between the star players on the home team is often the catalyst for these sorts of situations. But when you boo vociferously each time the puck touches his stick, you sound petty and dumb. The entire arena seems like a school yard hissing at an unpopular kid. It is a base and vulgar reaction. What does this act of mass ignorance accomplish? The player already knows you don’t like him. Do you think you are going to rattle him? Is he going to think, ‘Oh no, they hate me! Guess I’ll just lie down and die then.’ More often than not, this type of taunting has the opposite effect, spurring the player on to perform at an even higher level. Again, act like a sane person and cheer for your team. Booing against someone instead of cheering for your guys just proves you fear their skill.
-Whooping or yipping when a former player touches the puck. How small-minded can you be? There are a finite number of players skilled enough to play in the NHL. There are also a finite number of teams. Therefore, players will be traded or sign with multiple teams throughout their career. Even the Great Gretzky played for several teams. Think of your favorite player. If he hasn’t already played for more than one team, odds are he will and soon. Did they leave for more money? My god, what a traitor! None of us fans would do anything like that, would we? None of us has ever left a job and moved across the country for a career boost and better pay. So much of bad behavior in arenas is driven by emotion. If you’d stop to think about the better opportunities afforded by a move, perhaps you’d cut the player some slack. Their careers are short relative to our own and they have to make hay while the sun is shining. Sometimes that means moving on to better pastures. And when you yelp at them, you are decrying every good play, every bit of joy and entertainment they provided to you while they were with your team. Be respectful. You never know when they might be back for a second go round in your town.
-Mock cheering for a goalie having a bad night. Exactly what purpose does this serve? It won’t make him play any better. Or do you seek to humiliate one of your favorite team’s players? Pointing out his failures will surely bolster his confidence. What was done to you as a child? Did your father mock clap when you fell face first in the mud? Do you feel that made you stronger? Does derision serve as a coaching tool with your children or at work? What a joy you must be at family gatherings. If you can’t cheer for a struggling player, just be quiet. Or I’ll come to where you work and golf clap when you screw up.
-Talking on your cell phone and waving at the camera. When I am watching the game at home, the last thing I want to see is you standing up and waving with your cell phone jammed against your stupid face. When I am at the game and you are doing this, you are annoying and are blocking my view. Either way, you look like a jerk that has never been away from home before. I can just imagine how that conversation goes: “Look ma, Cletus is on the TV box. He sure done made the big time now. Cletus, bring me home one of them city street hot dogs that the police mans eats on the Law & Order.”
-Getting drunk. There are several factors at play here. Firstly, you need to understand the appropriate level of inebriation for a public place. The arena is not a bar. There are children at the games, as well as people who don’t want to deal with your drunken ass. Many arenas have bars. Feel free to sit in the bar and watch the game, but for the life of me, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just drink at home and watch the game on TV. A lot of venues have drink and meal packages before the games with unlimited beer. Know thyself. Unlimited does not mean “drink as much as you possibly can to get your money’s worth.” Worst of all are those who show up to the game late, already tipsy, have a couple of beers and leave during the second intermission. This happens at downtown arenas on weekends when young men and women are on the prowl. They have no interest in the game, only in lurking and being seen. I abhor these people. In general, if you are loud and belligerent and you feel it is your duty to berate the officials, we all know you are hopped up on false courage and are a tiny little man on the inside.
Now for the twist: I have done every one of these things. I have gotten drunk and screamed at refs until I turned purple. I have booed opposing players, mock cheered, yipped and banged on the glass. When hockey was new to me, it was all very exciting. I wanted to see fights all the time. That was in the bad old days. I didn’t know any better. As in every other aspect of my life, my appreciation for hockey has also matured. Being a Washington fan, my taste went from Dale Hunter to Peter Bondra: from brash and violent to elegant and sleek. I no longer let the emotions of a young man control me. I see things more clearly, with a fuller appreciation for the details. The items I have listed are barriers, vestiges of an adolescent response to the game that hinders one from enjoying the NHL experience at its full potential.