The world of hockey is sometimes criticized for being an elite sport to enter. The rules of play, the units, and arena etiquette can be quite daunting to a newbie. Despite veteran puck heads believing they knew everything hockey from the day they left their mother’s womb, we all had to be educated on the sport.
As true admirers of the game, is it our responsibility to pass the torch to new fans? What if those new fans are chatty Cathys? What if the potential pupil is a 12 year old that screams “Just shoot it!” or “Hit someone hard!” for 60 minutes? My all time favorite, the guy that thinks his tips are head coach, golden material. Every two minutes he spews, “Get it out of there!” Really? As if the players forgot they were in the wrong zone? What do you think they are trying to do, jackass?
I recently attended back-to-back games at the Time Warner Cable Arena to watch the Charlotte Checkers battle the Binghamton Senators in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals. It was a rough couple nights. My Checkmen were defeated, including one shutout, and I sat in front of these three, model ignorant fans…both nights. Throw in an usher that let every person walk around during puck play and I administered enough ibuprofen to kill a small pony.
Your instinct is to tell the loud girls behind you to shut up or leave. You want to tell the 12 year old you’re going to check him if he doesn’t cease his stupid chants. Finally, you want to stand up and pull the sweater over obnoxious coach-wanna-be’s head before kneeing him in the sweet spot to prevent speech for at least 20 minutes.
As these satisfying visions swirled within my mind, one thought kept me from throwing spiteful words and punches. I wanted to avoid hockey hypocrisy. Hockey connoisseurs cannot complain about the mere ten second video dedicated to Mikael Granlund’s sick top shelf stuff on ESPN quickly shoved between ten minutes of golf highlights then turn around to ridicule new fans helping to fill empty seats at your rink. Avoid hockey hypocrisy by educating obnoxious fans.
Instead of writing yet another article to help new fans understand the sport and etiquette of hockey, I decided to write a how-to for the puck specialists. A three step program for enjoying a live game while helping the love of hockey grow without any bloodshed…at least off the ice.
Step One: Redirect
People are instinctually programmed to rebel against commands, particularly intoxicated ones. Restrain yourself against throwing a beer in the over-done face of a gossip girl while screaming at them to get the hell out of your section. Rather, redirect them. During intermission, you could offer a friendly smile and say, “You gals seem to be having a fun night and have a lot of catching up to do. Did you know there is a beer deck in Section 201? I bet you would have a blast. The view is even better than these crummy seats. Perhaps we’ll join you for a beer up there later.” Don’t forget to remove your fingernails shoved in deep in your thigh that helped you remain grounded during this exercise.
Step Two: Positive versus Negative Reinforcement
Douche canoes love attention when acting out. Do not give them this satisfaction. When the pre-pubescent is quietly enjoying the game, turn around and say, “I love how you have really gotten into this game. I get quiet too when I am loving the action. We’ll have to share some of our favorite moments during intermission so we don’t miss any of the game.” You should have taken a pre-talk shot to aid your performance. I also suggest a post-talk shot to cope with your inner screaming soul.
Step Three: Educate, not Degrade
“Down in front, moron! Down in front!” It is the tongue lashing you want to give to the idiots walking along the glass during play. However, embarrassing the novice attendees for not understanding odd hockey rules is not the answer. There are two ways to tackle these vision blockers. One, you could ask the usher to have better crowd control and to specifically tell those wonderers about the importance of timing. Two, you could take matters in your own hands and nicely inform them during a break you notice they seemed unaware of the puck-in-play etiquette and you thought they would appreciate to know when it is acceptable to move around at the rink.
As for the coach-wanna-be…stick with the sweater over head/knee to groin solution. This type of fan will always be a jackass. Just kick hard enough to ensure his voice is too high to hear for at least a solid period.
We do truly want to help folks enjoy the hockey experience while not annoying the living hell out of us. The worse thing we can do is be hurtful to the newcomers. We want retention at the games. We crave more coverage from the media. Let’s not hurt our efforts through selfish, although satisfying, actions. Welcome the fools with open arms and covert them to the puck side of life.