Friday, November 5, 2010

An NHL fan's guide to booing

I have no idea who this kid is, but I
guarantee that by now he has a blog.
Brian Burke made headlines in Toronto this week with a verbal attack aimed at Maple Leaf fans. After new captain Dion Phaneuf appeared to be booed by a small group of fans during Saturday's game, Burke held court with media to blast the response as "disgraceful".

Burke highlights a classic dilemma. Is it ever OK for a fan to boo? If so, when? And at who? It's a confusing issue, with different standards depending on who you talk to.

I think it's time to start working towards some guidelines. I can't claim to have all the answers, but here are some suggestions to get the discussion started.

Current players
Booing of a current player is controversial. On the one hand, you've just paid hundreds of dollars to watch a multi-millionaire play a game and you may feel like you have a right to express your opinion. On the other hand, booing can make players feel sad, and sad players are less likely to do fun things like crosscheck each other in the larynx.

Here are some do's and don't to help you decide who to boo.

DO: Boo the player at an appropriate time, such as when they have possession of the puck.
DO NOT: Boo the player at an inappropriate time, such as when they're dropping their children off at daycare.

DO NOT: Boo your new captain who has only had the "C" for ten games.
DO: Wait until he's played a more reasonable number, like 11.

DO: Boo players who may be struggling due to a lack of conditioning.
DO NOT: Suffer any cognitive dissonance over doing so while face-mashing your fourth hot dog of the period.

Opposing players
While booing a home team player may be frowned upon, it goes without saying that opposing players are held to a different standard. That said, you can't just boo every player who comes into your building. Standards are important.

In general, players targeted for booing should be star players who have committed an unforgivable sin against your favourite team, such as throwing a body check or scoring a goal or playing reasonably well. In addition, the following players can be booed at all times:
  • Sean Avery
  • Daniel Carcillo
  • Daniel Alfredsson, but only when playing in a building packed with Leaf fans, such as in Toronto or Ottawa
  • Chris Pronger
  • Any player who has caused the game to be delayed by paramedics after angering Chris Pronger
  • Any player who does that "point into the stands and look for a referee after the puck goes over the glass" thing.
  • Rick Rypien, assuming you have your lawyer on speed dial.

Finally, hockey fans should boo center Mattias Ritola of the Tampa Bay Lightning every time he touches the puck. This isn't really a rule; I just think it would be funny if we all started doing it at once for no reason. If he gets confused and asks what's going on, just yell "You know what you did!" and then boo even louder. Let's make this happen.

Former players
Deciding whether or not to boo a returning former player can be tricky. While there is often lingering resentment over a player's departure, it can seem hypocritical to boo a player who you've spent the last several years cheering for.

Based on my observations of fans around the league, it would appear that booing a returning player is allowed if and only if:
  • The player left the team in a trade
  • The player left the team as a free agent
  • The player left the team as part of an expansion draft
  • They refused to waive a no-trade clause
  • They agreed to waive a no-trade clause
  • They played well for your team
  • They played poorly for your team
  • They are a carbon-based life form

But except for those very specific circumstances, booing a returning former player is never allowed.

Of course, players aren't the only participants in an NHL game. Anyone who appears in front of fans is a potential booing target. But should they be?
  • Referees and linesmen should not be booed unless they have done something to deserve it, such as step on to the ice.

  • Booing of a national anthem is never acceptable. However, it is appropriate to boo the anthem singer if they are eight minutes into their reinterpretation of The Star Spangled Banner and still haven't got to the part about the rockets and bombs.

  • Finally, it should go without saying that it is never OK to boo the small children who take part in the exhibition games during intermission. Instead, just stick to chanting "Fight! Fight! Fight!"


  1. Loved the "carbon based life form".

    I think you need a special set of rules for the Bell Centre: Record yourself booing loudly and play it on a loop from the time you enter the building until you leave. And don't forget your lighter at home. You may need it after the game.

  2. "Any player who does that 'point into the stands and look for a referee after the puck goes over the glass' thing."

    Did you see the entire Leafs line do that during the final minutes of the Leafs/Sens game on Tuesday?

    I thought of you when that happened, DGB. I need help.

  3. - Chris Pronger
    - Any player who has caused the game to be delayed by paramedics after angering Chris Pronger

    Holy crap that made me laugh so hard. Granted, the whole post was hilarious. I love the way you write!

    @Duncan: high-five!

  4. I've always hated Mattias Ritola - thank you for using your considerable influence to help give this guy what he's got coming.

  5. Anyone who looks more than twice for non-existent blood after a high stick.

  6. How about booing the fans who have seats near the corners and feel it is necessary to stand up when they feel the camera wants to show them and not the play down in the end? Why couldn't Rypien go after those folks instead?

  7. Awesome post. I'm really impressed that you found that shot of you on television!

  8. Freakin' hilarious. A real slice of fried gold.

  9. Can we add the fans in Toronto, Detroit who stand in front of the cameras during the final 2 minutes?

  10. Booing Pronger doesn't seem safe

  11. Damn, missed an obvious Kovalchuk/Kings fan joke opportunity here.

  12. Lol poor Ritola... I almost can't wait for the next time the Leafs play Tampa just to see how many people follow through on it. Poor guy might have a nervous breakdown...

    And obviously I wasn't the only one who nearly fell asleep during the anthems last week *cough* Boston *cough*. The poor players on the ice probably needed a line change after being on their feet for so long... :P

  13. was able to hold off blowing boogs all over the flat screen until i got to the final bullet point. boogs AND pbr went spewing. gotta learn to clear all cavities before reading DGB.

    fight fight fight - sheer genius

  14. Check Ritola's wiki out now,

  15. If he gets confused and asks what's going on, just yell "You know what you did!" and then boo even louder.

    gd but that was phunnie as all git out.

  16. Dammit, they changed the wiki back.

  17. Both Timbits goalies had 0.000 save percentages last Saturday. Seriously!

  18. But it's always perfectly acceptable to boo Gary Bettman, right? Particularly at banner raisings?

  19. "Referees and linesmen should not be booed unless they have done something to deserve it, such as step on to the ice."

    This one had me rolling because I have had friends ask me why I'm booing the refs and linesmen and I reply, "Well they started it! They decided to step out on the ice!"... I was especially cruel to Bill McCreary, bwahahaha.

  20. That's the biggest load of crap I ever read. Who wrote that, some Canadian? Here's all you need to know: Home team: if your team or an individual player fails to show heart or effort, boo. Opposing team: if a player has done your team or favorite player wrong in the past, does something that you can consider dirty, purposefully underhanded, cheap, has stiffed your team in the past, or plays for a long-time rival, boo. This is Philadelphia 101.

  21. awesome as always!

    don't forget though, you can also boo the highschool kids they pay to don the professional jerseys play in place of actual team every third home game. (coughscough)

  22. @ duncan.. football in the groin! football in the groin!

    @ lt. pete mitchell.. thats what i was thinking....

    @ dgb.... fight! fight! fight!... hahaha!! mite fight!... O_o

    ~ cheers...

  23. Awesome DGB! You forgot to add Todd Bertuzzi to the list of players that should be booed relentlessly at all times.

  24. I will boo Mattias Ritola. I will flip-off a Red Wing. I will push people who still wear Brind'Amor's jersey down the steps while booing Can Ward. I will buy an overly priced American beer,(that I have no intention on drinking) and proceed to spill it on a little kid whose parents will not stand up for them. I will go to the A.C.C. and pee on the legs of Toronto business men while booing Dion Phaneuf. I will OBEY.

  25. Denis Potvin at all Rangers games for generations.
    "Potvin Sucks" happens at all 81, whether the Icelanders or Potvin as a broadcaster are there or not.

  26. "this is philadelphia 101."

    lol, so is hitting santa with snow balls.

  27. He who laughs last, didn't get the joke. If you are stuck at Philadelphia 101, go back to the beginning and repeat until you get it...LOL

  28. Who - or should I say what - is Mattias Ritola? Just boo everybody all the time. that way you're covered.

  29. Now you have something to boo Matthias Ritola for. He just clocked Matt Moulson from behind into the boards. He jumped into it too.

  30. DGB, you are ahead of your time after last night's Ritola/Moulson incident. I believe you caused this.

  31. I hate you.
    You know what you did.