guarantee that by now he has a blog.
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.
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.
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.
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!"