Will the Real Hockey Fan Please Stand Up?
Hockey is back…and so am I! It’s been over a month since my last post as there’s been a lot going on recently; some good, some less so. I’ve been spending some time this week thinking about the right story for my 2013 blogging comeback, and this is most definitely it.
Two fans were removed from Rogers Arena this week after spending the first period of the game against Minnesota Wild cheering, chanting and standing. The people in question were part of the infamous Southsiders group of Whitecaps FC supporters who are known for their loud enthusiasm during soccer matches. It seems that the behaviour that has turned them into Whitecaps FC legends at BC Place is not welcome at Rogers Arena, as they were approached by security during the first intermission and asked to stay seated for the remainder of the game. There was some backchat involved, one thing led to another and two of the group were asked to leave the stadium.
Unsurprisingly, this news was reported with humour by media outlets and received with surprise by sports fans. Headlines included ‘Fans tossed out of Canucks game for cheering’ and ‘Southsiders stand firm on stadium behaviour’. I took to Facebook and Twitter to mock my adopted country’s national sport and my British friends found the whole saga hilarious. Some Canadians buds had a slightly different view, instead pointing out the Canucks’ no-standing policy and general fan etiquette. So, who is right?
On one hand, it seems shocking to me that one of the country’s largest and most popular sports clubs has rules that prohibit fans from standing up to show their enthusiasm unless a goal has been scored. Really? While it seems the main issue was the standing, there have also been comments from other fans about the disruptive nature of the Southsiders’ cheers and chants. Again, really? As a former British football addict I credit the diverse range of songs, chants and cheers with making the match day atmosphere as electric as it is. Granted, the lyrics aren’t always savoury, but it’s all part of the football experience. Hockey games in Canada do feel weirdly quiet without that level of interaction. Indeed, the height of fan participation at a Canucks game is a round of polite applause when a goal is scored. That may seem like a slight exaggeration, but in comparison to a Premiership (or even a Conference) game, it’s really not. How hard is it to blame the Southsiders for getting up onto their feet and initiating chants and cheers as a way of expressing their support for the players? If goalie Corey Schneider’s post-match comments were anything to go by, the players sure appreciated the support.
On the other hand, comparing a British football match to a Canadian hockey game is like comparing apples to oranges. In addition to the no standing policy, the NHL has strict rules in place about when one is able to leave one’s seat to grab some refreshments (only during breaks in play). These rules are in not effect to annoy fans, but to ensure that everyone at the game has a positive experience and a great view. The previously mentioned fan etiquette is so well understood and appreciated that this incident with the Southsiders really was an anomaly; that kind of thing just doesn’t happen at a hockey game. But does that mean it should? As much as I enjoy the rowdy excitement of a football match, I also appreciate that us Brits aren’t exactly known for being polite and friendly. The word ‘hooligan’ springs to mind, and it’s not something to be proud of. When you look at it like that, is injecting a little calm into a sport a bad thing? Regardless, the reason that the Southsiders were removed from the stadium wasn’t because they were displaying enthusiasm, it was because they were doing so in a way that went against the very public rules of the sport. Does disagreeing with rules entitle a person to break them?
Personally, I’m torn on this issue. I still can’t get my head around how quiet Canucks fans are and I’d love to see some more energy and excitement inside the stadium. At the same time, rules are rules and being a football (soccer) fan doesn’t give me the right to break them. The interesting part is seeing this incident for what it is; a prime example of cultural differences between two countries and two national sports. Before my soapbox gets too comfortable, I’ll do what all good bloggers do and put it out to you guys.
Whose side are you on?