When the Bruins visited the Canadiens on December 4th 2013, a friend of mine was attacked on the subway. He was on his way home from the game when he was confronted by two clearly inebriated Habs “fans” wearing Canadiens jerseys. They began verbally assaulting him before pushing, shoving, and eventually punching him. Thankfully, a bystander came to his defense and threw the two instigators out of the subway cart. He went home with a couple of bumps and bruises, the worst being a swollen left eye.
The reason for the attack? My friend was wearing a Bruins jersey.
There are far too many stories of fans attacking one another, based only on the colours on their backs (although alcohol consumption may be a contributing factor). This by no means isolated to hockey; both baseball and football have had recent incidents which will forever leave marks on the sport. The most extreme cases, such as soccer in Europe, unfortunately lead to many people getting injured or even killed, all because people support different teams.
Since when does being a fan of sports involve violence? Is it not enough to respect each other’s allegiances with sports teams, or is it now the duty of fans to belittle opponents with violence and intimidation? I find it extremely alarming that the lifestyle of some fans now resemble that of street gangs when it comes to rivalries. I know you cannot compare the violence between the Bloods and the Crips in L.A. to the violence between sports fans, but the hostility is still there. It’s sad that one person can end up hating another over the knowledge that the other person supports a rival team.
I don’t consider people who disrespect opponent’s supporters as fans. It goes completely against what sports is supposed to represent, which to bring people together and enjoy a display of skill and entertainment. There is no need to include violence or abuse for any reason. The fact that some cities have developed reputations for being some of the most hostile venues for visiting fans is a cause for concern. Buffalo and Philadelphia, from what I’ve heard in the news and through word of mouth, are two of the scariest places to be as a visiting fan. A friend of mine went to a Buffalo Bills game to watch them play against his team, the Miami Dolphins. He was told by his friend not to wear his Dolphins jersey, or even cheer when Miami makes a good play or scores a touchdown. That’s sad. Something is terribly wrong with the fan mentality if one fan can’t wear his team’s jersey without fearing a backlash from the opposition’s fans.
What is encouraging is that it is a very small minority of people who use fandom as an excuse to be violent. Many professional sports teams and leagues try denounce and discourage all forms of fan abuse, whether it be verbal or physical. I recall a few years back during a Canadiens-Bruins playoff series when a surprisingly large group of Canadiens fans booed the American National anthem (video HERE). The following game, the announcer introduced the Anthem singer and named all the Canadiens players that were American. That incident is more an example of mob mentality than anything else, but the team’s response demonstrates an effort to try and eliminate the lack of respect among sports fans.
Fans should not have to live in fear when they support their team. Everyone has the right to be a fan, and people need to learn that. Even though the Habs and Bruins have been fierce rivals for decades, there is no reason a Bruins fan and a Habs fan can’t sit on the same bus, in the same restaurant or in the same arena without throwing slurs or punches. Hockey is about respect, and it’s about time fans started showing some to one another.
A lot has been made of the recent Leafs-Sabres line brawl. It had it all, from John Scott jumping Phil Kessel, to a goalie fight between Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier, to David Clarkson’s automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to fight. When all the dust had settled, Kessel was suspended for the last three pre-season games for his battle axe attack on John Scott’s legs.
When 6’8″ tough guy Scott jumped 6’0″ sniper Kessel, the much smaller Maple Leaf made a relatively sane decision not to drop the gloves and try to fight. Instead, he made the controversial decision to use his stick as an axe, swinging wildly at Scott’s leg pads. He took several good swings, even after Scott had started fighting another Leaf coming to Kessel’s aid. On top of all this, when tempers began to cool back down, Kessel took the time to pick up his gloves and stick to then purposely antagonize Scott by spearing him.
The NHL’s decision to suspend Kessel for pre-season games goes against a couple of things that the NHL is trying to fix. First of all, Kessel does not miss any “meaningful” games. He does not lose any pay, nor does his team lose having him in important regular season games. A pre-season suspension has very little impact on the player or the team, both of whom should be disciplined for a player’s infractions. It doesn’t financially or otherwise penalize the player, nor does it send a strong message to either parties. Instead, the NHL should suspend the player for regular season games, however not as many as if it were pre-season games. In Kessel’s case, a 1 to 2 game suspension would have been adequate. By him missing regular season games, he is leaving his team mates without his services, something that would make the offending player feel like he is letting his team down due to his actions and suspension. What lesson is Kessel learning by missing meaningless games, some of which he would not have been in the line up in the first place? If the NHL wants to punish a player, PUNISH them. Don’t give out pre-season suspensions that mean nothing to the team or the player.
Second of all, the NHL is working very hard to promote attendance to pre-season games. Suspending superstars for pre-season games can only hurt attendance statistics, especially since roughly half the players in those games are not going to start the season in the NHL. Everybody saw the picture of the Florida Panthers’ pre-season game, where there more players than fans. If the NHL is trying to get people to go to pre-season games, having the “main attractions” suspended and out of the line up only hinders these attempts. It is very clear that there are several teams that are struggling to fill their arenas, and having superstars out of the line up won’t get any more butts in those seats. Pre-season games are even more difficult to sell to on-the-fence fans, given that they mean nothing in the standings. These games hold no real value except for getting players into game shape, so “robbing” a player of pre_season games through suspension is not worth the sacrifice of losing the fans that would come out to watch them play.
There is no doubt that Kessel’s second slash was excessive and warranted discipline. Regardless of the circumstances, using a stick like an axe is unacceptable. By being suspended for pre-season games, the NHL is basically giving both Kessel and the Maple Leafs a slap on the wrist. They may as well not have suspended him at all, since it would of had a similar impact. The NHL should focus on making better disciplinary decisions, starting with getting rid of pre-season suspensions. They are irrelevant and they can only hurt attendance records, something that several teams need to improve drastically.
GALLAGHER SCORES SHOOTOUT WINNER, RASK TRIES TO SHOW HIS FRUSTRATION AND FAILS
Tuuka Rask of the Boston Bruins has a history of post-shootout meltdowns (and by a history, I mean two incidents). When Brandon Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens scores the shootout winner against Rask, he tried to show his frustration, and failed. It’s right at the end of the video, so be patient.
Now this isn’t nearly as funny as his meltdown in the AHL a couple of years ago (link HERE), but it’s still a good one. Hockey players will tell you that goalies are a special breed. They’re usually the quiet one in the corner with the strange pre-game rituals. So when they get angry, they usually show it in a strange (and often hilarious) manner. I’m allowed to say that, cause I’m a goalie (but don’t tell my girlfriend that we’re weird, she doesn’t know yet!). I think that broadcast companies should have a camera for each goalie, just to capture their meltdowns. 99% of the footage would be useless, but that 1% of solid gold would be totally worth it.
KASPARS DAUGAVINS SHOWS GUTS IN HIS SHOOTOUT ATTEMPT AGAINST TUUKA RASK
If you ask hockey fans about the shootout, it’s pretty well divided as to whether it’s exciting or not. A lot of people think that it’s a crappy way to win a hockey game, while others think it’s a really exciting way for the team’s to decide a winner. In my opinion, what makes it exciting for me is when people try different moves or tricks to score. Kaspars Daugavins of the Ottawa Senators, tried something new against Tuuka Rask of the Boston Bruins.
Daugavins has been highly criticized for this shooutout attempt in the hockey world. A lot of people are saying that it’s making a mockery of the shootout, and that it’s ridiculous and cocky for him to try it. I disagree. I thought it was highly entertaining, and it took guts for him to try that in an actual shootout. This isn’t just a trick he decided to try out, he actually works on it a lot in practice. And as you can see, Rask has to come over and make a very difficult, acrobatic save. If he had scored, we wouldn’t be talking about whether it was stupid or not.
Just a side note, Rask and Daugavins are now teammates, with the Bruins picking up Daugavins off waivers earlier this month. My theory is the Bruins picked him up just so his new teammates could make fun of him even more for the shootout attempt!
CROSBY BREAKS JAW, PENGUINS LOSE TWO IN A ROW
While playing against the New York Islanders, Sidney Crosby took a puck to the face, breaking his jaw. The puck was shot by Brooks Orpik, but it took a deflection and went right at Crosby’s jaw. This is bad news for the Penguins. They won that game, making it their 15th win in a row, but the next two games without Crosby, they lost badly. First it was a 4-1 loss to Buffalo, before a 6-1 thrashing by the New York Rangers. It’s a little ironic, because everyone was ready to give the Penguins the Cup after acquiring Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla before the trade deadline. Since picking up both players, they’ve snapped their winning streak and are suddenly having trouble scoring. They’re still a team to be reckoned with, and I wouldn’t want to face them in the playoffs. When Crosby gets back, it will be interesting to watch this team at full capacity. Hopefully none of their other stars fall before that.