There’s been a lot of press the last few days about the terrible experience some Caps fans had at Nassau Coliseum during Game 3 vs. the Islanders on Sunday. You can read the original story here, the Isles’ official team response and about a follow-up investigation into harassment and vandalism by local authorities. Caps owner Ted Leonsis said the Caps’ top brass also “had a ‘moment’ at the game.”
The general reply has been, “Not all Isles fans are like that.” Of course they’re not. Many of my friends are Isles fans, and they’re none of the things these people exhibited Sunday – racist, homophobic, threatening. I rooted for the Caps on Long Island last winter. It’s not the best example: impromptu game = no Caps gear + stomach flu > limited cheering or movement for fear of throwing up on glass/players/TV. But I was in the front row! Even the Isles bench saw me cheering for the Caps! Sorry, John! Still, the Isles fans I met were all friendly and polite – and possibly worried I was contagious.
Maybe no one noticed me down there like a Hobbit.
That doesn’t remedy the awful truth of what happened Sunday. No one should ever have to feel unsafe, bullied or personally demeaned over team colors (or anything, but that’s a rant for another blog). I guarantee each team has a small percentage of belligerent (especially when drunk) fans “cheering” for them. You can’t pick your “family,” right? That doesn’t mean we will do nothing. We’ve seen these people. Maybe sat by them. I hope we do – and going forward, always will – intervene or at least reach out with support to the opposing fans. Because you can pick your friends – and these people look fun. I want to go to a game with them:
It seems the Long Island situation was not properly addressed by arena security, but some Isles fans did their best to help. Good on those people. Especially because the number one person who would not condone poor sportsmanship is Captain Science Pants himself, John Tavares. In November, he personally reached out to a young Isles fan who was bullied in Winnipeg. Shame on fans of any team who don’t follow his example.
I hope the “bad apple” Isles fans in question had horrendous, vengeful hangovers and are crushingly ashamed. I also hope the Caps kick their team’s collective ass in Round 1. Karma! (Again, sorry John.) Either way, I’m anxious to hear if Caps fans attending Game 4 at the Coliseum tonight experience a more welcoming atmosphere generated by all the good Isles fans who don’t want to be painted with that same brush.
I’ve been to NHL games in 13 arenas: Boston, New York Islanders and Rangers, New Jersey, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. People always ask me if I worry about wearing my Pens gear there. I’m not. As popular as the Penguins are, I am rarely alone even in my row or section, and there’s a healthy contingent of black and gold in every rink. But wearing a Crosby jersey means you’re begging to get razzed! Mr. Pants laughs; he thinks I’m waiting for someone to come at me, so I can try the moves I learned from Miss Congeniality. (S.I.N.G., ladies!)
And yet, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t mean chirping or some boos. That should be expected and, when handled well, is all part of the fun. But we should also expect it will stay good-natured and. I hate to think I’ve just been lucky – I prefer to think almost all hockey fans are better than those who threatened the Caps fans Sunday.
Don’t get mad, get on TV. (Photo credit: RMNB)
Instead of aggression, I’ve more often encountered the casual sexism that assumes women know nothing about the game. (Sid, your jersey is still not helping.) Luckily, I am equipped to sass that unsuspecting interloper right back to the bar. And I enjoy it.
Guy at Caps game (pointing to my Crosby jersey): “Wouldn’t you rather have a real man?”
Me (pointing toward the ice): “But Mike Green looks busy.”
I’m also ususally with a small group, or sometimes even by myself. Going to a hockey game alone is a bit weird, but I honestly don’t mind, even in my away team kit. If it’s the difference between seeing the Pens or not, I’m going. At worst, I pay unparalleled attention to the game. At best, I make friends with the people around me. (If you haven’t guessed, I’ll talk to anyone. I’d talk to a tree.) Someone being rowdy would have to say it right to my face. It’s easier for a drunk or coward to shout anonymously at a group, which makes it all the worse that individuals within the Caps group were targeted Sunday with specific harassment.
As I said, most of my encounters have been great.In Atlanta, a guy on the upper level concourse and gave us his group’s unused tickets eight rows off the ice. Perhaps this is why ATL didn’t make it, but I got to watch a Malkin hat trick up close. Thank you, anonymous man! When the Pens scored in Anaheim and the crowd sang, “Who cares?”, all the Ducks fans behind us pointed down and yelled, “She does!” At a Caps game, I was one of only a few Pens jerseys in the VIP area when this guy walked by:
There was one WTF moment at a Pens vs. Rangers game at the Garden, circa Thanksgiving 2011. I was with a female friend and male cousin, both NYR fans. Some guy still felt the need to tell me he hopes Crosby gets run over by a car in front of his parents, so they have to watch him die. He actually said that out loud. Before I could even formulate a response, the other Rangers fans around us were telling the guy off. They apologized to me. One of them, some girl I didn’t know, even paid for my beer. Rangers fans! And me! Having a drink together! World peace is possible. (Also, the Penguins won.)
The only place I might not wear my Crosby jersey is Philly. Still, jersey or not, there’s no way I keep my mouth shut for three periods. Maybe it’s better to announce my intentions? I bet @DLF1021 and @sunnyinNJ, in their black and orange, make great bodyguards. This lady did okay.
Have you ever experienced a truly bad fan interaction at a game? I certainly hope not, because we’re all hockey fans. We have a lot in common, and also a lot to lose if/when the teams and League struggle. We should stay “frenemies” whoe love to hate each other until the final buzzer. There are bad people everywhere, but I’d like to think enough of us are cool to drown them out. Hopefully, those are the Isles fans we hear about tonight.