One of my most indelible memories of going to an NHL game involved a meeting of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Boston Bruins midweek right after the FleetCenter (now TD Garden) opened. I was probably 12 or so. As often happens when you sit in the cheap seats, there was a group of drunk college kids at this game, which wasn’t particularly well-attended as far as I recall.
And the entire game, all those kids did was ride Teemu Selanne’s ass every time he took a shift, calling his name in a collective sing-song voice. This was, for some reason, wildly hilarious to me. The obvious sacrilege of taunting a legend of the sport and perhaps the world’s greatest-ever human aside, it was the first time I’d heard a group of people really, collectively be a bunch of dicks to someone at an NHL game. (I’d been going to college games for a few years, of course, and chants there are often about as mean-spirited and constant as they can get, but I’d not actually heard this kind of active dislike expressed at a Bruins game before.) Again, though, I was 12.
With all that having been said, though, it occurred to me in later years that simply chanting a person’s name at him over and over is a) Not that interesting, and b) perfected with the “Daaaaaryl!” chants of the 1980s. Somehow, though, in the last few years the things fans chant in unison at people has become news in the hockey world.
One supposes you can trace it all back to the fact that Winnipeg stole a team from Atlanta, more or less under cover of night, and the immediate praise that fan base drew from commentators for being the best in the league because they’re loud (due to playing in a matchbox-sized building) and, well, clever’s not the right word. They chanted “Crosby’s better!” at Alex Ovechkin that one time —statement of fact apparently counts as wit these days — and “Silver medal!” at Ryan Miller — while being able to count the number of Canadian Olympians on their roster with zero fingers.
The height of Swiftian incisiveness this was not (especially since these events came after Rangers fans famously chanted “Can you hear us?” at Bruce Boudreau, who had previously claimed not to be impressed with the noise made by the crowd at MSG, months earlier), but all the praise has served to encourage the least-tolerable fans in the league to continue being obnoxious in the least-interesting way possible. With the Rangers losing to the Jets on the road, Winnipeggers chanted “Tortorella!” at John Tortorella, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
The sooner everyone stops caring about crap like this the better off we’ll all be. What is the cut-off for such a chant being noteworthy. “Go ______ go!” is clearly not drawing any attention, nor is chanting an opposing goalie’s name. No one even cares when Habs fans do the “boo every time Zdeno Chara touches the puck” act. But somehow, chanting Tortorella’s last name is enough for some slackjawed Winnipeg media member — who you know was just raring to get the question in —to ask the beleaguered coach about it, and you know if any other crowd did the same to Claude Noel the admonishments from the pom-pom waving newspaper sweathogs from that city would come hard and decisive.
I guess this is all my long way of saying that I hope if we ignore Jets fans long enough they’ll all just shut up and realize their team is awful. If no one outside Manitoba cares about the Jets, why should anyone care about their fans?
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