Winston Churchill once said, "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."
Churchill gives us a simple, but dead-on accurate description of a committed sports fan and I like to think, a dedicated Montreal Canadiens fan.
Habs' devotees immerse themselves in their team in a way that is unequaled in the NHL and 21,273 fans pack the Bell Centre for every game, including the preseason. Canadiens' fans travel by the thousands to attend road games in many cities including New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
While the dedication to the team strikes many as rather impressive, others are simply envious.
On Saturday night, Canadiens' fans converged on Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (capacity 16,297). While media estimates vary, most reports seem to agree that approximately 7,000 were in attendance for the game between the Islanders and the Canadiens, with two-thirds being Habs' supporters.
The locals blame the poor attendance on a major snowstorm that hit the eastern United States. While it's true that about 28 centimeters of snow fell on the Long Island area, as mentioned in my game review, "the Islanders haven't exactly been spinning the turnstiles on clear nights."
Well, it seems that the enthusiastic 'invasion' didn't sit well with at least one Islander's fan. His name is Dave and he is Columnits[sic]/Host of Isles Fan Reaction for Islanders Hockey Blog. Dave was motivated to write an article titled "Hockey's Worst Fans... By Far."
* Note: The article has now been removed from the blog. If you wish to read the full text, you will find it here. *
I have been invited by the blog's editor, Christian, to respond.
As you read Dave's article, it won't take you long to figure out that he is not impressed with Canadiens' fans.
"Sensible people like you and I know it, Leafs and Senators fans know it best, that the Montreal Canadiens have the most uncivil, the most insolent fans in the National Hockey League," writes Dave.
Tell us what you really think, Dave.
He continues, "What infuriates me about these boorish, disrespectful, excuses-for-canadian-citizens is that they have the audacity to saunter into whichever arena they're in (the Coliseum in our case) like they own the place."
My glib response is: That's what happens when you abandon your home arena! My second response is to note that while Dave is calling Habs' fans disrespectful, he has chosen not to capitalize the word "Canadian." Proof that his shift key works comes a few words later when he types "Coliseum."
A more thoughtful response begins by noticing that Dave is expressing his outrage using very strong language. You can almost feel the pain in his words as if he has been terrorized by the experience of being intimidated by a majority of Habs' fans in the Nassau arena.
I was almost ready to sympathize until I realized that Dave is writing his article from the safe confines of his computer chair in Florida. Somehow his outrage is becoming more hollow.
Dave is upset by the reaction to the U.S. National Anthem writing about "thunderous booing." There have been incidents at the Bell Centre in the past where the anthem has not received the respect it deserves. Regular readers of All Habs will know that I have an unblemished record of expressing my extreme displeasure for such conduct.
While I heard both anthems played, I didn't hear anything resembling "thunderous booing." But while we're on the subject, I do find it somewhat disrespectful that both anthems were not treated in an equal manner.
The Canadian Anthem was played by the organists while a children's choir performed the US. Anthem. However, it was heartening to hear the voices of the Canadiens' fans filling the void.
Apparently Dave was not so enthused with the singing voices of Habs' fans complaining about the chants of 'Go Habs Go' and 'O-le, O-le.' He may have missed the chorus of "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye."
I really don't know how to respond to that except with mild amusement. Hockey games are not golf, nor group meditation, Dave.
Reading his last paragraph, I quickly move from being amused to shaking my head. Claiming that tour coach buses from Quebec park "wherever it so pleases them" is just nonsense. The "keep your provincial flag at home" comment is juvenile.
I don't know what it says about his level of linguistic tolerance that he is offended when "They yell to each other, in french." (In future, use the shift key on the word 'French' too.)
Dave also went out of his way to link the Canadiens' fans at the Nassau Coliseum to thugs who instigated a riot on April 21, 2008, in downtown Montreal. Dave writes,"We must remember these are the fans that burn POLICE CARS after a first-round playoff victory."
Not that facts seem very important to Dave, but the truth is that the riots on that date began more than two hours after the end of the hockey game and were led by a small group of organized vandals, not Canadiens' fans.
Let's not be under illusions that any fanbase is exempt from groups of boorish, ignorant people. I believe that the best method of curbing their poor behavior is for all of us to speak out (or write) about our own when we see it happening.
While Dave may be upset that Islanders' fans were in the minority at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night, his anger is misdirected. He should consider that Habs' fans in attendance were not only from Quebec.
The Montreal Canadiens have fans throughout the New York area in large numbers. They could be your friends, your neighbors, and your co-workers.
But shouldn't Dave's emotions be directed at the apathy of fellow Islanders' fans. Isn't buying tickets the simplest way to limit the voices of your opposition?
Some will once again raise the snow storm as an excuse for poor attendance. If Montreal is shutdown every time the city got 20-30 cm of snow,to which some Islanders' supporters say, "but we don't have a mass transit system like Montreal," well neither does Ottawa or Edmonton.
Unfortunately, the explanations sound more like excuses. And let's not forget that Canadiens' fans from Montreal had the inconvenience of a 1,200 km round trip to see the game.
In addition, as mentioned earlier, attendance issues in Long Island is not a one-game phenomenon. Even buoyed by the sales to Canadiens' fans, the Islanders rank 29th in the league in average attendance in 2009-2010; Montreal ranks first.
Those figures seem to challenge Dave's closing statement,"It's undisputed,the Montreal Canadiens have the WORST FANS IN HOCKEY."
If Dave doesn't appreciate the statistical evidence, then perhaps he will be interested in a recently published article by Forbes magazine who ranked NHL fans.
In their estimation, based on last season's calculations of attendance, merchandise, and TV viewership, Canadiens' fans ranked fourth.
Undisputed? I think not.
Instead of misplaced anger and sometimes immature criticism, there could be an opportunity to borrow from the playbook of one of the NHL's most successful franchises and brands. Dave, I suggest that you wish for the day when your fans will travel cross country in numbers to show their love for the Islanders.
A closing note to Christian at Islanders Hockey Blog : Thank you for the invitation to respond to Dave's article. All Habs welcomes opportunities to work with bloggers from other NHL teams. I commend you for reaching out.