The Worst Fans in the NHL

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMay 18, 2010

posted by Rocket
All Habs

“Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning”

Philadelphia Flyers' fans are the worst in the NHL.

On that there is no debate, right?

How could one come to any other conclusion as we read about the despicable incidents of the past few days happening in and around the Wachovia Center. Canadiens' fans have been mocked, children have been spat on, and TV equipment was damaged.

Habs' fans who made the trip to Philadelphia have been threatened, physically and verbally assaulted, and told by Wachovia security that their safety could not be protected.

Some Canadiens' players were informed by teammates to be prepared to hear some of the most vile taunts from Flyers fans during the warm-up.

Everything so far seems to support the initial statement. Obviously, its an open and shut case.

I really hate to ruin such a perfect hypothesis by expanding my field of view but I feel compelled to take a virtual trip down Interstate 87 South.

Imagine my surprise to come across this headline.

Montreal Canadiens' fans are the worst in the NHL.

With Americans being fed a steady diet of video clips showing Habs "fans" rioting in downtown Montreal, it seems that most have determined that their northen counterparts arrive at the rink with their Canadiens' jersey, a ski mask, and a section of steel pipe.

Add to it stories of Bell Centre patrons who just can't wait to boo the U.S. national anthem, and the evidence is starting to mount in support of the claim by the other side.

So where do we go from here?

Today, Montreal talk radio asked listeners for their reaction to Flyers' fans chanting "Ol-e Ol-e" in sarcastic fashion during Sunday night's game with Philadelphia well ahead. The radio hosts stirred the pot by asking the question about a retaliatory response.

Good idea. I can hear the boo-birds warming up now.

Local media flogged Pat Hickey's account of his slashed tires and stolen license plates while parked outside the Wachovia Center. It was some red meat to the base and the response was predictable. The story, reprinted in Philadelphia, ended with the author suggesting a new variation to the Flyers playoff slogan: "Relentless in the pursuit of idiocy."

That's not exactly a Hands Across North America gesture, Mr. Hickey.

But seriously, is there any sense in attacking an innocent reporter's vehicle?

Some in Philadelphia will point to Hickey's colleague at the Gazette, Mike Boone, as the catalyst for the attack. You may remember Boone wrote the following passage in February expressing his feelings about the Flyers.

"There's not a franchise in sports I hate more than the Philadelphia Flyers. Not the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not the New York Yankees. Not the Dallas Cowboys or L.A. Lakers.

No, you'd have to have an Olympic Games flashback to 1936 and watch the pride of Hitler's Germany marching into the Berlin stadium to match the feeling of revulsion I experience every time I see the Flyers play."

Yes, I can see how using a Nazi metaphor may have raised the hackles of the Flyers faithful.

As there seems to be no way to calm this fire, I'll just say, 'Carry on' and step out of the way.

But hold on just one minute. I promise that I will stop asking questions and take cover while the two sides duke it out, but allow me one or two more, if you please.

As fans and the media continue to point fingers of blame and ratchet up the tension, may I just ask: To what outcome? How are we expecting this story to end?

To recap.

In Montreal, we know that violent thugs took advantage of a fan celebration and deliberately chose it as a time to engage in looting and rioting.

In Philadelphia, I'm told that most residents love Santa Claus despite the actions of a few at Franklin Field over 40 years ago.

At the Bell Centre, a small minority of morons have boo'ed the U.S. anthem. Chants of USA - USA could be heard at the Wachovia Center even though the current Flyers roster includes 19 Canadians and four Americans.

So, it would seem that there are idiots on both sides of the divide among fans and media alike.  But is it safe to say that they are in the minority?

Before anyone tries the "they started it first" nonsense with recounts of incidents involving Ron Hextall, Chris Chelios, Bobby Clarke or Pierre Bouchard, let me remind you that phrase hasn't worked since pre-school, if even then.

It is easy to hate when you don't venture outside of your own cocoon. There's few who will challenge the prevailing opinion even if it isn't accurate.

Trust me. I'm the last person who would suggest that a rousing chorus of Kumbaya will solve everything and help us all to be friends. Frankly, I don't even think that's the goal.

I am simply suggesting that people should take a moment to communicate with a fan from the opposing team. Are the two of you going to agree? Probably not. But I suspect you will be less inclined to douse each other with beer or do something worse afterward.

You can talk about how cowardly Dan Carcillo is. Rate Maxim Lapierre's diving form. Who knows? Soon you will be exchanging poutine and cheese steak recipes.

Or better still. You will probably discover that beyond the stereotypes, we are more similar than it appears.

You may say, no thanks, I have no interest in an international sociology experiment.

Far from it. This is a way of improving your fan experience. When discussing and debating the game with supporters and new media from all over the league, you can become a more knowledgeable, engaged fan.

Can it work?

Recently, a Flyers fan posted this message on Twitter, "Dear Habs fan, Don't tweet in French, it makes you look even more effeminate, if that's possible. Sincerely, Flyers fan."

Within one day of challenging his statement and starting a dialogue, he called All Habs a great blog. Contrary to what you might expect from his initial message, he is a decent guy.

I know, you are probably rolling your eyes right now.

But think about this. Knowing how it hurts our American friends, would Habs' fans be more inclined to ostracize the idiots at the Bell Centre who boo anthems? What if Flyers' fans demanded better security in the Wachovia Center for their Canadiens' friends (and themselves)?

At the very least, isn't it a better alternative than what you are hearing from the regular sources? That is, an escalation of the rhetoric that makes us hate each other.

Come on. Let's take this down a notch. We should remember that being a fan means being there to support the home team first and foremost, and then doing little more than showing a healthy disdain for the visitors.

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