Is there a need for a better GM Place etiquette?

This is a surprisingly timely post, given Yankee Canuck's piece about Canucks fans earlier today. However, its genesis is actually my observations, both in person and through TV broadcasts, of the behaviour of Canucks fans at home games over the past eight years or so. While I disagree with the assertion that Canucks fans are terrible, I do think that there are some stadium etiquette issues which ‘Nucks supporters may be guilty of transgressing. Before I get into that, however, I will give you some background on my perspective on the issue.

I spent the past school year living in Vancouver, the city in which I grew up but in which I had not lived for seven years. Although the Canucks were popular in the city when I moved to Toronto in 2001, the level of support and obsession shown by Canucks fans in Vancouver has grown since then and is now at an unprecedentedly high level. This hit home to me when I was visiting the city about two years ago. Out at a bar with my sister to catch a Canucks matinee game, I overheard a discussion between two rather yuppy-looking girls, who based purely on my superficial judgements I would assume not to be hockey fans. The conversation was notable not just because of its general subject matter (the Canucks) but also because of its specifics (should the Canucks have kept Jarko Ruutu instead of letting him leave the club?). Clearly that is a common level of hockey knowledge that you will not find in many NHL cities.

Living in Vancouver during the past year, I was fortunate to attend a number of games with my good friend from high-school who has half-season's tickets to the Canucks. Not only was it fantastic to actually watch my hometown team in my hometown (as opposed to Toronto, San Jose, Buffalo or Washington), but it was also interesting to observe crowd behaviour amongst Canucks fans. These observations, coupled with those I've made over the years watching a ridiculous number of games on TV, have raised a couple of questions about fan etiquette at Canucks games.

The "LOUUUUUUUUUU!" Chant

During one of the games I attended, my friend expressed his frustration at the frequency with which fans chanted "LOUUUUUUUU" (or "LUUUUUUUU" if you prefer). His criticism: that the chant should be reserved for particularly spectacular or important saves, not just some marginal wrister from the sideboards. Um, I mean just some marginal snap shot from the circle.

Though I could appreciate his point, I definitely found myself erring more on the side of excessiveness when it came to honouring our star goaltender. Maybe if I went to 10, 20 or 40 games a year I would be fine with reserving the chant for key moments. However, I feel that for a lot of people a Canucks game is a relatively rare experience and that these fans should feel free to holler their hearts out in support of Luongo whenever they feel it is appropriate to do so.

So what do you think about the "LOUUUUU" chants? Should Canucks fans do it more? Less? Everytime Luongo touches the puck? Don't care?

BOOING THE US ANTHEM

Okay, fortunately this is not a regular occurrence in Vancouver (unlike a certain Eastern Conference city I can think of *cough*Montreal*cough*) so I'm not pointing out a chronic problem. However, I do recall the US national anthem getting booed during the World Juniors in Vancouver a few years back. And I've heard a few catcalls and jeers, though only in isolated situations, during its singing before Canucks games.

My feelings on this are entirely unambiguous: DON'T EFFING DO IT. I don't care if the other team's fans booed the Canadian anthem. I don't care if you disagree with American political decisions or foreign policy. DON'T BOO THE ANTHEM.

There are many, many reasons why booing the US anthem is a tasteless and insulting gesture. Let's start with the players - approximately 20%, or one in five, NHLers is an American. You might have noticed that we have a pretty good one who wears an ‘A' for the Canucks. Then there are the fans. Believe it or not there are Americans who support the Canucks. One of this blog's editors is one of them. My ex-girlfriend is another. Hell, probably half the folks who watch How I Met Your Mother are now Canucks fans. So by booing the US anthem, you're insulting one of our best players and a bunch of our fans.

And that's just the Canucks-centric reasons. Let's not forget that Canada and the US would both be much worse off without each other. Canada and the US share the largest trade partnership in the world. We depend on America for the de facto military protection of our country. I for one have a lot of great friends who are American, and I would never insult them by disrespecting their country. Yes, many people in Canada and around the world have reasons to disagree with, dislike or even hate many aspects of the United States. But cowardly booing of the US anthem from the safety of an 18,000+ person crowd is a pathetic, immature and disrespectful act. And if you really feel that strongly about America, why don't you go tell it to Ryan Kesler's face?

JEERING THE OPPOSITION GOALIE

Again, a pet peeve of my buddy. Not so much the fact that it happens, but that, in his opinion, it's asking for trouble if done too early. I can understand the fear of a jinx, and agree that heckling Marty Turco or Mikka Kiprusoff might not be the best idea when the Canucks are only up 3-1 in the second period. An example of the behaviour I am discussing:

I largely agree that it's better not to tempt fate, especially when it comes to the Canucks (see Todd Bertuzzi v. Minnesota Wild fans, 2004). However, heckling the opposition certainly has its place. I particularly enjoy jeering Dion Phaneuf, Kiprusoff, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Pronger and, back in the day, Patrick Roy. And why the hell shouldn't I, if I pay my hard-earned money (or future hard-earned money that is currently sitting on my VISA) to attend a game?

So here is my verdict. Heckling obnoxious/talented members of the opposition is a definite "yes." Jeering the opposition, in particularly the opposition goalie, when the game is in the balance is a judgement call based upon a variety of factors. These include the relative likelihood that a Canucks win is in the bag, the amount of deserved hatred towards the goalie in question and the amount of alcohol consumed by the heckler. Overall, however, I would caution against derisively chanting the opposition keeper's name unless he really deserves it (e.g. he just speared Burrows in the gut) or he's let in at least five goals. And I would definitely agree that Canucks fans are collectively guilty of prematurely attempting to publically humiliate the opposing goalie.

... BUT CANUCKS NATION STILL ROCKS MY WORLD

Overall, I think the Canucks have great fans. We are supportive, passionate, knowledgeable and vocal. I entirely disagree with the claim that we are bad, let alone the worst, fans. However, that does not mean that we are perfect, and I think that channelling our passion into more productive measures could help improve our image. For example, we could come up with some creative chants or cheers for our own team instead of feeling the need to heckle J.S. Giguere because he let in two goals in the first period.

Despite these issues, I will vehemently defend the loyalty and passion of Canucks Nation. Games at GM Place can be epic affairs, especially when the playoffs roll around. I have also been to Canucks games in four road cities, and at each game there was a solid corps of anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand Vancouver fans. It seems like the Canucks are becoming like the Leafs or the Canadiens, in that wherever the team goes there will is guaranteed to be a group of hardcore fans cheering them on. I used to feel like a lone wolf roaming the streets of Toronto in my Canucks jersey or baseball cap. Now hardly a day goes by where I don't see someone rocking Canucks gear in the city.

So keep it up folks - just, y'know, maybe wait until we're comfortably ahead in the third period before you start jeering the opposing goalie. And maybe consider checking the "Hey Kiprusoff, yo mama!" comments at the door before you enter GM Place.

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