*Disclaimer: I don’t boo the home team and I don’t boo home-team players.
As a fan in your seat, you are limited in the ways you can express yourself and make yourself heard. Fans don’t have the ability to scoot over to the coach of a team, or even the players on the bench, and discretely whisper their thoughts and feelings.
A fan is capable of expressing themselves either through cheering or booing. When a fan likes what they see they cheer. When they don’t like what they see, they boo. They aren’t booing the person, they aren’t booing the life decisions the athlete has made, they are booing a performance. Because that is what a professional sports game is – a performance.
Let’s bring this home to Montreal and more specifically to Carey Price’s performance in last night’s exhibition game against the Boston Bruins. While not all the goals were his fault, and his teammates defensive prowess left a lot to be desired, there were 4 goals on 8 shots.
Is that a moment for cheering? Sadly no – the Bell Centre’s audience is not composed of Carey Price’s family members and close personal friends.
The crowd didn’t like what they saw, so in frustration they chose to express themselves. Would the atmosphere have been better had it been silent? I’ve been to games where all 21, 273 people go silent. It’s not very much fun. And what did people pay upwards of $80 per ticket for if it weren’t to have a little bit of fun?
Hockey is Entertainment
NHL games, or more specifically, NHL exhibition games, do not change the world politically, environmentally or socially. They are forms of entertainment, and just like movies, theater and live-music, they compete for our entertainment dollars. The players on the ice are entertainers. They are paid to perform a skill, just like the lead singer of a band, in front of an audience. If the audience who chose to dispense the entertainment dollars on a hockey game don’t like what they are watching, they are in their right to express it.
I have a cell phone. I am often unhappy with my cell phone’s performance….I would very much like to gather 21,273 people outside of Rogers Headquarters and start booing. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. But I do voice my opinion, and there are many Rogers Customer Service agents out there who can tell you I voice my opinion often and loudly. Rogers doesn’t then go to the media and speak about how consumers are supposed to support their cell phone company – that despite their shoddy performance, in the development stage everything works well.
The crowd at a hockey game are consumers, and they are in their right to voice their opinion about the product they purchased. If they continue to not like the product, they no longer have to purchase.
If Carey Price were walking down the street and a group of people started to heckle him, I would call that harassment. He is in the midst of his private life, doing private tasks. BUT, when a player, Carey Price or others, steps onto the ice wearing a Montreal Canadiens uniform, he is in essence on stage. He will be critiqued for his performance and it is in an audience’s right to do so.
I don’t want to get into the money angle too much, but it does represent an interesting situation. Many of the Habs players have come out to say that their fans should support them no matter what – Josh Gorges, I’m looking at you.
Sorry Josh, that’s just not true. You don’t make $1.3-million a season because it is your divine right. You make that much money because people buy tickets to games. At the game they are wearing a $250 jersey, and throwing down $4 a hot dog and $11.50 a beer.
With that much money being invested into their night, you can understand how a fan might want to express their displeasure.
What Can a Player Do?
I say they ignore it, bite their tongue, and live with the fact that when they go to work, they sometimes might get yelled at by 21, 273 people. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and I am sure it hurts, but it comes with the territory. A player can chose to not play, or a player can chose to play and live with it.
But a player cannot tell a fan-base that it isn’t in their right to boo. It’s actually the only right a fan has.