I recently went to my first hockey game. First off, where has that been all my life? Hockey, for anyone who is unaware, is everything your mom told you not to do, but on skates. Fast-paced, aggressive, massive fun. This leads me to my next point — taunting.
All sports have it, unbeknownst to me. Some have it far worse than others. Flash forward, the game is about to start. The officials skate out onto the ice and instantly the “booing” begins. Then to my surprise someone has an effigy of sorts — it looks like an official, but it’s hanging from a rope — swinging from side to side. The officials look up and catch sight of it, but only smile and keep skating. WHAT? How is that normal, how is that allowed?
Maybe I should have begun by saying my previous experiences with taunts were in high school. While for some this wouldn’t matter, I went to a private school which was quite strict about chants and what was and wasn’t said. In fact, during games our principal would stand in the student section making sure nothing too rowdy was said. So I’ll be the first to admit this has most likely mellowed me out a bit… nevertheless I was not prepared for this.
So after the effigy of the officials had been pulled back, and the players were nice and warmed up, the puck dropped. From that moment on, we were sworn enemies. If a list had been published, the opposing side’s goalie would have been listed as public enemy number one. As a student section, we were relentless. Nothing went unnoticed, nor did any taunt go too far. The first group cheer that was started went something like “UGLY GOALIE.” That went on until he slid his helmet back down, at which point it switched to “YOU’RE STILL UGLY” as if to remind him that a helmet wouldn’t cure his ugliness.
But it didn’t stop there. As if calling the poor guy ugly wasn’t enough, the world of social media came back with a vengeance. Finding out his last name didn’t take much; in fact it’s written on his jersey. It was figuring out his first name that took some time, and by time I mean like five minutes.
Most colleges have their sports team rosters public, making my job (writing for the student paper) much easier. I have a list of all the players, giving me an advantage, but for your average taunter, this takes it to a whole other level. Within minutes, the Facebook profiles of players were being stalked. Girlfriends’ names were now being chanted out. Anything to get into his head. Now out of all this, the strangest part was that the goalie, whose life had been dug into, whose head we were effectively in, wasn’t affected at all. He showed no emotion.
So the question that remains is, does taunting go too far? I thought so, but everyone I’ve spoken to disagrees. Perhaps it’s just too deeply embedded in sports to change. Despite the chants of the crowd, the goalie did his job. We lost the game 2-0. He stopped every shot.
I’m not calling for end to the “home field advantage.” Far from it. But we should really look at ourselves and wonder if this is what we want to be known for as Black Bear fans. Is it for the insults we sling at every goaltender for his appearance and relationship status or should it be for a fan base that supports our team and their success?