Stop ruining the fun of hockey games

Sporting events are supposed to be fun. That’s what makes them so great with the excitement, the cheering, the camaraderie and sometimes even the laughter.

That’s what draws you to sports as a kid and even when you become a serious fan as an adult, deep down that’s what keeps you coming back to watch.

However, there are some among us who seem adamantly opposed to fun. They somehow see the idea as breaking tradition, or destroying the spirit of the game, or some other bizarre reason to justify their grumpiness.

I’ve already written about how home run celebrations and showing personality is a great thing for baseball and it makes people want to tune in.

The same goes for football. Elaborate touchdown celebrations are awesome to watch and it’s something to look forward to. When your favorite team gets into the end zone, the anticipation builds as you wonder what crazy routine it’ll come up with.

It adds that extra element to the sport and it makes me wish the NCAA wouldn’t be such sticks-in-the-mud when it comes to players expressing joy. The organization already doesn’t pay its student-athletes. The least it could do is let them have fun while making millions of dollars for their respective schools, money that they’ll never see.

Now the fun police have come to hockey and its angry chief Don Cherry is bellowing into his megaphone. Hockey has had celebrations before and there’s been some people who’ve complained about them, even though the moments are usually over in the blink of an eye.

It’s usually the goal scorer pumping his fist or skating on one leg or something basic, but there’s always “that guy” who whines about it.

What has upset the Canadian Cherry so greatly is what the Carolina Hurricanes have been doing this season — having fun.

The ‘Canes aren’t just celebrating goals, they’re going all out after their wins and that’s generating some good publicity.

Carolina has always been sort of a lower-tier franchise in the NHL. The Hurricanes play in Raleigh (which is nowhere near the ocean) and even though they won a Stanley Cup in 2006, does anybody really remember it?

Look at the Hockeyville game in Marquette back in 2016. When it was announced the Detroit Red Wings weren’t coming to town, hockey fans in the Upper Peninsula weren’t thrilled, and when they found out that Carolina was one of the teams gracing the town with its presence, people were even less enthused.

Seeing how the Hurricanes were shut out by Buffalo and looked more like a swift breeze on the ice than a powerful storm didn’t make things any better.

However, Carolina has put itself back on the hockey map this season, first by cleaning house. They have a new general manager, a new coach and a new captain. It didn’t translate into success right away, but they’ve caught fire since New Year’s and are now in the playoff race.

What really is capturing the attention of the country is the ‘Canes’ wacky antics after games are done. Now dubbed the Storm Surge, the Hurricanes lead chants, dance and basically perform small skits in front of the fans who stick around, which I imagine are increasing each game.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. After all, Carolina wore the uniforms of their former franchise, the Hartford Whalers, a couple days before Christmas and that got mixed reviews on social media. I loved the Whalers’ uniforms when I was little, but it almost seemed like a desperate attention grab.

They also started to do the “Skol Chant,” which they stole from the Minnesota Vikings, who learned it from the Icelandic national soccer team. I like it when teams are original rather than stealing stuff from other teams, so again, it seemed kind of sad, but it fits Carolina’s history pretty well.

However, the Hurricanes’ antics started to grow on me and their ideas got more creative as the season wore on. New captain Justin Williams, who is the orchestrator, said the team was just tired of doing the common stick salute to fans after a game, which is also what Northern Michigan University does for the Wildcat faithful.

The players have played Duck Duck Goose, performed the limbo dance and played human bowling and human dominoes.

My favorite so far is the “walk-off home run” bit where one of the players pretends to pitch and the other pretends to knock it over the wall, while the pitcher angrily slams his glove to the ice. All of those are a good start and I’m intrigued to see where they take it from here for the rest of the season.

Not everyone is thrilled. Commentators and analysts have whined about it, former NHL general manager Brian Burke referred to it as “pee wee garbage,” and then there’s Cherry, who took it to a new level.

For those who don’t know, Cherry has a segment between periods during CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays. Last weekend, he went on an epic rant that made him look like that neighbor who screams at kids to get off his lawn.

Cherry called them jerks, called it a joke, said you shouldn’t do it in the NHL and that they definitely shouldn’t do it in the playoffs if they make it. Basically, he acted like a bitter old buffoon, a role he plays quite well.

There are two things that made me laugh about Cherry’s bizarre anger — he said “imagine Justin Williams doing stuff like that” when Williams is the one who runs the whole show. What is also rich is that Cherry has made a name for himself by dressing in outlandish suits (that night he wore a blue one with golden dragons on it) and that’s been his trademark all these years.

For a guy whose whole schtick is drawing attention with his attire, it’s hilarious that he has a huge problem with postgame celebrations. Not only is Cherry out of touch, but he’s also a hypocrite.

The Hurricanes basically laughed off Cherry’s idiocy and are having some fun with it. They tweeted out the popular “Old Man Yells at Cloud” meme, which is Grampa Abe Simpson from The Simpsons shaking his fist at the sky, only they had Abe wear Cherry’s dragon suit and changed the cloud to the Hurricanes’ logo. The tweet was quite popular and then they changed their Twitter bio to “the bunch of jerks with the fun celebrations.”

Carolina also zinged Cherry again by tweeting a photo of Williams performing the limbo with Cherry’s quote about him attached. The ‘Canes then topped it all off by selling T-shirts with their logo and “Bunch of Jerks” printed on it.

The shirts sold out at the team store at PNC Arena before Tuesday’s game and are the top-selling product on its website.

Cherry is mildly amused by this, but still hates the celebrations. The good thing is nobody cares anymore what Chief No Fun thinks about it.

And that’s what we all need to do. Ignore the haters like Cherry and embrace celebrations. The Hurricanes have and now they’ve become the talk of the league. All for simply enjoying themselves on the ice and interacting with their fans.

Games are supposed to be fun and it’s nice to see a team that’s happy to put on a show.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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