Tradition in sports is a tricky thing. Sometimes traditions are hard and fast rules, while others are unwritten and left completely up to interpretation. Traditions are also the heart and soul of the franchise or league that have been practising it. Baseball games in Fenway park would be very different without Sweet Caroline being blasted over the stadium speakers and being shouted by every fan in attendance during the seventh inning stretch. University of New Hampshire hockey fans would be in for an entirely different experience if the tradition of throwing a fish onto the ice after the team’s first goal was ignored. And could you imagine playoff hockey without playoff beards?
Playoff beards are as much a part of the playoff experience as the hockey is. It is extremely difficult to find an example of a tradition in sport that doesn’t add to the overall experience for fans and for a tradition to survive, it needs to be carried out on a regular basis.
The lore and gravity that comes along with traditions is a major reason why when traditions are challenged or thought to be disrespected, the offending parties are met with intense backlash. This is exactly what happened when the Carolina Hurricanes decided to flip hockey tradition on its head. Before the Hurricanes and their post game antics, a tradition for many teams when playing at home was to go to centre ice after the final whistle and salute their fans. It was a sort of thank you to the fans that attended. Some teams decide to offer no salute at all and exit the ice as soon as the game is over.
The Hurricanes took their thank you a step further and this is what they did;
These antics have made a lot of people angry at the Hurricanes. Hockey fans, players, and hockey personalities alike were riled up by their perceived lack of respect for their opponents and the game. One prominent hockey figure even called the team; “A bunch of jerks.” Here is what Cosmos Sports and Entertainment President Cary Kaplan had to say about the Hurricanes post-game celebrations;
“Hockey is about fans first. Not players, owners and coaches. Fans pay the bills. To add post game player entertainment is tremendous – and it is a shame more teams and players don’t embrace it. We are here to entertain. The game is 60-65 minutes and people are in the arena for 3 times that time – nothing wrong with having fun with the fans when the game is over. Great on Carolina.”
And that is the thing: when you look around the internet, the anger and controversy is coming from outside the Hurricanes organization. Carolina fans love this new addition to the game day experience. Fans are now staying longer at PNC Arena so that they don’t miss the next version of the post game show, local minor hockey teams have incorporated it into their games and kids are doing the Thor celebration in their living rooms just like Brock McGinn.
Despite how some hockey fans feel about the celebrations, the fact is, if you are not a Carolina Hurricanes fan the celebration isn’t for you. The celebrations are for the fans that have attended games at PNC Arena. It is to make the in-game experience more fun and to keep fans coming back. By all accounts, it’s working. We also often forget that if a new tradition is to take root, the old must be replaced. What the Carolina Hurricanes are doing is great for hockey.