TO BOO OR NOT BOO, THAT IS THE QUESTION?!
This past weekend saw a topic brought up on social media involving two of the powerhouses of British Ice Hockey in particular, as some home fans turned against their own side and booed them off the ice, following a string of bad results and performances to boot. This, in turn, has led to one of the supporters of the sides in question asking, is booing acceptable?
Sunday evening saw this subject come to a head, as both clubs were left in no uncertain terms of what their own fans thought about them following their respective home losses. Sections of both supporters of the Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers had their game ending with a chorus of boos ringing around both Arenas, following their home defeats to Fife in Sheffield and Belfast at Nottingham.
It has become apparent from a lot of Steelers supporters on social media nowadays, that they are clearly far from happy on how their side have been performing so far this season – after seeing them on a current losing streak of late in the league. Sheffield currently sits fifth in the league standings to date and are also six points adrift of Belfast in their conference.
The South Yorkshire club have really struggled against fellow conference rivals Nottingham, Cardiff and Belfast this year, with the Steelers sitting rock bottom in the Erhardt Conference, with only four points in conference match-ups – and lie eight-points behind third places Nottingham, with their bitter rivals having registered twelve points in their conference games too.
Fans have also vented their fury on social media in the direction of three personnel at the Steel City club, with their Head Coach and former player Paul Thompson, along with the senior management duo of Tony Smith and Dave Simms also being called out for the sides poor recruitment this year, and also their apparent lack of effort from the men in Orange on the Ice too.
Sunday night saw the Steelers fans venting their anger after an in-form Fife Flyers side flew into the FlyDSA Arena and saw the Scottish side came out 3-1 winners and had the sound of the horn at the end of the game was met by a loud chorus of boos by the home faithful and had plenty of empty seats from clips posted from the game.
Meanwhile, just 42.4 miles up the M1 (according to Google Maps) the Motorpoint Arena playing hosts to the Nottingham Panthers and the Belfast Giants. The Northern Ireland-outfit beat the hometown side 6-2 and had the hosts also met with loud boos from the Panthers Nation as well.
This time last year the Panthers qualified for the Continental Cup final round in Italy and went on to win the tournament to become the first EVER British side to win it. Much like their foes down the road, Nottingham has also been going through a bit of a bad patch of late and saw the side in ‘Primrose and Black’ only picking up a point from their last four league games with two of those losses coming against conferences opponents, Cardiff and Belfast.
Both sides have been huge forces in British Ice Hockey for some time now and has seen them fighting it out (sometimes quite literally) for league titles and domestic trophies along the way. Both fan bases have high expectations of their team and consequently, both clubs have played with rather large huge chips on their respective shoulders.
So, when that chip gets dislodged by their rivals or other teams within the league, their fans are quick to jump on them and that was pretty evident from this past weekend. The booing from two sets of fanbases was a clear indicator of them not happy and wanting things corrected almost immediately.
Having fans booing their team is nothing new in sports in truth, however, in British Ice Hockey, in particular, it is a rare occurrence. That said, the first time I recall hearing boos and not aimed at an opposing player or team, was way back in the early 2000’s when the club I supported growing up a child, the Manchester Storm, had the first instance of this occurring.
During the 2000-01 season, there was a new coach at the helm following the outgoing and most successful head coach that the Storm ever had in Kurt Kleinendorst, as former Storm boss departed for a scouting job with the New Jersey Devils of the NHL in North America. He was replaced by a coach by coach Terry Christensen who had made his name in College hockey over the pond.
From the off you could tell things weren’t good, with the side playing awful, the coach refusing to connect with the fans which had attendances dwindling by the week, with poor performances on the ice being made worse with players and the coach at loggerheads too, with former player Pierre Allard launching a scathing attack on Christiansen in the local press.
For the handful of games that I attended that season, I recall vividly the side being booed as they skated around the ghost town like MEN Arena as it was then and poor brand of hockey. it was the only time that I can ever recall a home side being booed off their own Ice in over twenty-two years of watching the game in the UK.
In Europe though, booing is seen as acceptable as it is generally in football. If a home side loses or plays badly in front of their own fans, then the players and club will risk the wrath of their supporters and have them booed till out of sight.
For over quarter of a century now watching a range of all different sporting teams in Manchester; whether it is Manchester City, Manchester Storm/Phoenix/Giants, Belle Vue Aces, Sale Sharks or even Lancashire C.C.C and heck, let’s throw in the rare occasion I watched Manchester United at Old Trafford too, we have all been made to get mad or angry with our sporting sides and venting our spleens at games too.
Based on my own experiences of hearing sides being booed off, then you have been a Man City supporter for as long as I have and went prior to the takeover of the club with the Abu Dhabi Group, then Yes, I am probably one of the better ones to ask about frustrating sides.
From being taken to my first ever game on Boxing Day 1991, right up to the present day, I saw players in sky blue shirts being world-beaters and disaster zones over the years, while also having to take the smooth with a truckload of roughness that would equate to taking some sandpaper to a house brick.
Sports fans are without doubt the most fickle of fans you will find in any walks of life, as the word fanaticism in Latin shortened is ‘Fan’, and the description of the word being states “to be ‘mad, fanatical, furious, raging, enthusiastic and ecstatic” and as a sports fan we all experience those feeling when watching.
The long and short of it I guess is that if you are willing to pay to watch something, say; a sports event, concert, film and even Gladiators back in Roman times I suppose, then you have the right to express your grievances as after all you have paid good money to watch your chosen entertainment.
Another way to look at things is, if fans are debating whether booing is deemed acceptable, then imagine if a team lost 10-0. The losing sides fans should be well within their rights to boo, whistle, jeer or show their frustration at what they watched, especially if their team didn’t show any interest what so ever.
On the flip side of things, if people aren’t allowed to boo and jeer for things when they go bad, then surely when the opposite happens and their side is winning, then the fans shouldn’t be allowed to clap, cheer or celebrate either, as surely that must be wrong too??
Much like in all sports though when a side rediscovers their winning touch again, it will see the negative comments start to fade away and be replaced with optimism – well until those losses start to occur again of course.
I’ll finish this blog off with a link to a clip from Scottish Comedian Fred MacAulay, as he loosely talks about booing in a sense.