26 May 2011

Throwing games in the NHL

[If the title led you to believe this would be an analysis of the team-building strategy of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I apologise.  It's not.]

The aftermath of the post-game torrent of giveaway paddles/clappers/rally drums launched by Tampa Bay fans onto the playing surface - and ever so accidentally in the general vicinity of one or two Boston Bruins players - last night has brought with it the usual furious, yet measured and consistent, response from NHL HQ today.

The Lightning organisation and the retaliating Nathan Horton have both been left reeling from the respective heavy fine and suspension laid down by the league.

Far from being rare, of course there have been many instances of unusual objects being discarded onto the ice at hockey arenas over the years.  Here is just a small selection:

As every hockey fan knows, Detroit Red Wings fans have been lobbing octopi on the ice during the playoffs since the 1950s, the eight arms originally signifying the number of wins necessary to win the Stanley Cup. Recently the NHL has begun to frown upon the ritual, a crackdown on eight animal limbs hitting the playing surface first instituted by Colin Campbell in response to Sean Avery spilling the contents of Martin Brodeur's KFC bargain bucket during the 2008 playoffs.

A wooden bench
In January 2000, irate at a missed call, New Jersey Devils coach Robbie Ftorek opted to throw part of the team bench onto the ice. The Devils' well-established run-and-gun system allowed the bench to seamlessly fit in on a line with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo, chalking up a creditable +12 rating over the balance of the season, before signing a lucrative but ultimately disastrous free agent deal with the New York Rangers that summer.

Plastic rats
In one of several short-lived crazes aping Detroit's octupus tossing, during one of their team's regular marches to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, Florida Panthers fans took to littering the ice with plastic rats whenever the Panthers scored, apparently instigated by the story of Scott Mellanby killing a (real) rat in the dressing room. The practice is also thought to have inspired the recent throwing of plastic dogs after every Michael Vick touchdown in Philadelphia.

The Vancouver Canucks faced criticism this week for allowing confetti to be showered onto the ice after clinching the Western Conference championship, the sight of players consequently being forced to skate very slowly to avoid injury only bringing back bad memories of Mats Sundin's time in the city.

After famously throwing waffles onto the Air Canada Centre ice to express his displeasure at the Toronto Maple Leafs' loss to the Atlanta Thrashers earlier this season, die-hard fan Joe Robb avoided criminal charges but was forced to carry out five hours of community service and is now banned from ever again watching the Atlanta Thrashers play at Air Canada Centre.

Rubber snake
Following an internet-led campaign, a Keith Yandle goal in a 2010 playoff game against Detroit resulted in one Phoenix Coyotes fan flinging a rubber snake onto the ice. Originally believed to be motivated as a riposte to the Red Wings' octopus tradition, it later emerged that the sacrifice of a hairless, predatory and cold-blooded object merely symbolised the rejection of Jim Balsillie's as the team's potential owner.

The throwing of hats on the ice after a player scores a hat-trick goal has long been embraced by players and fans alike, a tradition only threatened by league spokesman Sidney Crosby's complaints during a 2009 playoff game about the sheer volume of hats being thrown in his direction by the Capitals' Dave Steckel.

A glove
In the final minute of a tied December 2008 game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, popular Flyers forward Scott Hartnell attempted to thwart a breakaway by Ryan Malone by throwing his glove towards the Lightning player, resulting in a penalty shot being awarded and missed, thus astonishing Flyers fans under the age of 40, who had never before seen the glove of a Flyers player prevent a goal.

Tennis balls
The annual college match-up between Dartmouth and Princeton includes the ritual of Dartmouth fans hurling tennis balls onto the ice after their team's first goal of the game. The continuation of that tradition at Madison Square Garden for each goal scored by star New York Rangers forward and Dartmouth alum, Hugh Jessiman, is believed to have extinguished the entire stock of tennis balls in Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. Sundin...plastic dogs...Flyers gloves...
    A trifecta of classic bits. Really, you should submit this to some place where you could actually be paid.