I had to give myself some time before I commented on the big fan interaction problem infecting the NHL right now. I’m not talking about the whole “Rick Rypien fan-grab” controversy, mainly because it’s not a controversy. Let me break it down for you:
Dude is fired up from a hockey fight. Fan says something to dude, even if it’s not THAT offensive. Dude gets mad at fan and makes a move towards him.
Basically, we just described a similar situation to what happens at the bar between men in their 20’s every night of the week. The only difference here is that one guy is a pro athlete who is paid to be aggressive towards other men. Yes, he’s paid to be aggressive.
I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s not that shocking. I don’t condone what Rypien did, but I’m not sure I would have done better. Without knowing for sure what the fan said, we can judge Rypien only with half the information. He was clearly provoked to some degree, but he’s responsible for his own actions.
Hell, I cheered for Tie Domi during this fan altercation, and I was never really a fan of Domi in the first place. In this case, the fan deserved it. Don’t pick a fight you can’t actually win.
The issue that actually has me fired up, though, is one that hasn’t got the same headlines. The Edmonton Oilers have become the first Canadian NHL team to add a cheerleading squad. Apparently the “City of Champions” has given up on not only this year’s team, but their franchise’s relevance as well.
Canadian hockey teams don’t need cheerleaders.
Cheerleaders are a gimmick to entertain people who can’t pay attention to the game. If a Canadian city can’t fill a hockey rink with fans who actually want to see the game, then they’ve lost touch in the form of pricing, marketing or the team is just terrible. Edmonton should need this less than most cities.
Edmonton is probably in a dead heat with Montreal and Toronto for the most fanatical, loyal hockey fan base in the world. And they are much more rational and supportive fans than those from the East. The Oilogosphere contains some of the most influential and insightful fan-generated content on the sport. This is hardly a city who breeds fans that need eye-candy just to attend.
Remember, this praise is coming from a guy who has supported the Flames since I could hold a hockey stick.
The Edmonton Oilers need cheerleaders like XM needs another channel dedicated to a single band.
Cheerleaders mean the game needs sex and glitter to be entertaining and the product clearly isn’t good enough.
If the Oilers are trying to spice up the game-time atmosphere with a team that is clearly a few years away, I’ve got a better option. Turn off the scoreboard-induced fake cheers and hire some super-fans. Have them go to Europe and attend a soccer match. Learn about team songs and chants. Start selling Oilers scarves and banners. Work up an add campaign that challenges the fans to provide the best home atmosphere in the league.
Take a look at this video and tell me the average sports fan wouldn’t prefer this over watching a few cheerleaders dance at the game.
I like beautiful girls as much as the next guy. I’m married man in his mid-thirties, so I’m probably in the demographic the cheerleaders are supposed to be targeting. But I’d rather we left the flesh-marketing to Victoria’s Secret and focused hockey fan’s attention on the ice and creating a great atmosphere to watch a game.
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