Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Hockey fans set columnist straight

July 5, 2006

Carolina fans, it's time for me to sit in the penalty box.

Last week, I wrote a column about a hockey fan I saw on television while watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Carolina and Edmonton.

I turned on the tube late in the game and watched the final minutes. During those last few minutes, I noticed a Carolina Hurricanes fan waving an American flag.

This upset me, because I thought that he had an Americans vs. Canadians mentality and that the U.S. team was superior. I found this odd because most of the Carolina players either were native Canadians or from other countries, mostly European.

If only I had watched the entire game.

After reading my column online, a few people from the Atlantic Coast set me straight about what really was going on at that game.

I'm thankful they took the time to write.

A season-ticket holder sent me an e-mail about the man who waves the flags.

As she put it "If our Swede, Nic Wallin, scores a goal or lays out a big hit, he waves the flag of Sweden. If one of our Canadian players scores a goal, he waves the Canadian flag, etc. When Marting Gerber is in net and makes a great save -- yup, the Swiss flag is flown."

Another fan, from Richmond, Va., pointed out that Carolina fans belted out the Canadian national anthem before games that were played at Carolina's RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Likewise, he said Edmonton Oilers fans in attendance sang the "Star-Spangled Banner," as they did when the song was played before games in Edmonton.

The man appreciated the gesture by Edmonton fans and wrote, "I'll remember the pre-game to games 5, 6 and 7 maybe more than anything about this series," referring to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I was quick to scold an American for making the finals nationalistic, but there are some Canadians who don't take kindly to the Americans playing "their" game.

The Richmond man mentioned that an Oilers fan in Edmonton held a sign that said: "Hockey is CANADA's Game."

He also discussed distasteful memories of America's national anthem being played in Montreal and "boisterous jeering" of the USA's world junior team in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Another fan, Thomas Wharry, who is from Tega Cay, S.C., also e-mailed me about the column. In an interview Sunday, he also mentioned that event in Vancouver, which took place last winter.

"Vancouver fans booed the American national anthem and rooted for Russia to beat the United States, so I think there's a lot of animosity between the two countries for that reason," Wharry said.

As for the NHL playoffs, Wharry was pleased that fans from both teams sang, with respect, the national anthem of the visiting team's country.

"In this particular series, the Edmonton fans were very classy," Wharry said. "They sang the American national anthem very loud."

In addition, Wharry said the fan-waving flags from the various countries was good for the NHL.

"I think it's great for the league," Wharry said. "The National Hockey League is a very international league."

According to Wharry, through the NHL's history, roughly 200 different countries have been represented on teams' rosters.

That would give the NHL a very legitimate international flavor.

Wharry also liked to see flags of player's countries waved as well.

"I think it makes them feel good to see their flag on TV when their player scores or does something nice," Wharry said.

The South Carolina resident said he didn't know the name of the fan. In fact, Wharry said he thought it was possible that the league might have placed someone in the crowd to wave the various flags.

"That wouldn't surprise me at all," Wharry said. "I think the NHL is trying to market itself worldwide and it would do that to make itself look better I guess."

Either way, I owe someone an apology.

Whether he was an actual fan or someone the NHL supplied, the multiple flag waving gesture is a nice token of goodwill in my book.

Wharry had grown tired of the Canadian media portraying Raleigh as a "backwards hick town" and my column seemed like more of the same to him.

Wharry said he found my column on the Internet as a link from a hockey Web site called Kukla's Korner,

Thank goodness for the World Wide Web. If it weren't for the Internet, some hockey enthusiasts on the East Coast likely wouldn't have read my column.

Next time I'll tune in for all three periods.

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