The last time I checked, evolution is a thing. It occurs around us constantly in too many ways to list. Unfortunately, though, it appears as if some stout hockey traditionalists would appreciate leaving evolution outside of the arena.
Recently, some people have gotten their noses out of joint regarding the elaborate post-victory celebrations in which the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes have been rolling out on home ice. From playing duck, duck, goose at centre ice, to a baseball-inspired stick-flip, to a teamwide limbo competition, there’s been a little bit of everything for fans of the game to take in.
As you’ve heard by now, Don Cherry – one of the game’s biggest fans and arguably one of its most hardcore traditionalists – recently used his Coach’s Corner segment on “Hockey Night in Canada” to lambaste how the Hurricanes celebrate their wins. Amidst the bluster, Cherry called Hurricanes players a “bunch of jerks.”
Instead of apologizing or walking back their actions, the Hurricanes embraced the controversy some (namely Cherry) saw in their celebrating. They poked fun at it multiple times on social media and even manufactured Hurricanes-branded t-shirts that read “bunch of jerks.” With more important things in the world to worry about, the team used this experience to further market its franchise and do what some are afraid to openly do in hockey: be fun.
It is no secret to astute fans that hockey is arguably the most conservative of the four major sports. As the NBA, NFL, and MLB have long embraced on-field enthusiasm, colourful personalities and sharp opinions from its athletes, the NHL continues to meander its way toward doing the same.
When the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup after the 2017-18 season, Alex Ovechkin participated in several outlandish public celebrations. After years and years of facing criticism for not being able to win the big one, Ovechkin let loose as soon as that monkey was tossed off his back. Yet, you could still sense that some hockey purists were brisling at such a joyous show of emotion from one of the sport’s most iconic players.
Then, early in the 2018-19 NHL season, Auston Matthews received criticism for putting his hand to his ear during a goal celebration against the Chicago Blackhawks. Again, showcasing the struggle some hockey fans face when it comes to embracing added on-ice fun.
With the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s well-known that Raleigh, North Carolina, is not a traditional hockey market, thus finding intriguing ways to engage fans is of great importance. Sure, the post-victory celebrations may not have an immediate impact on ticket sales, but it does create an enjoyable environment – especially for kids. It may even bring them back for years to come once they, as adults, have disposable income to spend on hockey games.
As for whether or not these celebrations equal poor sportsmanship: forget about that. I’m sure when a Hurricanes opponent is defeated in Carolina, they are more concerned about what they did to lose the game – not how the victor is celebrating its triumph.
The Hurricanes understand that hockey should be fun. Maybe it’s time for the other teams in the NHL to focus more on embracing a similar form of flair, instead of teaching its players how to give the most boring post-game interviews ever.
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