If you go an NHL game and wear the jersey of the opposing team, there's always a chance you'll get heckled at least a little. That's part of the game if you're a dedicated fan.
That's not to say the hecklers have free reign to rain down a range of hatred - there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. Call it The Code for fans - or just call it common sense, because that's what it is.
For instance, you probably shouldn't be yelling at an 11-year-old kid that he sucks and is a loser. This is the crazy hockey parent syndrome that embarrasses the game in arenas across Canada. And it ruined the experience Jake Lotocki had at a recent Winnipeg Jets home game.
The 11-year-old Lotocki is an Islanders fan from Winnipeg who decided to wear his No. 91 John Tavares jersey to the game. His parents warned him that he might hear some heckles, but the low-brow name-calling thrust upon him was far beyond the good-natured riddling that should be reserved for kids who root for the other team.
When the Winnipeg Sun originally ran Lotocki’s story on Monday, John Tavares took notice and wanted to do something to lift the kid’s spirits.
From the Winnipeg Sun:
Tavares, in Toronto rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury, read the story soon after it was posted online at winnipegsun.com, Monday night.
He immediately called the team’s director of communications, Kimber Auerbach, who was with the Islanders as they played in Vancouver.
“He called me during the game and told me he wanted to do something for Jake,” Auerbach told the Sun, Wednesday.
After reading how Lotocki had to leave the arena with his jersey crumpled up so people wouldn’t see it, Tavares suggested sending the boy a new one, autographed by his favourite player.
That’s karma for you.
Heckling has and always will have a place at a hockey game in some form, but there is no room for belligerent blowhards who take the whole thing too far. It isn’t every Jets fan doing this, and it certainly isn’t only Jets fans doing this – what was flung down on Lotocki speaks to a bigger issue in hockey arenas, from macho parents screaming at teenaged referees to not-so-big-league coaches who encourage disrespecting the opponent. Again, this isn’t everyone, but it is an ongoing problem.
Last summer while I was in Boston for a baseball game, a father and his son, both wearing Red Sox gear, crossed paths with another father whose son was wearing a Yankees hat. The first father looked at the second’s kid and said “I want to say something, but you’re not old enough yet,” and both sides laughed and carried on.
They got it.
It’s embarrassing and foolish when people don’t.