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Above the Glass

The fan’s guide to proper hockey behavior

Yes, I know “proper” in a sport like hockey is somewhat subjective and open to interpretation, but still…there are just certain rules of the road we should all observe to ensure our mutual enjoyment of the game. Now, as fans we all know the basic rules of the road, and we drive safely. But I’m sure we’ve all seen and perhaps had a choice word or two with the small but mighty band of individuals who, shall we say, commit numerous moving violations over the course of a game. Like, for example, getting drunk before the game, wearing yellow shirts and sweatpants and performing a dance routine after every goal long after everyone else has sat back down and the puck has been dropped for the face off.  Inspired by a recent run-in with said individual, I’ve put together this handy reference guide on how to enjoy the game responsibly.

Stay in your assigned seat. This entry was inspired by a fan in my section at a daylight game on Saturday afternoon, who was playing musical chairs with seats that clearly weren’t his. Every time a rightful owner came in and booted him, he just moved over to the next seat that obviously didn’t belong to him. And whatever you do when committing said semi-crime, do be sure to don the proper camouflage so not eveyone in a 10,000-seat arena will see you. Which brings me to this:

Dress appropriately. To ensure that we could all enjoy the pleasure of his beer-fueled antics, said fan wore a bright yellow oxford shirt and gray sweatpants and of course, downed a few beers before the game even started, thus ensuring that on the small off chance we didn’t see him, we could smell him. Appropriate attire includes jerseys, t-shirts, hats or other attire bearing the team’s logo, along with rink-appropriate attire such as sweaters, jeans, jackets, boots and scarves, preferably in colors that represent your team. Red, for example, is a popular color in Portland as it’s the Winterhawks’ signature color. Perhaps even wear a suit, especially if you want to shout out commands to the players like you are on the coaching staff. Better yet, you could just do this: 

Leave the coaching to the coaches. Let’s face it, fans chirping at refs and coaches now and again is just an accepted part of the game. But if you want to give play-by-play advice to players without ever shutting up once the whole game, may I suggest sitting in front of the glass behind your team’s bench at center ice, where at least they could hear you. Now mind, they might not listen and you could possibly be thrown out, but at least you’d have a shot. And do take a moment to check the roster and make note of the starting lineup, so that when you shout out a player’s name, it’s the right one. On the don’t list: Sit 20 rows up from the ice at the opposite end of the rink from your team’s bench, where the only people who will hear you are fellow fans who aren’t interested. And don’t shout “Go Carruth!” when in fact, rookie goaltender Brendan Burke (son of former NHL goalie Sean Burke) is the one in the net. And yes, Big Bird there was the one giving out non-stop advice to a goalie who was on the bench.

Save the dancing for the dance cam. We all like to celebrate goals, and here in Portland we have the Rosebuds dance team to help us do so. Now, a little high fiving and getting crazy momentarily is fine, but doing a full-on Broadway dance routine that involves bumping yourself up against the guardrail in front of your illegal front-row seat every single time your team scores until other people have to tell you to sit down….not so much. If you’re a Rosebud and you’re young and pretty and it’s your job, then carry on. In fact, I say leave the dancing to the trained professionals and the little kids who like to get their groove on when the dance cam goes mobile while there’s a ice fixit or a timeout.

Snack responsibly. If you are eating a bag of peanuts like there’s no tomorrow, don’t leave the shells on the floor all around everyone else’s feet so they have to trudge through it in their new shoes. Bring some napkins to scoop them up or stash them in. If you are eating nachos, nobody wants your cheese in their lap. And for Pete’s sake, don’t high five anyone after you’ve plowed through a mound of cotton candy. Key to snack enjoyment is keep it to yourself, bring lots of napkins and keep hand wipes or hand santitizer handy. 

Honor the 2-drink maximum. I mean, really, if you need more than two beers at 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon, then you have a bigger problem than hockey’s alcohol policies. Now mind, I love a beer and a hockey game. Emphasis on one beer, which it takes me the entire game to drink because I’m admittedly a lightweight. But still, if you are drinking to the point where even your friends and family are telling you to sit down and shut up and you’ve already been warned once by security, then that should be the sign it’s not fun anymore. For anyone. Besides, overdoing it usually results in the above fashion “don’ts” and unfortunate dance routines that end up on YouTube. And who wants that? Which brings me to this:

Remember, we’re all in this together. Slapping high fives (per the instructions above), a few “woohoos” and what I call the fashion trifecta (hat, mittens, scarf or other clothing bearing your team’s logo) is totally acceptable. Having one or two beers consumed responsibly over the course of a game, totally fine. But enjoying the game at the expense of other people not being able to do so is not cool, dudes and ladies. The above tips are just a few basic rules of the road, so I say drive safely. It saves lives and fellow fans and friends will thank you for it.

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More fan rules:

Don’t move from your seat until there is a stoppage in play.

When there is a stoppage in play and you must move out of your seat, remember to say “excuse me” and “thank you” to the people who must stand to let you out. 

Keep your kids from kicking the back of my seat.  Refrain from kicking the back of my seat yourself. 

If you must have a conversation about work/school/friends/anything-other-than-the-game, stay home or go to a bar.

Seat rows are not aisles.  If you MUST get to the other end of a section, enter at the entrance closest to where you need to be. 

Hold onto your beer.  I don’t want it in my hair.

Posted by sally from Raleigh, NC on 02/20/12 at 06:54 PM ET

GZ Expat's avatar

Ah now, I think you are a little rough on the guy.  He never swore…he didn’t try to pick any fights…he was just a happy drunk, sloppily cheering on his team.  And, damn funny at that.

Posted by GZ Expat on 02/20/12 at 06:54 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Save the dancing for the dance cam.

We dance “Viva Las Vegas” when the Wranglers score the goals.  Nothing wrong with that.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 02/20/12 at 07:13 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

I agree with a few of your sentiments (although the two drink thing is stupid…what’s wrong with enjoying yourself if that’s what you like, no matter what time of day?  Obviously, don’t be a drunk ass and don’t drive…), but I feel that overall this post is pretty pretentious.  No need to complain about things that don’t affect/bother other fans, like how you dress (as long as you’re not naked or something)—dress however you want!  I realize you summarized by basically saying that you shouldn’t bother other fans, but that is not how the a lot of the post came off.  I have your posts blocked from my account but got here via Puck Daddy.  My blocking has been confirmed as the correct decision.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 02/20/12 at 07:25 PM ET


Don’t tell me what to do.

Posted by Jordan on 02/20/12 at 07:38 PM ET


Gotta disagree with “Snack Responsibly.” Most bars that used to have free peanuts don’t have them anymore. Sporting arenas are almost the last safe haven to make a mess with your nuts.

Posted by Steve from Toronto on 02/20/12 at 08:00 PM ET


After reading this, proper sounds like it could easily be replaced with lame. If every fan, at every game followed these “proper behaviors” the atmosphere would feel like that of a funeral.

Its the big mix of different people (drunk idiots included) that make that experience so fun.

Lighten up… maybe if you didnt live your whole life reading out of a rule book and following them to the “T” you’d have more fun and be able to enjoy life and its imperfections sometimes.

Posted by dmac from chicago on 02/20/12 at 08:01 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I can’t trust anything you’ve written if you didn’t spell hockey behaviour the Canadian way.


Stay in your assigned seat: You know, the one you paid for. If you wanted to sit closer, you should have bought a ticket for that seat you’re trying to steal from somebody else, jackass.

Dress appropriately: Wear whatever the damn hell you feel like wearing, as long as you’re not exposing yourself to people. If people don’t like your fashion choices, they can mind their own business.

Expose your level of hockey knowledge at your own peril: Cheer however you want (within obvious boundaries of taste), but know that everybody who can hear you can also hear how much you know about the game.

Dance as if nobody is watching: Because if your dancing during breaks in play bothers people that much, they’re free to stop watching and mind somewhere else.  (note, dancing during play while blocking people’s view is a dick move)

Don’t make a mess: Just because the arena has to pay people to clean up after you doesn’t mean it’s your personal responsibility to make their job as difficult as possible. You paid for the privilege to watch a hockey game, not rent out your own personal landfill space.

Drink responsibly: Hey, if beer companies have to say it in their commercials, then it’s law right? Know your limits and the laws. Public intoxication is still a crime in most places.  The good news is that it’s usually not strictly enforced unless you make an ass of yourself.

Remember, you can’t please everybody all the time: So screw those people who get displeased for bad reasons. Just try not to give them GOOD reasons for it (like spilling beer on them or preventing them from watching the action).

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/20/12 at 08:05 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/20/12 at 05:05 PM ET


Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 02/20/12 at 08:08 PM ET


One more rule. Mind your language. There are children around and just because you are fine with cussing up a storm around your kids doesn’t mean everyone else wants theirs exposed to foul language at a young age. I had a drunk removed by security at an 1 PM world juniors game here between Slovakia and Finland because his drunken antics and cussing was this close to starting a brawl between him and a father. He was belligerent to the end, even to security claiming he can say what he wants, despite it being clearly printed on the back of his ticket.

Posted by Anonymous on 02/20/12 at 09:05 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

anonymous sexist jerk is sexist.

I have to agree with the motive to write such a list. It’s not limited to hockey, but to all public spaces. Too many people are inconsiderate jerks and could use some social guidelines. Unfortunately, when alcohol is in the equation, it becomes difficult to make a polite suggestion for fear of starting a brawl.

The last Red Wings game I attended with my family, we got to experience a group of 4 who (no exaggeration) left their seats 4 times PER PERIOD(!) and of course during both intermissions. Sometimes the puck was stopped, but not always. They had no small children with them. They always returned with food/beer. I don’t think it was a medical necessity to annoy their entire row. It was just rudeness. It should be a courtesy to those around them that if they need to be up and down that much, to spend the extra effort to buy seats at the end of the row.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 02/21/12 at 11:45 AM ET


There is no dress code for hockey games however, people here in Dallas do like to show up in 5” heels (hilarious to watch the girls go up stairs), expensive dresses and designer jeans/shirts. Basically they dress for a nightclub, not a hockey game so I can kind of agree but if they want to dress like Ralph Lauren then so be it. I’ll just chuckle at them when they ask what icing is and whip out there smartphone to check the markets/facebook/bank account.
Drunks are funny at games, especially when they start fights in the third period of a boring 1-0 offensive struggle of a game with no hitting and 15 shots a side. Drink all you want but mind the language around kids yes. And feel free to wet your pants when you pass out….awesome photo ops and laughs all around.
Buy your food and beer at once, not item by item causing you to get up 3 times a period.

Posted by Me from Work on 02/21/12 at 02:14 PM ET


I prefer 1 beer a period, with the exception of playoff games where I’d buy 2 for the 3rd on the possibility of OT

Good rule to keep reminding those who choose to get up/down during play is to Wait for the Whistle!

Posted by MikeNYC from NYC on 02/21/12 at 02:19 PM ET


I agree with the majority of these (especially not becoming belligerently drunk and swearing around kids), but I have to disagree with the moving around. As someone who will regularly buy tickets at the last minute, there is a very good chance that the better seats I would normally be willing to buy, are sold out. If I do move it’s usually only a few rows down or closer to center ice and I wait until close to the middle of the second (if you’re showing up later than that why bother?). Also I watch the seats for at least ten minutes, so I don’t end up sniping someones seat that is just getting refreshments or taking a bathroom break.

Posted by thebiglachovsky from Detroit, MI on 02/21/12 at 05:58 PM ET


Who died and made you hall monitor?  As for appropriate attire, why don’t the Rosebuds wear pants…or anything halfway decent for that matter?

Posted by FlyRice from Portland on 02/21/12 at 11:25 PM ET


You have no idea how hockey works. I was referred to this incredulous post by another. I’m glad I was! It was quite the laugh. You need to brush up on your hockey lore, loosen up, and drink more than a singe beer from time to time. Hockey is not golf.

Posted by Rocco from Oklahoma on 02/22/12 at 04:58 AM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com