Kukla's Korner

Canucks and Beyond

The Hockey Internet and the Death of Civility

The Canucks’ names on the Stanley Cup will only bring disgrace to the title, and tarnish the greatest trophy in sports.

They have blood on their hands and dirt on their reputations.

Win or lose, that will be the lasting legacy of these Vancouver Canucks.

And not even the Stanley Cup can wash that away.

—Barry Rozner at the Chicago Daily Herald

When journalists like Barry Rozner make statements like the one above, it seems a bit harsh, but it doesn’t really matter, either. It’s his opinion, just like it’s the opinion of plenty of other anti-Vancouver fans.  A hockey opinion—even if it’s a generalization that I personally think is ridiculous given the storied history of the Cup and the many tales of infamy that are associated with winning it—is the right of any hockey editorialist or fan. He or she can skewer whatever fantasy scenario they want. Selective perspective in sports writing—whether it be mine or yours—is hardly a new thing.

But what I do find horribly disheartening is the trashing and viciousness of so many hockey fans towards each other in recent weeks.

Somewhere over the course of these playoffs, it somehow became acceptable to act hatefully towards each other in a massive way. 

And I’m not talking Boston fans versus Vancouver fans so much.  I’m well-aware plenty of Canucks and Bruins fans are acting like jackasses online and otherwise, and while I don’t feel great about that either, I suppose it’s not as big a surprise since each set of fans has the greatest emotional investment in this series.

But it seems like the meanest and rudest crap is being slung around by the internet’s Army of The Self-Righteous… the Anti-fans. Anti-Vancouver, that is. And it’s not their position against Vancouver that I have a problem with—like Rozner at the top, everyone is entitled to editorialize these games and players as they see fit.  Rather, it’s their attacks on other hockey fans that I find objectionable.  Some of us Canucks fans, probably most, have never set out to attack another team’s fans, ever, yet the vitriol headed our way is pretty extreme at times.

Look, I’m a big believer in the entertainment value of “hockey hate” You know, the teams you’ve hated over the years…. in my case, the Oilers and Avalanche frequently drive me nuts. But I’ve NEVER dreamed of attacking their fans.  Why would I? They just love their team with their own rose-coloured glasses, the same way I love mine.

But so much of what I’m reading online, on Twitter, etc, is an outright attack on Canucks fans—and on the other side, from the Canucks fans there are plenty of attacks on you and your team’s fans as well. 

When did it become acceptable to act like this? Isn’t hockey fandom supposed to be the entire point of having a favourite team? Why wouldn’t we respect the many other fans of our favourite game?

One thing about my 8+ years of hockey blogging, I’ve gotten to know (mostly online but also many in-person) hundreds and hundreds of hockey fans, who cheer for every team in the league. Some people have been jerks, but the vast majority have been great fun and have taught me a lot… about hockey itself as well as the great and kind natures of hockey fans.

But this playoff run is really shaking my faith in that positive nature.

Internet anonymity has always encouraged creeps to crawl out from under rocks; the distance and lack of real friendships online seems to allow a lot of people to give themselves permission to act like complete jerks to other people they barely know.  I don’t understand it at all.

I realize that politeness, and attempting to understand there are two-sides to every story, are becoming rare in this world, but somehow it all seems much worse lately. 

I swear, with all the gleeful ripping I saw yesterday from Vancouver’s anti-fans, and even journalists,  I suspect some of them were actually happy at Nathan Horton’s terrible injury. Not because they have anything against Horton, of course, but because it suited their own perception of the Canucks… which then allowed them to feel even more superior to their fans.

It’s all left a bad taste in my mouth.  So much viciousness and unpleasantness. I’m starting to feel like DREAMING about winning a Stanley Cup is a lot more fun than actually getting anywhere close to actually winning it.  .

After 17 years my favourite team is finally in the Stanley Cup Finals—and after 40 years, they actually have a fighting chance of winning it—and somehow I’m enjoying hockey less right now than I ever have. 

And for all their ups and downs, it has nothing to do with either of the teams on the ice.

Filed in: playoff hockey, | Canucks and Beyond | Permalink
 

Comments

Keyser S.'s avatar

Chicago has been classless ever since they got a hockey team in 2009. They’re new to the game, be patient with them.

Posted by Keyser S. on 06/08/11 at 04:25 PM ET

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Vancouver fans are fans of a team that has great players, does what it takes to win and has dominated most of the league.

As a Red Wings fan, I say this with experience, they will find a way to hate you. And not just the team, but the fans, too. Complain about a call as fans of all teams have done since the first puck hit the first sheet of ice? Canucks fans are whiners. Post for the first time on a message board that you’ve been reading? You must be a bandwagon jumper. Your team gets a questionable goal and you’ll take it? Canucks fans don’t care about the game.

Hey, even now I’m displaying a Red Wings fans’ persecution complex, I’m sure. The thing is, you wrote this blog post, so now it’s a Canucks fan’s persecution complex, too.

Welcome to the club. Haters will hate, but you can always shove the rings in your ears…. smile

Posted by Jayo on 06/08/11 at 04:28 PM ET

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every watch soccer fans?

Posted by Allan from Nanaimo on 06/08/11 at 04:38 PM ET

awould's avatar

Welcome to the club. Haters will hate, but you can always shove the rings in your ears..

Red Wings fans have been putting up with this for a long long time. And I hope it continues because the second it stops is a sign that the team sucks again.

Posted by awould on 06/08/11 at 04:40 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Some of us Canucks fans, probably most, have never set out to attack another team’s fans, ever, yet the vitriol headed our way is pretty extreme at times.

That has not been my online experience with Canucks fans.

There is no such thing as a classy fanbase… unless it’s yours.

There are literally thousands of reasons for the loss of internet civility.  I’m not nearly as worried about that as I am about fans being spat upon, threatened, or beaten into a coma in person.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/08/11 at 04:41 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

The Hockey Internet and the Death of Civility

This is not exclusive to hockey blogs. Any internet site that allows posts / opinions tends to bring out either the worst in people or the worst of people. I’m yet not sure which.
In parallel, I believe there is a marked decline in civility in the real world (in particular North America).

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 06/08/11 at 04:43 PM ET

GZ Expat's avatar

Clearly, Rozner has never heard of the Philadelphia Flyers players whose names are on that Cup. 

Everybody hates the guy that is on top…kinda nice to be hated instead of pitied for a change.

Posted by GZ Expat on 06/08/11 at 04:44 PM ET

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This sums up everything I’ve been feeling.  I’ve loved this team and it’s players for so long.  I’ve been holding out hope, believing for so long…  It is so depressing to see not only the hate, but the extreme hate, and the hate being sensationalized and spread by the big media.  The Green Men needed a police escort out of TD Garden the other night.  For supporting their team, holding up signs and being funny?  Michael Buble saw a Bruins fan call a 9 year-old boy in a Canucks jersey a little a$$hole after Game 3.  I like the Bruins during the regular season.  I like most teams during the regular season.  I don’t know what to make of visiting other arenas anymore.  I don’t know what to make of people in general.  Even Canuck fans bash each other on Canucks.com, Twitter, Fb, etc.

Posted by Sheryl from Vancouver on 06/08/11 at 05:04 PM ET

awould's avatar

On May 1, 1992 a complicated man asked the world a simple question, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Indeed.

Posted by awould on 06/08/11 at 05:12 PM ET

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It’s all over the place. As a Wings fan, transplanted into Edmonton, I’ve taken so much abuse over the years that I have stopped going to Oiler games altogether. At no point was it worse than the ‘06 playoffs. I had batteries thrown at me, people with their kids chuck beer at me, and constant attempts to provoke me into fights. No, it’s not all the fans, but even the ones who DON’T do these things support those that do by not saying anything. We did have a pretty cool group of Oilers’ fans right behind us. They jabbed, but did so playfully. I told them that I can’t understand the level of abuse being shown. Was I not buying tickets that support THEIR team? That group got it, but most don’t.  In a game that they lost, the “fans” threw everything they could find at the players as they exited. Because obviously, that’s what a legend like Stevie Y deserved while playing in what turned out to be his last series. I was actually mad when he got a standing O after game 6. You can’t throw your garbage at someone one day, and try to act respectful the next. And, we all know what the “fans” did to celebrate the victory. The last straw was about 3 years ago. I took my then pregnant wife to the Detroit-Edmonton game, only to have a couple of drunk college kids try to pick a fight with me on the way down the stairs to the subway. One of them got sent down those stairs for his trouble before I calmed down. Then, they made sure to hop on the same car as us to continue douche-baggery. it’s a real shame that they lost a customer who went to at least 4 games a year, including the 2 times Detroit would visit. It’s also too bad that I’ll never take my son to a game. I just hope they remember this stuff when the team is in trouble again and they can’t GIVE away tickets. Solutions? cut off the drinkers early. There is no problem having a few pops at a game, but if you want to get pissed, why do it on $9 beers and risk getting kicked out of a game you paid $80 to see? Be a moron somewhere else, the rest of us are trying to watch hockey.

Posted by Mormerod from Edmonton on 06/08/11 at 05:16 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

There is no such thing as a classy fanbase… unless it’s yours.

Hear, hear.

Perhaps Canuck and Bruin fans have been naive to this notion in the age of the internet up until now, when the spotlight is nice and bright on their respective teams and the forum to communicate is so much more accessible than it was in those innocent 1990 and 1994 seasons.

Trolls, diggers, squirrels, and sectaurs will all congregate to throw produce, batteries, beer, pork sandwiches, and dirty ashtrays at you and your precious team on their computer screens.

Hang in there, Alanah.  The summer off-season is just a few weeks ahead.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 06/08/11 at 05:25 PM ET

Alanah McGinley's avatar

Thanks for all your comments everyone.

And the Wings comparisons remind me of how much of that I’ve seen here over the last 5-ish? years I’ve been writing at Kukla’s Korner, and all the unpleasantness that’s been directed towards Detroit’s fans at times. I suppose none of this is new. Maybe just new to me. 

As GZ Expat notes above, “kinda nice to be hated instead of pitied for once.”  Very true, but I’d prefer to be enjoying the interaction with other fans along the way, too. Even if they aren’t Canucks fans like myself.

J.J. From Kansas— “That has not been my online experience with Canucks fans.”

I don’t doubt it.  But I think—in the case of almost every team’s fanbases—the loudest fans whose rhetoric stands out the most, also tend to be the most obnoxious.  I’d like to think that’s generally the minority overall though, whether it be in Vancouver or for any other team.

Posted by Alanah McGinley from British Columbia on 06/08/11 at 05:32 PM ET

Lindas1st's avatar

Somewhere over the course of these playoffs, it somehow became acceptable to act hatefully towards each other in a massive way. 

Really? My experience is that “became acceptable to act hatefully towards each other”  as soon as Al Gore put the interwebs togther.

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 06/08/11 at 05:41 PM ET

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Amen to what J.J. from Kansas said. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA basketball, and NCAA hockey games in multiple cities, playoffs and regular season, bitter rivalries and indifferent non-conference games, been to auto races in multiple countries in multiple racing series, and in all the sports I’ve seen, the one thing I have yet to ever see is a “classy fanbase”. It is a mythical creature, pure fantasy, the sports equivalent of a unicorn or a griffin. Whenever I hear announcers/commentators/bloggers talk about team X having “classy fans” or the like (or denigrating the “classless fans” of another team as if their own team is somehow different), I can’t help but roll my eyes. Every team I’ve ever seen has a healthy surplus of loudmouths, drunken louts, drama queens, conspiracy theorists, and all-around jackasses in their fanbases. My team, your team, every team. EVERY TEAM. Bringing it back to hockey, I’ve seen bloggers and blog commenters from every team in the league claiming that they were slighted by disproportionate and/or missing punishment from the league, that Gary Bettman has it out for them, that the refs are biased against them due to top secret league directives, etc. I’ve seen bloggers and blog commenters from every team in the league spewing hate and invective that would make a klansman blush, as if their team are saints carved from purest marble while the rest of the league are villains, goons, and borderline sociopaths (well, maybe except for Philly, they tend to say those things about their own players, but with an odd sense of pride). There isn’t a single square inch of high ground for any fanbase to claim on this. It drives me nuts, yet since I’m a sports fan, I can’t stay away no matter how nuts it drives me…

“It used to be everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all.”  -Stephen Colbert

Posted by ThatGuy on 06/08/11 at 05:42 PM ET

awould's avatar

Dear Fellow Internet Users,
I hate all of you and you all suck and so does your mom.
Sincerely,
Anonymous

Posted by awould on 06/08/11 at 05:43 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

J.J. From Kansas— “That has not been my online experience with Canucks fans.”

I don’t doubt it.  But I think—in the case of almost every team’s fanbases—the loudest fans whose rhetoric stands out the most, also tend to be the most obnoxious.  I’d like to think that’s generally the minority overall though, whether it be in Vancouver or for any other team.

Posted by Alanah McGinley from British Columbia on 06/08/11 at 03:32 PM ET

As a 19-year member of Abel to Yzerman, I can say that I am very aware of this.  It’s a concept among hockey fans that when speaking to one fan, you’re speaking to all of them.  It’s kind of like what Jayo above says.  One person complains about a call, and suddenly the entire fanbase is a bunch of whiners.  One person says that a player got favorable treatment, and suddenly everybody wears a tin-foil hat.

I generally like to treat those people just like anybody else who would speak to a diverse group of people as though they were all one stereotype: if they’re kidding about it, then great; otherwise, there’s no point in paying attention to quasi-bigoted attitudes.

Truthfully, I’ve avoided Canucks fans for the most part.  It’s easy to get offended by fans who are speaking off the cuff and emotionally.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/08/11 at 05:57 PM ET

Mike Chen's avatar

Unfortunately, the outlying jerks always dominate the easygoing fans.

My friend’s family has always been LA Dodger fans, and they took him to a Dodgers/Giants game at Candlestick Park when he was 8…and some drunk Giants fans threw beer at him and yelled at him. Of course, the other side of this is the Brian Stow story, which is pretty much the worst thing that can possibly happen.

I went to a Leafs/Sens game in Ottawa back in 2002 and the amount of drunken venom seemed insane for a regular season game. I know they’re provincial rivals, but there’s yelling and shoving after the game when people are trying to file out on escalators. Jesus, folks, it’s just a game.

I don’t think you should look at it as classy fanbases and idiot fanbases. Instead, it’s more classy FANS and idiot FANS. And unfortunately, the higher the stakes, the greater the idiots feel entitled to be idiots.

Posted by Mike Chen on 06/08/11 at 06:36 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Two things at work here: Vancouver’s preeminence as the top club in the NHL, and the reality of anonymity (or relative anonymity) on the Internet. That combination ultimately creates the type of atmosphere Alanah describes.

The ideas and feelings some of these people put forth on the Internet are not all that different from the ideas and feelings people had in the pre-Internet days. The only difference is that today someone in Sault Ste. Marie can find out what someone in Vancouver thinks and feels about something in a split second. Think about that; that’s a huge change in our societies.

Those comments by Rozner are shared by some people, no question. And those very same comments would have been voiced in the pre-Internet days; the difference is only the locals at the coffee shop would have heard in days of yore. Now, with the Internet, we all ‘hear’.

Welcome to the top, Alanah. But it doesn’t get easier. Once you succeed, most people want to see you fail. So you develop a pack mentality. That is why A2Y is A2Y.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 06/08/11 at 06:54 PM ET

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Alanah, I think you notice the hate this time around because the spotlight is on your team. We always seem to need a villain, surprisingly it isn’t the Big Bad Bruins which would have been the usual media story when the Broadstreet Bullies aren’t available to wear the black hat. Ask Pens-Isles fans how hateful it became this season.

Strangely, I think some of the Stanley Cup venom started when the Vancouver media asked why isn’t Vancouver embraced by all of Canada? Don’t recall Ottawa being embraced like the Canadiens or even the Leafs would be due to their Original 6 legacy. Not to worry, if things go poorly next season the hate will most probably be focused someplace else and it will seem like the world is a nicer place..

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 06/08/11 at 08:14 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

You get used to being hated, resented, and told that you shouldn’t dare to have an opinion or ever complain about anything because your team is so good, clearly the league is on your side…

But to have to learn how it feels to be a contender, to be an elite team and to be a big, loud and proud fan base with the ten-million-watt light of the Stanley Cup Final and all those damn talking heads on you…

I don’t envy you, Alanah, and I’ve been a little worried about you. It’s one thing to grow into this and it’s quite another when you’re trying to cover the endless assault of high-holier-than-thou opinion…

And for goodness’ sake, it’s Boston. At least Red Wings fans can say we’re from Detroit and not Chicago, New York or Boston. Those mega-tropolise’ denizens are indeed so, ahem, passionate that you find your fans dealing with the Ohio State-level, “Don’t wear team apparel when you’re there, at least outwardly, lest you wish to fear for your safety” boorishness and, well, let’s say a Toronto level of smarm from the media wrapped up in a little bow of the dumbass at the Joe who’s had too many “pops” and asks you if you want to fight because you’ve got another team’s jersey on.

This is a rough way to learn that the sports world doesn’t like you when you’re good, and really, really doesn’t like you when you’re really, really good, and with the glare of the Cup Final’s worth of media and the puffed-out-chest-ness of dealing with big-city, East Coast fans, you’re getting a Cup filled with chowdah’s worth of hard lessons all at the same time.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/08/11 at 08:30 PM ET

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It’s not just a hockey problem or even an internet problem; civility is dead everywhere. Look at the way we (well, in America at least) conduct ourselves in terms of politics. I’m not going to cite specifics for fear of betraying any kind of bias one way or the other, but frankly we’re all a-holes.
Rooting for and against sports teams is a reflection of where we are as a society; it’s no longer that we want to win because it will make us feel good, it’s that we want the other guys to lose because it will make them feel bad.

Posted by Clark Brooks from Tampa on 06/09/11 at 12:30 PM ET

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About Canucks and Beyond

Alanah McGinley has been blogging hockey since 2003 (with a notable gap in time through 2010, kicking it with new baby Lucy while living knee-deep in chaos while reading "parenting for complete idiots" during every spare minute) sharing opinions, rants and not-so-deep thoughts with anyone who will listen.

In addition to writing Canucks & Beyond and helping manage Kukla's Korner, Alanah was one of the founders and co-hosts of The Crazy Canucks Podcast. She has contributed pieces to FoxSports.com and the New York Times Slapshot blog, as well as other stray destinations in cyberspace.

So that's me. Who the hell are you? smile

Email: am@kuklaskorner.com

Alanah's Twitter: [@alanah1]