author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
Embrace the hate / Pixabay
Why more taunting is needed in the NHL
About a week ago, the Calgary Flames flew over to Raleigh, North Carolina to faceoff against the Carolina Hurricanes. What on the outside seemed like a pretty boring affair between two out-of-conference small market teams included some pretty interesting storylines going into the game.
It was the second and final time these two teams would face each other, after a close game just two weeks previous, and it was the first time that two current Flames players, Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanafin, played in Raleigh since the summer trade that sent the two young players to Calgary in exchange for defenceman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox. Add the fact that former Hurricane forward Derek Ryan signed on to play for the Flames in the offseason and former head coach Bill Peters left Carolina to be a coach for the Flames, then there is some interesting animosity for both sides.
In perfect fashion, all the players who had switched teams in the summer contributed to their team’s goals in the game, with the Flames winning 4-3. As the team celebrated after the final horn, Lindholm raises his hands and starts clapping, faster after each clap, much to the anger of Carolina fans still in the stadium.
For some context, the Hurricanes started a tradition this season by doing a “Storm Surge” after every victory, where the team performs a Skol clap, which was implemented by the Islandic National Football Team, and then continue to do an activity. Fans have reacted so positively to the Surge, that they vehemently defend it anytime it has been criticized.
As such, Lindholm’s clapping was taunting the crowd, who had been booing him all game anytime he touched the puck and during a tv timeout presentation. He and his team had gotten the last laugh, and he decided to rub some extra salt in the wound by mocking the ever-popular celebration. And this pissed off a lot of people.
Almost immediately after Lindholm started, the crowd responded with louder boos than ever before. Angry tweet after angry tweet about how “classless” and “spineless” Lindholm is and how he never showed this much passion when he was a Hurricane kept coming in from angry fans who felt that they were wronged by one of their previous players. Like he had betrayed the city and the fans who used to cheer him on.
I absolutely loved it.
The NHL lacks a lot of things as a league, and one of those is personalities. Look around at other leagues, especially the NBA, and you see so many different characters that fans just love and, more importantly, hate. Sports are fun when there are villains, because not only are you cheering your team to win, but you cheer to see that one player you absolutely hate with a passion lose.
After the game, when asked about clapping back to the fans, Lindholm did not do much to water the flames (pun not intended).
“My name came up twice on the jumbotron and I got booed, and I think it was a nice way to end it.”
When asked about his fellow traded teammate and his clapping, Hanifin added some more interesting details to just how mad some fans were at Lindholm.
“I heard Lindholm’s boos, they were pretty loud. Someone threw a Lindholm [Carolina] jersey against the mesh which is pretty funny, we were all laughing on the bench. Definitely a fun game.”
It’s a shame that these two teams do not play another game until next season, unless both teams qualify for the Stanley Cup finals and make it to the cup final, because seeing Lindholm accept his hate was even more enjoyable than the game. It was easy to see from the smile that he had on his face, knowing that people will hate him even more how he enjoys being public enemy number one.
And I hope, as a sports fan, I want to see so much more of it. With how annoying and dirty players like Brad Marchand and Matthew Tkachuk can be, it is just pure fun to see them embrace their hate, and fuel it even more. Marchand is especially known to embrace every single time he gets booed and taunts back as to show that he is not phased by it and will get the last laugh. Thing is, you must be a good player for being to continue to hate you.
How a Swedish kid born in a town called Boden became on of the most hated individuals in Raleigh, North Carolina is an interesting tale, especially since he isn’t seen as an agitator or a dirty player. And that is exactly what the NHL needs, more players who that are entertainers not just with skill but their wit. Because it gets quite tiring hearing, “we gotta get pucks in deep” after every single game.