Don’t Upset The Hockey Gods – Unwritten Rules for Attending A Game: Vol. 1

Good day hockey fans. Hockey is rounding the home stretch and teams are jockeying for playoff positioning. Okay except for Toronto, but that’s for another time. One thing is for sure, the extra attention that comes from the postseason brings out the experienced and new fan alike. If you are fortunate enough to obtain tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are a few unwritten rules fans should be aware of when attending a game. Even if you are experienced, a reminder of fan etiquette can never hurt.

Before The Game

1) Let’s start with what to wear. Hockey Gods can be very fickle, so it is advisable not to do anything to upset them. The general rule of thumb is to actually wear something in the colors of the team you are rooting for that day. It is preferable that clothing has the team name and/or logo. There are some who feel it is only acceptable to wear something with the name of a current or retired player on said team. However, if your favorite player was traded and you cannot afford a new one, wear it. Just make sure he isn’t actually playing against your team that night.

Speaking of clothing, the NHL charges a small fortune for officially licensed gear, especially in and around the stadium. While an authentic sweater (yes it is technically a sweater, not a jersey) is sweet, the average fan cares not what you paid. If you can only do a hat, then feel free to do so. We all understand. Accessories are also encouraged. Necklaces, earrings, face paint, tattoos, you name it. The goal is to have fun and let your inner fan out.

Chicago Blackhawks fans showing their pride
Chicago Blackhawks fans showing their pride

2) Now that you’ve dressed the part, it is time to get to the game. During the playoffs, there are enough rally towels and/or t-shirt giveaways for nearly everyone. There is no need to push or fight. As it relates to the giveaways (known as premiums), do not save a place in line either for your late arriving friends/family either. If they can’t get their act together in time, then see them inside.

3) Okay, you’ve made it inside and just spent $10 for a beer, $11.50 for a sandwich (a hot dog is not a sandwich) and $5 for a program. There is no need to complain about the ridiculous cost of food and souvenirs. It’s the by-product of paying for the players on your favorite team that allowed you to be here in the first place. Regrettably, the business side of hockey is neither kind nor sympathetic to the common fan.

Let The Game Begin

4) It is almost game time. As you take your seat, the rules intensify. There are several things you must know in order to avoid the wrath of the hockey gods or fellow fans.

  • Get to your seat early to see the on-ice pregame festivities. The graphics and show are simply amazing. Next comes the National Anthem. The National Anthem is for everyone. U.S. or Canadian, it demands respect. Remove your hat, stand as requested and enjoy the music. Or, if you are in Chicago, cheer like crazy when the U.S. Anthem begins. It’s okay honest.

  • Once play begins, you are expected to actually watch the game and cheer on your team. During play there should be no attempt at selfies, nor for the love of the Hockey Gods, should you actually be talking on your phone. Unless it’s an emergency, your call can wait. Whatever you do, do not stand up to dig your phone out of your pocket during play either. Twitter can wait, honest.
  • Should you have to get up during the game to go to the bathroom, grab another beer, or update your Facebook page, YOU MUST WAIT FOR A WHISTLE. It is never okay to get up and climb over other people during actual play. Beer and food vendors work the stands. Heaven help you if others miss something while you get up during play. Fans will show no mercy and you can expect several angry shouts of “WAIT FOR THE WHISTLE!!!” Luckily, the ushers prevent people from returning to their seats until a whistle blows. Don’t be tempted to challenge them, lest you want to be thrown out of the game you just paid dearly to see.
  • In the event one of your friends gets up during a whistle and your team subsequently scores before their return, then they are “it” and must buy a round. Or, if another goal is needed, expect to be asked to “leave” again. Hey, hockey fans are a superstitious bunch. The stakes are even higher if done at the end of the game. My dear friend Jeff got up to beat the bathroom crowd with 30 seconds left in regulation in a playoff game between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. As a result, he missed the Blackhawks’ tying goal. I will never let him live that down. Relatedly, the game isn’t over until the final horn sounds. The best example: the Blackhawks scoring two goals in 17 seconds late in the third period against Boston in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Note to self: if you are a Chicago fan, it seems the Hockey Gods are especially fond of late-game drama.
  • Please do not encourage fans who think it is funny to yell at and scream vulgarities at the opposing team’s players. In fact, it is absolutely non-negotiable if kids are present. Besides being obnoxious, the fact of the matter is the players cannot hear it. This is especially true when sitting in the upper levels. Similarly, it is not okay to bully opposing team’s fans. They have just as much right to be there. If they are dumb enough to initiate getting lippy with the hometown crowd, it won’t last long. Trust me, it will be dealt with quickly. In the end it comes down to human decency and respect. Remember: the Hockey gods see everything.
  • Goalie chants are not amusing, nor effective, despite popular belief. Yes, the opposing goalie let in a goal or seems shaky. Be happy for your team. Do not awaken the Hockey Gods people. Just ask Nashville how that turned out against Chicago in the 2015 playoffs. The only time it is acceptable to chant the goalie’s name is after he makes a spectacular save. That they hear.
  • Let’s say you scored prime seats in the lower bowl and you know that television coverage frequently hovers over the section due to face-offs, etc. Please do not stand up, turn around and wave to the cameras. What you think says “Look at me, I’m cool and on T.V.” actually says “Look at me, I’m an idiot and need to be the center of attention.”  The game and play on the ice matter, you do not.

Embrace All Fans

5) This last rule is for the self-proclaimed hockey experts. Embrace all fans, regardless of knowledge of the game. Everyone has to start at the beginning before learning to love the greatest sport on earth. Do not mock them, encourage them. If asked, answer questions politely, even if it is as simple as say “How many quarters are there?” or “What was that foul?” Politely let them know the correct answer, but do not rudely correct them, especially if it wasn’t directed at you. There is no need to embarrass anyone, and no-one likes a know-it-all. Whether a new fan or life-long fan who has seen the team through thick and thin, embrace the common goal. There are no bandwagon fans, only hockey fans. This is the greatest sport on earth, and every new fan is one more who can help it grow.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am sure I have neglected additional unwritten rules. That is where each of you come into play. Please let me know what else should be added for Volume 2.

Until then, enjoy the game. May your visit to the stadium be enjoyable, and the Hockey Gods kind to your team. Just make sure you let them know who you are rooting for :-)