Every team has its unique traditions and fan participation aspects that make each NHL arena special. It’s what makes attending games cool for fans of their respective teams and hockey fans at large who can be part of a crowd or an interesting atmosphere. The question for fans visiting arenas for the first time is how they can be prepared. What should they know to avoid being caught off guard and more importantly, fit in? With this in mind, we provided a guide for teams around the NHL, so let’s right dive in.
Boston loves its sports teams and songs about the city, and the Bruins are no exception. Expect the song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphy’s to be played at some point during the game. It is particularly played to get the crowd into the game often after a big fight or in the third period. While the song was popularized in 2007 with Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon using it as his entrance song, it has since become one of the anthems for Boston.
Related: The Top Five Greatest Hockey Traditions
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While that song is the new anthem for Boston and is played regularly during Bruins’ games, “Dirty Water” by The Standbells is the song of the city. Released in 1966, it became a regular after victories starting in the late 1990s and has been a staple ever since. When the Bruins win, they play the song and it’s a great way to close out the night as fans walk to the exits.
Montreal is known as the Mecca of hockey and the Canadiens are the league’s most historic franchise, playing in the city since 1917 and winning 24 Stanley Cup titles. For fan traditions, the one that stands out is the “Ole” chant, which typically is known as a soccer chant and originated in Spain in the 1980s but has become a common one for Canadiens fans as well. They will often chant it during a successful game where the team looks poised to win. When Artturi Lehkonen scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Final to send the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, the crowd serenaded them with the “Ole” chants during the closing handshakes. It’s one that goes hand-in-hand with the team and the city and when attending a game at the Bell Centre, joining in is a given.
One of the most exciting recent traditions has been the Storm Surge. The Carolina Hurricanes started the victory celebration in the 2018-19 season with captain Justin Williams leading the tradition and it was fueled by the backlash it received from traditional old-school hockey minds. Don Cherry, a former commentator for Hockey Night in Canada, called the team “A bunch of jerks” for the antic along with the fun approach the players had, but the team kept the chant as a good luck charm in a successful season. The Hurricanes not only pulled off a First Round upset against the Washington Capitals but reached the Eastern Conference Final the year they adopted the chant, a sign that it was here to stay.
The origins of the Storm Surge go back to Iceland with the fans of the national soccer team using a “Skol” chant with a similar clapping motion. It was adopted by the Minnesota Vikings, who like the Hurricanes, also had a successful year, reaching the NFC Championship game in the 2017 season. The Hurricanes looked like they were going to end the Storm Surge after the 2018-19 season, especially after Williams announced its end. However, the Storm Surge has since returned and become a special part of victories at PNC Arena.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Watch out for that cannon! When the Columbus Blue Jackets score, they fire a cannon that is meant to replicate the sound of the Civil War blasts. It’s loud, scary, and hard to prepare for, and it sends spectators, announcers, and even players into shock. Johnny Gaudreau, who was frightened by it as an opponent had to acclimate himself after signing a seven-year deal with the team in the 2022 offseason. The cannon is a part of the experience in Columbus and fans have to prepare accordingly to avoid the shock of it. Just remember, as soon as the Blue Jackets score, cover your ears.
New York Islanders
After a goal is scored, the fans chant “Yes! Yes! Yes!” after the goal song concludes and the puck is dropped to resume action. What originally started as a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) chant with Daniel Bryan has recently become a celebration after the New York Islanders score. In fact, it has become such a staple of the Islanders that the team gave shirts to the fans during recent playoff runs with the chant written on them. Once a goal is scored, the key is to shout “Yes!” as loud and as many times as possible along with the crowd at UBS Arena.
A lot of teams have a designated singer for the national anthem. However, there is none better than the famous Jim Cornelison who with his booming voice will leave any fan in awe. He has been a part of many famous moments in the Chicago Blackhawks’ recent history, singing the anthem during the three Stanley Cup title runs over the past decade.
The Blackhawks are also famous for their goal song “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis. However, considering they are one of the worst teams in the NHL right now and average under 2.30 goals per game, there’s no guarantee that it will be played. The national anthem is a sure bet and with Cornelison, it’s an entertaining experience before the game even starts.
The Dallas Stars have one of the most iconic goal songs in the NHL since it is the official team fight song. “Puck Off” was composed by the rock band Pantera, who were also superfans of the team, and it was popularized during their Stanley Cup run in 1999. When they score, they play it and the fans chant the only two words “Dallas” and “Stars” in unison, making for one of the coolest atmospheres in the league after a goal.
The Minnesota Wild play in the State of Hockey and have a plethora of traditions that the fans have adopted. However, arguably the most iconic is the “Let’s! Play! Hockey!” chant before the puck drop of each game at Xcel Energy Center. It has been led by kids, lifelong fans, celebrities, and former players with the entire arena joining in. Wild fans are passionate about hockey and the “Let’s! Play! Hockey!” will get anyone hyped up for the game that follows.
Nashville is known as Music City and there’s no shortage of music at the home games and throughout the region. From country singers performing before Nashville Predators’ games to the goal song “I like it, I love it” by Tim McGraw, when there’s an opportunity to integrate music into the game, they do it. However, the best way to participate as a fan is during the national anthem interestingly enough. In the first line “Oh say can you see” the fans will sing “Oh say can Juuse” a play on words for Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.
St. Louis Blues
A lot of fans sing during games to varying degrees of success. “Country Roads” by John Denver is played throughout the NHL and in sports venues across the country (most appropriately, during West Virginia Mountaineers football games). In the NHL however, no team sings it better than St. Louis Blues fans, who have adopted it as one of their recent traditions. The Blues started playing it during the 2018-19 season and with fans embracing the classic country song, it became a staple of home games in a year where they went on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Since the Cup run, the Blues’ roster has changed and the team has declined. However, “Country Roads” remains a fan favorite. The song is typically played during the third period as a way to end the night with a good feeling but also to bring the crowd back into the game. It’s a great karaoke song and one that anyone can join in and feel part of the crowd with, making it a great experience for any hockey fan.
The Canadian national anthem, “Oh Canada” is already unique to the NHL as it’s played more often than any of the other major sports. With seven teams in Canada in the NHL, compared to the one team in both the NBA and MLB and none in the NFL, it is sung more often. However, Winnipeg Jets fans take it to a new level, yelling “True North!” in the middle.
When Winnipeg was granted a team in 2011, the franchise relocated from Atlanta and was purchased by True North Sports and Entertainment. An article in the Winnipeg Free Press discussed how the “True North” shout-out started in part as a way to show gratitude to the company and ownership group for bringing a team back to the city (from ‘Here’s the true story of the True North Shout-Out’, Winnipeg Free Press, 12/17/11). The tradition stuck and is one of the unique shout-outs for any anthem in sports and something that can catch a casual fan off guard if they aren’t anticipating it. For those who aren’t affluent in “Oh Canada”, the part where Jets fans yell “True North!” is after the line “With glowing hearts we see thee rise”, so be prepared.
For Calgary Flames games, it’s straightforward. Wear red. On game nights, Scotiabank Saddledome is decked out in a “C of Red” from the jerseys, the seats, and the fans, making for one of the best home atmospheres in the league and home ice advantages as well. Fans that don’t wear the Flames colors stand out like a duck out of the water and can often be assumed as rooting for the opposition.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have fallen on hard times, missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons but their player introductions remain one of the best in the NHL. They lower a giant shark head from the ceiling and the players skate under it and onto the ice. It’s something that all fans can sit back and appreciate ahead of the game, making attending a Sharks game, even as they continue to struggle, a worthwhile experience.
The NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken have been in the league since 2021 and don’t have any historic traditions. However, they have found a way to make a mark with multiple unique antics that keep the fans engaged but also make attending games a fun experience. The biggest one is the fish toss where one of the three stars of the game tosses a stuffed salmon into the stands.
Seattle is known for its fish market, Pikes Place, and is particularly known for workers tossing fish. The Kraken have embraced the city-based tradition and has given fans something to look forward to when games conclude. Unfortunately, for fans hoping to use the salmon for dinner that night, they’ll be disappointed. The salmon isn’t a REAL fish but a toy one.
Since Bruce Boudreau was hired in 2021 as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the fans have been chanting “Bruce there it is!” in appreciation. The chant coincided with a Canucks hot streak shortly after his hiring where they went 8-0-1 in a nine-game stretch and has been a staple ever since.
The “Bruce there it is!” chants usually start when the Canucks are ahead or at the end of games when they look poised to win. Often starting from the “Larscheiders” section, a fan section named after former broadcaster Tom Larscheid the chant slowly makes its way around Rogers Arena. Despite no designated time, it’s a chant that signifies a good night for the team.
Vegas Golden Knights
Las Vegas is known as the city for entertainment and Vegas Golden Knights games have become a part of the exciting scene in the city. From the pregame shows which were popularized during the 2018 playoff run to the team playing “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley after the Golden Knights win, games at T-Mobile Arena are more than just hockey but a show. The best advice for a fan attending a game is to sit back and take it all in.
There are some traditions or antics that aren’t iconic but worth keeping in mind when attending some games. So, here’s a list of notable things to pay attention to at games around the NHL.
- The New York Rangers play “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who as the team is introduced at Madison Square Garden ahead of playoff games, making for one of the most exciting entrances in hockey.
- Islanders fans chant “Hey Josh Bailey! Oh Ah, I want to know if you’ll score a goal!” when Bailey is on the ice.
- The Stars play the song “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks and the fans join in, making it one of the best karaoke song experiences.
- The Wild have a fog horn that blows smoke when a goal is scored. In addition, the announcer chants “Opa!” after every goal call.
- The Sharks fans “chomp” during a power play with a distinct clapping motion. Interestingly, the Sharks also play the Jaws theme song, orchestrated by John Williams, as the team heads to the power play.
- When the Canucks reach the playoffs (and eventually, they will again), make sure to bring a white towel. The team will likely provide them, but the tradition of waving them goes back to the 1980s and makes the playoff atmosphere in Vancouver one of the most unique in the league.
Other Notes for Traveling NHL Fans
Fans of hockey can often feel like outsiders when they are visiting a new arena for the first time and it can be intimidating. However, most fanbases, even the passionate ones, will greet people with open arms if they are willing to learn. Along with fitting in, the best advice is to explain that it is the first time visiting and express the willingness to learn. Most people will become good tour guides to the new environment and possible friends for years to come.