Video: 20 Unwritten Rules You Should Follow When Attending an NHL Game

Hockey Fan Etiquette

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending an NHL game, you know that it’s an experience like no other.  The speed and physicality of the game is one thing on TV, but in person it’s on an entirely different level.  Just as you are enjoying the game in person, there are 19,000 other fans who pay an ever-increasing amount to watch the game in person.

Bruins Crowd during the 2011 Stanley Cup FInal

Within NHL arenas, there is an unspoken fan etiquette among attendees.  There are subtle differences in each city, but in general, the etiquette is the same.  Some of the rules are common sense and common courtesy, and others are more subtle.  To ensure that you enjoy the game and do not interfere with the enjoyment of the game for others, here are some rules of thumb to follow that will make you look like you’re a seasoned veteran:

Attending Warmups

  • You don’t have to sit in your seat for warmups: In the majority of arenas, the fans that arrive early for warmups will sit right by the glass on the end where their team warms up.  This is true even though their tickets may be for a completely different section.  It’s okay to sit in someone else’s seat for warmups.  If that person comes and wants to sit in their seat, they will kindly ask, and you can move to a different seat.
  • If you’re by the glass, do not stand when watching: You’re blocking the view of everyone behind you, and you have the best perspective of anyone already.
  • If a puck goes out of the rink, give it to the little kid: Many players, Claude Giroux for example, will throw a few pucks into the stands during warmups for fans.  Usually, they mean to throw them to little kids.  For them, it is often their first game or among their first games, and getting a puck from one of the players would mean infinitely more to them than it would mean to you.  Be like this kid:
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I recall getting a puck from Mark Recchi when I was young, and I brought it in to show and tell at school, proudly displaying it.  It made my week.  As an adult, if I got one I would toss it on top of my dresser when I got home, and forget about it.  Do not be like these people:

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  • Don’t flinch when pucks hit the glass: Do not worry, the glass essentially never breaks.  Players will try to mess with you if they see you aren’t paying attention by shooting at the glass by you.

Proper Attire

Over at Puck Daddy, there is a re-occurring column of people that commit “Jersey Fouls” that violate the unwritten code.  Committing a jersey foul indicates you aren’t a seasoned veteran.

  • Only wear a jersey if that team is actually playing: If, for example, the Flyers are playing the Penguins, it would be considered a jersey foul to wear your Detroit Red Wings jersey to the game.  People will give you odd looks, and wonder why you’re wearing it.  But, it is completely okay to wear the jersey of another team if it is of a person playing in that game.  For example, I’ve seen people were a Claude Giroux Gatineau Olympiques jersey, Giroux’s junior team in the QMJHL.
  • Most jerseys of past players are acceptable: For most past players, it’s okay to wear their jersey. Popular players, obscure players, or fan favorites are all okay. But if a guy was a total draft bust, left on bad terms, or was a huge disappointment, it’s generally frowned upon. If you’re considering wearing your Petr Nedved or Paul Coffey Flyers jersey to the game, you might want to think twice and upgrade to a new one.

Using Your Cell Phone

In today’s day and age, people are attached to their cell phones.  They are fine to use during a game, but in moderation.

  • Limit the number of pictures you take: It’s perfectly fine to snap a few pictures during the course of play.  But keep in mind when you’re holding up your phone to take pictures, you’re blocking the view of people behind you.  Perfectly fine to take pictures, but don’t be excessive.
  • Do not call someone, stand up, and wave so they can see you: This one is amongst the most annoying, and a true indicator of newbies.  You can be calling someone else inside the arena, or someone watching on TV, it’s equally bad.
  • Limit use during the game: Having a phone conversation about who will pick Timmy up from preschool tomorrow during the game is frowned upon.  Shooting off a quick text or two is fine.  I often check Twitter during TV timeouts to get injury updates or news that you do not pick up on watching the game in person.

While the Game is Going On

  • Wait for a stoppage to leave/go to your seat: You can block the view of nearly an entire section if you leave your seat while play is going on.  You have to shuffle through your row to get to the aisle, and it is considered rude.  If someone is entering/leaving your row, stand up so they can walk by easier.  Most arenas do not allow you to go down to your seat until a stoppage anyway.
  • Do not yell “SHOOT!”: You do not see the angles that the player is seeing.  The players know what they should do with the puck.  They get paid millions of dollars to know.
  • Throw your hat for a hat trick: Even if it’s a brand new hat, you still throw it if a player on your team gets a hat trick.
Tomas Hertl Celebrates (Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)
Fans throw hats for Hertl’s hat trick (Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)
  • Don’t bang on the glass: You aren’t going to scare the players, and there are often microphones for TV feeds on the glass.  Banging on the glass creates annoying background noise for TV broadcasts.
  • Cheer when an injured player gets up: This applies to players on your team and the opponent.  These players are laying their bodies on the line for our enjoyment.  Show them respect when they get up after being hurt.
  • Talk about the game if you know what you’re talking about: Analyzing the play on the ice is one of the biggest benefits of seeing a game in person.  You see the entire ice, instead of what the TV camera wants you to see.  It’s one of the things I enjoy most about going to games with my dad.  But if you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t try to pretend you do, because people around you will know.  Some of my favorites are a guy who pronounced Mike Knuble’s last name “Newble”, and a man who claimed Jaromir Jagr signed with the Kings this offseason.

Cheering and Heckling

  • If you’re going to heckle the opponent, be creative about it: “HEY FLEURY, YOU SUCK!” gets old pretty fast.  They’ve heard it thousands of times before.  Heckling and yelling is highly encouraged, but make it interesting.
  • Be mindful of children around you: Admittedly, Flyers fans are among the worst at doing this.  Do not curse because there are bound to be little children around you.  Think about what you’re saying, and if you would want to have your kid hear you say it.

Miscellaneous Other Rules

  • Respect the National Anthem(s) and remove your hat: Have some respect for your country; stand and remove your hat for the National Anthem.  This applies to the American and Canadian anthems.  Both countries(US and Canada) have been guilty of booing each other’s anthem.  It’s looked down upon in the hockey community, and should not be done under any circumstance.  Some arenas remain silent during the anthem, others like Blackhawks fans like to cheer throughout the anthem.
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Within each arena, there are other unwritten rules and traditions that apply to one fan base.  But if you follow these 20 basic rules of thumb, your hockey fan etiquette will be better than most.

5 thoughts on “Video: 20 Unwritten Rules You Should Follow When Attending an NHL Game”

  1. Spot on article- especially the part about NOT banging on the glass. And by the way, Flyers fans are the MOST creative hecklers!!!

  2. I disagree with your “only certain jerseys of past players are acceptable” rule. Some of the best jerseys are from obscure players.

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