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Glass Bangers: True Fans or Morons?

That is the question.  At least that is the question I’m asking myself after watching the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Do those people who sit in the first row behind the glass and actively engage in ‘glass banging’ constitute a segment of the fan base who you would consider to be true fans who show their emotion by banging on the glass or are these people just a group of morons who think that banging on the glass with wild abandon somehow makes them a bigger part of the game?

Even the NHL and Verizon are somewhat to blame as they have encouraged this type of behaviour through TV advertisement.

This idea that fans can impact the game is not just limited to glass bangers as we recently saw in Washington when an unruly fan somehow got under the skin of John Tortarella.  (I couldn’t agree more with Gord Miller’s assessment at around the 40 second point of the video, when he asks what the fans would do if the glass was removed).

And of course who can forget the exchange between Tie Domi and a Flyer Fan in the penalty box.

Now these incidents might not have been the direct results of glass bangers but it rolls into that idea of the fans thinking they play a bigger role in the game then they really do.  So exactly how much of an impact do fans have during a game?

Is the concept that the crowd acts as the 6th man on the ice a fact or is it just one more cliché that hockey players repeat so fans can feel like they are a bigger part of the game then they really are?  While I have no doubt that player’s must get jazzed when they hear the crowds chant after a big hit, a nice goal or a brawl that goes the distance, do they really care when they see the fans banging on the glass?

Specifically, from the visiting team’s point of view, does it really affect them when they are involved in a scrum and they see some yahoo banging on the glass and swearing at them?  (As was said regarding the Tortarella video, how many glass bangers would be as aggressive if the glass was removed and the hockey player was in your face?).  I would have to imagine that it may amuse the player to see how worked up some people get, but I cannot imagine that it possibly gets into their heads to any great degree.

How many times does Sidney Crosby cruise into the corners when playing at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia and worry about the glass banging Flyers fans?  My guess is never.  He is more likely to be worried about one of the big, hulking defenseman bearing down on him, ready to pulverize him into the boards.

Clearly there have been instances where the fans have been successful in ruffling the players feathers to the point that fisticuffs result but in almost all instances it would appear that the fans were worse off for it.  As they say (whose they?) if you play with the bull you might get the horns.

Kip Brennan of the AHL Hershey Bears while in the penalty box during a game in New Hampshire versus the Manchester Monarchs shows this fan what he thinks of his taunts.

And perhaps the most famous example was back in 1979 at Madison Square Garden, during a post-game fight, when a fan stole Stan Jonathan’s stick and hit him with it. Terry O’Reilly jumped over the glass boards to retrieve the stick and perhaps to show the fan a little “hockey justice”. The rest of the Bruins followed O’Reilly when other fans tried to interfere in perhaps the most memorable hockey fight of all time to involve players and fans.

Most glass bangers will continue to bang away in a futile attempt to have some sort of imagined impact on the game play.

Of course it could be worse…..

Clearly that is extreme and I don’t think that hockey fans have descended to the level of soccer hooliganism but at what point does it become just a bit too much enthusiasm?

FSN Rocky Mountain reporter Alanna Rizzo was covering a North Dakota Fighting Sioux versus Denver University Pioneers college hockey game in North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena and she felt that the North Dakota fans were over the top in terms of the glass banging at the DU bench.  She reported that “Pioneers assistant coach Derek Lalonde asked the referee to stop fans from banging against the glass on the DU bench”.  So were these fans being over-enthusiastic or were they simply attempting to get underneath the skin of the opposing team in an attempt to help out the home squad?

One final consideration when assessing the place of glass banging in today’s NHL is the price of the ticket.  I spoke with Steve from the Detroit Red Wings ticket sales department and the cost of a single ticket in the front row is about $150 US.  Do you really want to pay that kind of money to possibly get escorted out of the arena?  I looked up the Code of Conduct for a couple of NHL Arena’s (GM Place & MSG) and I can see that the action of glass banging could constitute a violation of the rules as set forth by these arena’s, namely; that guests shall avoid blocking the view of other guests and that no use of foul, threatening or abusive language or gestures will be tolerated in the arena.  While it might seem inconsequential the team does have the right to escort you from the building for these behaviours if they are deemed inappropriate.

So does glass banging have a place in the modern NHL or has its time passed, along with the wave and the use of the term “you know” in a post game interview.  (I’m pretty sure Theo Fleury holds the record with 23 “you know’s” in a 3 minute post game interview he gave during the late 1980’s).

Perhaps I’m showing an age bias and in fact people love the glass bangers.  Either way please join the discussion and let me know what place, if any, you think Glass Bangers have in today’s NHL, in the comments section below.