After two games today, the first a battle between Finland and the Czech Republic for second place in Pool B, the second a meaningless game between Canada and the USA, Edmonton's job as a host city in the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships will be complete. The games themselves haven't been all that memorable with one blowout after another, the only games really worth watching were the rather surprising loses by the Americans to the Finns and Czechs despite having outshot and outchanced their opponents by a significant margin in both games. As a result of those two losses the USA can no longer win a medal at this year's tournament, finishing no higher than seventh.
The USA losses have seemed to be particularly enjoyable to the fans at Rexall Place who have adopted a cheering hierarchy of cheer for Canada first, then route for the underdog Danes, and if neither option is available the cheer for whoever is playing the Americans. Since more and more fans see the USA as Canada's biggest rival in international hockey that breakdown makes sense, what has concerned me a little is that an increasing number of fans seem to be going a little over the top when it comes to cheering on whoever is playing the Americans.
Let's take the penalty shot in the Czech/USA game yesterday as an example. After Petr Mrazek turned away Josh Archibald's penalty shot attempt to keep the scored tied at two the crowd went wild. Fans were on their feet chanting the name of a goalie very few had likely even heard of a week before, it was great. What wasn't great in my opinion were the same fans standing and booing Archibald seconds before as he stood at centre ice waiting to take his shot. I'm very much in favour of supporting your team but is screaming and booing a teenager really a good way to do that?
And that was far from the only example of similar behaviour from this tournament. The USA have been openly booed when they've skated onto the ice, there have been fans booing when the players of the game have been announced, and a few even booed the national anthem following their win over Denmark. None of that helped the Finns or Czech knock of that Americans and instead makes all Edmonton fans seem like Neanderthals rather than the good hockey fans that I think we are.
This isn't something that's just started to happen either. At Oiler game over the last few years more and more fans have decided to dedicate their effort to tearing down the opposition rather than cheering for the Oilers. In that situation we're talking about professionals, so while I don't like it I haven't seen it worth the effort to say anything about it. This is different though. These aren't professionals, they're kids. If you could look at the disappointment on their faces after the loss yesterday and not realize that they are just kids then you probably have no soul.
Tonight the fans, myself included, will get one final chance to show those watching the games on TV that the fans in Edmonton are great hockey fans. Cheer on Canada. Cheer loudly. And most importantly enjoy the game. But don't boo a kid just because he's wearing the other teams jersey.