What if we told you that an NHL goaltender for the visiting team flapped his arms while the puck was in his defensive end, encouraging the home fans to mockingly chant his name while play continued in front of him?
Sounds crazy, right?
Sounds like Ilya Bryzgalov, right?
That’s the scene that played out in Winnipeg on Monday night, as Bryz helped lead the “Illllllyyyyyyaaaa” chants from the Best Home Fans In The NHL (tm, Winnipeg Jets):
(Holy smokes, was that Mike Johnson playing the role of Captain Killjoy on the TSN broadcast? Lighten up, Francis …)
Bryzy made 24 saves for his second straight shutout, continuing one of the most improbable runs for any player this season.
The Wild goalie – has a team name ever been applicable to a player? – has some history with Jets fans. He infamously said he wouldn’t play in Winnipeg if the Coyotes relocated there because the city “has no parks” and because “not many people live there, not many Russian people there.” He later apologized to the good people of “Vinny-peg” and even gave a stick away to an 8-year-old Jets fan that was booing him.
In the third period of the Wild’s win Monday, they started in with the “Illlllyyyyaaaa” chant, and Bryzgalov encouraged it. From Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, Bryz said:
“It’s become a good tradition every time I play here,” Bryzgalov said. “They start cheering my name and I want to show them with my hands to get louder.”
[Wild Coach Mike] Yeo got a chuckle out of it, saying, “I was in the lunch line with him yesterday and I heard him doing the same chant.”
Which, again, would be a really odd thing to hear from an NHL goalie on a lunch line. Unless it’s Ilya Bryzgalov.