[WARNING: NSFW LANGUAGE IN THIS POST]
Over on Reddit’s hockey forum, a fan with the handle ‘modano9999’ posted his experience as a Minnesota Wild fan in a Zach Parise jersey attending their game at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. It’s a hell of a tale, and not just because it involved the Devils.
Among the bon mots shouted by Devils fans, according to him:
"Jump off a bridge f--got."
"Kill yourself queer."
"Parise is a f--got."
"I'm going to kick your [expletive] teeth in f--got."
"Next time sit in section 123 and it will be your life that you lose."
And so it went.
You can read the post, which is buzzing around hockey fandom, here. But to present an abridged version:
A guy wore a Parise Team USA jersey to Parise’s first game back in New Jersey after leaving the Devils in 2012. He sat in Section 123, which is next to the Devils’ “Fan Section” called the “Diablos” in Section 122. They’re a rabid, chanting, taunting section of super fans. Going there as a supporter for the other team is akin to wearing a Red Sox jersey to the old Yankee Stadium bleachers.
He claims he was harassed from the moment he stepped off the train to the arena, that “everyone in section 122” chanted "Who's a f--got? He's a f--got! Who's a f--got? Parise is a f--got!"
He said there was an altercation with a father of three who turned to him to start a “Parise swallows” chant, only to be confronted by the fan who said, "Why don't you explain to your children what it means to swallow? Why don't you explain to your children what you mean by ‘Parise is a f--got?’” To which he said the response was: "Meet me in the parking lot and I will kick your [expletive] teeth in f--got."
His response to this harassment? Standing up and clapping for the remaining six minutes of the third period, his Parise jersey facing the fans behind him. This drew the attention of an usher, who asked him to leave, as was captured on this YouTube video:
[WARNING: NSFW IMAGES HERE]
Later, after the Devils won in overtime, he claimed a Devils fan threatened his life if he returned to the section again, and that “a woman then grabbed my hat ripped my necklace off my chest and attempted to push my another Wild fan down the stairs. Security then decided to escort us out the building.”
A few reactions to this story, speaking as guy who’s both been in the press box and still pays to attend Devils games:
1. Anyone who drops “f--got” at a hockey game should be kicked out of the arena.
Full stop. Period.
I know I’m the first one to bitch about the language police when it comes to “blows” and “sucks” and “swallows”, but there’s no gray area on “f--got.” It’s a slur, you’re a dinosaur, enjoy listening to the game in your car on the way outta Newark. (And it’s contingent on NHL teams instructing arena staff to understand this is how it works.)
2. Some of the responses on Reddit have mentioned asking an usher or security personnel for help. This, sorry to say, is a non-starter. A visiting fan at The Rock has zero chance of policing a section’s action by complaining to arena staff, mostly because they’ll have 12 people all claiming another story to their one or two. Best case scenario: Telling a security guard or Devils guest services staffers in the arena that you genuinely fear for your safety, and see what they do.
Or, this being a Devils game, just find two empty seats in another section between periods.
3. To that end – and let’s all just be a little skeptical here – standing up in your Zach Parise jersey, clapping, in a section that’s seated for six minutes in the third period? Wouldn’t it be easier to just put a neon sign over your seat that declares, “COME AT ME DEVILS BROS.”
4. The “Diablos,” for what it’s worth, deny they were involved in the incident.
5. Hugh Weber, the Devils’ President of Business Operations, is getting inundated on Twitter with this tale, so I’d expect the team to take some action here. He’s one of the leaders behind the war on “vulgar chants” at games that led to the team changing its goal song.
6. Devils fans have, and probably always will, push the envelope on behavior. Part of this is due to the arena being shared by invading Flyers and Rangers fans for the last 30 years – there are entire generations of fans, myself included, for whom jawing with visitors in the stands was part of the game night experience. It's learned behavior.
The Devils, despite their recent reversal on language, have fostered this. They ask for a home ice advantage, for fans to make The Rock a difficult place to play. The create a supporters section. They add cheerleaders. The whole thing can be very bro-tastic, but there’s no question that the atmosphere in Newark is incredible where the atmosphere in East Rutherford was a 60-minute yawn in a cavernous arena.
Devils games are lewd. They’re vulgar. But for a large portion of the audience, that’s part of the appeal, and their behavior plays into that crude tradition.
But no one deserves to be hit with homophobic, racist or sexist slurs at a game. And no one deserves to be assaulted afterward, either. It’s disgusting; no matter the accuracy of this tale, it reinforces stereotypes not only about Devils fans’ behavior but that of hockey fans, and that sucks.
HEY EVERYONE. I SAT RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM--WHAT HE REPORTED IS F.A.L.S.E. and he KNOWS it.
I was the girl who sat in front of this drunk jerk, and he is completely lying right now. The homophobic slurs were things HE said, NOT us. This was in sec 123, NOT 122. The people who were upset were in 123 and 124.
He sat in sec 123 with his buddies in Row 4, seats 5,6,7. I sat directly in front of him, sec 123, row 3, seat 6. I had to ask the father with his little children next to me to make sure I could get out of there safely as I did NOT feel safe. At all.
Now, note this picture that was taken by someone: https://scontent-b-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/t1.0-9/10014938_10201679010320893_1017122726_n.jpg
This was AFTER the fan had been disrespectful and before security finally hauled him out.
For what REALLY happened:
1) People yelled after he stood up and started flipping us the bird and using homophobic slurs at us/our players. I turned back and asked him to stop and to please respect us in our house. His answer, "Are you F-expletive kidding me? This is a hockey game."
2) The people who got upset with him mostly were in 124, and the people in my row (3 in sec 123) as he was calling everyone the profane gay slur that starts with an F.
3) There were a LOT children in my row. He started bragging and yelling, "I'm a homophobe!" at the top of his lungs as well as making references to oral sex. He also told a fan who asked him to sit down to suck it.
4) He's blaming the Diabolos because he was escorted out past their sign (in 122) so my guess is that it was the only thing he saw/remembered when taking his video as he was drunk off his ass.
5) In terms of the video, he took a video after goading people with the armpit thing and telling everyone, "F(Expletive) off" and "Go to H(Expletive)" and "Your team is S(Explitive), like your state." He did not mention that his middle finger was raised as he took this video footage either. The game was also in play and people were mad as he was standing up, while the puck was in play, and people couldn't see.
6) The dude's basically pissed because security hauled him off after he refused to leave then and was saying more homophobic slurs. It was the most awful experience at the Rock.
7) Did I mention that there were a lot of little kids in my row and he kept yelling stuff about "Sucking c(Expletive)"? Parents in my row turned around and asked him to please knock it off, and he told them to "F(expletive) off."
8) Again, I can verify that the reason why things happened was that he started saying homophobic comments after people Booed Zach.
9) He proceeded to say a lot of awful stuff about ANYONE I would cheer on when watching and was blatantly harassing me. Yeah, I know YOU Remember--all the stuff you said about Zidlicky, Schneider, and Zubrus.
10) Literally, everyone in section 123 and 124 were pointing at him to get him removed. I'm not sure why he wasn't when security confronted him before. This happened after he was extremely intoxicated and disrespectful.
Don't believe a word this clown said. He's lying.
The girl in the Zubrus shirt who was TERRIFIED that OP was going to spill beer on me or physically hurt me