When the NHL actually, liked, played games like a respectable and functioning professional sports league, there were many memorable fan moments, including the return of the flying plastic rats for the resurgent Florida Panthers.
But the fan moments when beyond trinkets on the ice. Some of them were heartwarming. Others were heartbreaking. Others were … glass-breaking?
Here are the top 10 hockey fan moments of 2012 … and one bonus one.
As fate would have it, the Bruins played the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Before Game 3 in D.C., Caps fans organized some Obama-centric protests to troll the Bruins’ goaltender. Thomas would make 29 saves in a 4-3 Boston win.
While the University of North Dakota is no longer (technically) home to the Fighting Sioux, that wasn’t the case when the men’s hockey team visited the University of Minnesota Duluth in February. That’s where the UMD student section allegedly made a serious of “racist chants” towards the UND mascot, including one that referenced “smallpox blankets.”
The "blankets" reference harkens back to a plan by Lord Jeffrey Amherst — commander of British forces in North America during the French and Indian War — to send blankets laced with smallpox to infect and kill tribes.
AD Bob Nielsen sent a strong warning to students in the form of a letter, threatening loss of season tickets to students who misbehave.
8. Rangers Fans Mock ‘Alfie’ Chant
Ottawa Senators fans started a neat tradition this season: At 11:11 of each period, the fans roar and count down to the 11-minute mark before chanting “ALFIE! ALFIE!” in honor of No. 11, Daniel Alfredsson.
Leave it to New York Rangers fans to stand that tradition on its head: In the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, they did the countdown to 11 minutes … and chanted “Alfie Sucks!”
7. Bruins Fan Beats Up Thunderbug
Thunderbug, like other NHL mascots, isn’t afraid to engage enemy fans when they infiltrate the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home arena. Such was the case when the Boston Bruins came to town – a Bruins fan got lippy, and then received a silly-string shower from the mascot. The Boston fan then did as Boston fans do, and attempted to kick the living [expletive] out of a Plushie.
Alas, these actions from Thunderbug were not without repercussions: The mascot’s actress was dismissed after the incident.
One of the unforeseen benefits from the NHL returning to Winnipeg: Incredible fan taunts during games. Witness:
Ryan Miller getting serenaded with “silver medal”
Alex Ovechkin getting “Crosby’s better.”
And so on. Great stuff from the Jets faithful … can’t wait to hear more.
5. Glass Banging Fail
During a Central Hockey League game between the Rapid City Rush and Evansville Icemen in March, check out the fan along the boards who reacts angrily to one of the Rapid City players getting taken off the puck with a hip check. The Hockey Gods doth not like your glass banging.
Alas, fan moments in 2012 were not all sunshine and rainbows.
On Jan. 2, outside of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia, Rangers fan Neal Auricchio, a Woodbridge (N.J.) police officer, and another man were assaulted by perps wearing Philadelphia Flyers gear.
Flyers fans who watched the video were vigilant in trying to identify the assailants. On Jan. 13, Dennis Veteri of Glassboro, NJ, was arrested for “throwing the first punch” in the assault.
On Dec. 15, Veteri, who pled guilty, was sentenced to 11.5 to 23 months of house arrest that will be followed by five years of probation. Veteri will need to move from South Jersey to Philadelphia and can only leave his home for work and to attend drug and alcohol treatment classes. He'll also wear an ankle monitor.
3. NHL Fan Slams Lockout As Father Fights Cancer
John Dick created one of the most powerful fan videos of 2012, taking aim at the NHL lockout at the bedside of his father, who is fighting terminal cancer. "How many tickets have me and my dad bought? How many times have we seen [the NHL]?" he asked in an interview with Puck Daddy. "You don't play hockey for other hockey players. You don't play for the owners. You play for the fans."
2. Leafs, Sens and a Gay Marriage Proposal
Canada has been much more open-minded – both politically and legally – than the U.S. That said, we haven’t really had a glut of same-sex marriage proposals at games. That’s one reason why Ottawa Senators fan Christina proposing to Toronto Maple Leafs fan Alicia on the ice at Scotiabank Place was so memorable; the other being that it was just really, really adorable.
What would you say to Gary Bettman if given the chance?
Jaymes Hall, 41 of Lancaster, Pa., went to the site of an NHL/NHLPA meeting and decided to let his voice be heard. After crashing Donald Fehr’s media scrum, Hall yelled out during Bettman’s presser:
"Why not freeze the revenue generated from those sources that are still in dispute?" he screamed. "What about an escrow account or something so we can get back to playing? Let's get back to playing! The fans are angry!"
To which Bettman said:
"Excuse me one second," Bettman said. "I'm in the middle of a media scrum. I'd be happy to talk to you when we're done. You're not credentialed media. I think it's unfortunate and unfair to these people.
"I know you're a fan. I'd be happy to talk with you."
Whether he was happy is obviously a point of debate; but Bettman did talk to the fan. Granted, it was in front of a media scrum; but the anger and diligence of one Philadelphia Flyers fan led to a confrontation with the commissioner during the NHL lockout. And no punches were thrown!
BONUS: OK, We All Know This Is Really No. 1
Harrison Mooney is an editor for Puck Daddy. Hence, in good faith, we couldn’t officially rank “Call The Union” as the top fan moment. But of course it is. If only for that part where he wiggles his moneymaker in yoga pants. You know: That part.