Sat Dec 24 12:57pm EST
Every year, the magnitude of the top stories in sports is affected by how fans react to them. In hockey, we had triumphs and tragedies in 2011; and hockey fans around the world made them all the more memorable.
Of course there are also those times when fans become the story, when they do something heartfelt or outrageous. Like the young lady above, for example …
Here are the 10 hockey fan moments of 2011, as chronicled by Puck Daddy.
10. The Girl Who Flashed Ben Eager
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a majestic battle between warriors, vying for the ultimate OMG BOOBIES.
In the third period of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, a Vancouver Canucks fan lifted her Henrik Sedin jersey and pressed her bare breasts against the penalty box glass as Ben Eager of the San Jose Sharks sat obliviously. The moment was captured by CBC cameras, and became one of the more titillating moments of the 2011 playoffs.
Her name was never released; we located her on Facebook, but she declined an interview request at the time, despite her candidacy for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Fun fact: This photo was snapped by a photographer named Rich Lam — yep, same dude who immortalized the Vancouver Riot Kissing Couple.
9. Fans Hitting The Ice To Join The Action
Twice this year, knuckleheads from the stands decided to get involved with players in the ice.
In April, in a Region Centre Cup Junior Tournament in Podosk, Russia, there was a third-period brawl between the U-20 Canadians and Russians. Suddenly a Russian fan jumped onto the ice and went after Canada's Jayson Reardon, who wrestled the fan to the ice.
Then in June, we had this incident in a 4-on-4 bantam summer league in Brampton:
The first hockey fight we've ever seen in shorts and black socks …
The story, so it was told to us: a female player was cross-checked in the face by the player our knight in black socks goes after, defending her honor. Still waiting for someone to set this video of a Peter Cetera song.
8. Eric Naughton first beats cancer, then Gary Roberts
After a battle with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Eric Naughton began learning how to ice skate and play hockey at age 40. He decided to film a documentary about the journey from his first steps onto the ice to his ultimate goal: Participation in the Pittsburgh Penguins' annual adult fantasy camp.
The Penguins made Naughton's dream come true this year: Taking him on a tour of their arena and inviting him as a special guest to their camp. … where he got physical with Gary Roberts (!).
7. Ain't No Party Like a Finland Fan Party Because They're Naked
At the IIHF world championships in May, Finland won the gold medal, defeated its arch rival Sweden with a five-goal third period to win that gold medal, and captured the first world title for the hockey nation since 1995, having lost in the finals four times since then.
That night in Helsinki, thousands of fans crammed the public squares, climbed on cars, climbed on light poles, sang victory songs … and got naked in a giant fountain. The men and the women. Quite the party.
6. How Lightning Fan Outwitted Petty HOA Over Playoff Sign
Steven Paul wanted to support the Tampa Bay Lightning during their playoff run, so he placed a white "GO BOLTS" sign on this lawn. That is, until this Home Owner's Association ordered him to remove the sign, saying that "Absolutely NO signs are allowed expect security company signs."
So Paul got creative, turning his Lightning sign into a "security" sign and hanging a flag on his garage — getting around HOA rules in both cases. Score one for the good guys.
5. Hockey Luvin' Homos
During a regular season game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings, two men created an Internet sensation: Wearing bright pink T-shirts that read "Hockey Luvin' Homo" with "Danielle" and Henrietta" on the backs, Sedin-inspired. It was hilarious to most, offensive to some — including the Canucks arena management, who ejected them from their seats in a move that caused a national uproar.
4. Marty Turco Bets Fan During Blackhawks/Habs Game
Simply one of our favorite stories of the year: Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco, seated on the bench as a backup, makes a wager with a Montreal Canadiens fan at Bell Centre in April. From our story:
Robert claimed he bet Turco, after Michael Cammalleri's goal for Montreal made it 1-0 in the first period, that Chicago wouldn't score again. When Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks tied the game, he passed Turco a $5 bill with "Habs Rule" written on it.
They went double-or-nothing after the first period, and then triple-or-nothing for the third; and then, in overtime, he gave Turco 5-to-1 odds that the Canadiens would win the game.
"And he took the bet!" said the caller. "When the Canadiens scored in overtime, he handed me back a wad of $5 bills and inside was that $5 bill that I gave him. He crossed out 'Habs Rule' and wrote 'Turco Rules.'"
Our favorite Marty Turco story of the year. OK, second favorite.
3. The Chaos and Community of the Vancouver Riots
Were the June 15 riots that ripped through parts of Vancouver, following the Vancouver Canucks' Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins, a "fan moment"? The arguments have always been that individuals who aren't Canucks fans were the catalysts for the chaos. Yet there's no question that the many of those who took part in the riots were rocking Canucks gear and were caught up in the mayhem.
Fans played a role in the aftermath of the riots, through the power of social media. First, they organized the morning after the chaos to help clean up their city in a moving and symbolic gesture. Later, they used the Internet to indentify rioters to Vancouver police.
2. Winnipeg Jets Fans Are Awesome
Everyone expected Winnipeg fans to be rabid when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Manitoba; but did we really expect them to be this rabid?
[Related: Hockey's 10 best fights of 2011]
Fans partied in the streets when the NHL returned to the 'Peg. Season tickets sold out in 17 minutes (!). New Winnipeg Jets gear flew off the shelves around Canada. Their first home game at MTS Centre was an absolute party. And, most recently, their homecoming celebration for Teemu Selanne was one of the season's great highlights.
Meanwhile, the NHL still owns the Phoenix Coyotes.
1. Fan Memorials
For several months, the hockey world was rocked by tragedy after tragedy: The deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak; and then the plane crash in September that killed 42 members of the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslav team.
In each case, the fans responded with moving tributes.
But the grandest and most memorable tributes were for the Lokomotiv crash victims, who were from a variety of nations and NHL teams. That included this haunting memorial at the Dynamo Minsk arena:
That memorial took place instead of the Lokomotiv vs. Dynamo Minsk game that was scheduled for that night. This is as surreal, heartbreaking and moving a moment as we've seen on the rink.
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