Have you ever seen a beer thrown on the ice during an NHL game?
It’s tragic, really, considering the price-per-ounce of arena suds. But it’s also something usually done in protest of an injustice against the home team, such as a bad call or a heinous act by the visiting team.
Does it lead to an ejection of that fan from the arena? Sometimes. Does it lead to an arrest? Well, no, because that’s draconian and stupid.
On Monday night, during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ latest “can it get ANY worse?” low-point of their season, fans threw a few items at the ice: Their Leafs jerseys, four of them, during different parts of the game.
The difference between those beers and those jerseys, outside of taste: The latter were tossed to express frustration over the home team’s performance, to embarrass management and send a message to the players.
One more difference: Two of the fans who tossed jerseys were charged with a crime, according to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.
Four times during the game, Leafs jerseys were tossed onto the ACC ice, with at least two landing on the playing surface during play. At the conclusion of the latest Leafs loss -- five in a row, now -- a waffle was reportedly thrown as well.
According to a Leafs official, Air Canada Centre security removed from the building three people who threw jerseys on the ice. According to the official, two were charged by police with public mischief.
This police action was telegraphed by MLSE earlier this season, when other Leafs fans were throwing their jerseys on the ice as the team let the Randy Carlyle fungus grow in their garden. From the Sun, in November:
“It’s important to note that a patron throwing anything on the playing surface could be charged with trespassing,” said an MLSE official, “which would see them barred from all MLSE venues for a minimum of 12 months and possibly for life.
“Any sweater thrown on the ice is held for a period of time in the event that the police require an investigation. After that it is donated to charity.”
True to their word, the police apparently decided to drop the hammer on protesting fans.
Of course, had Nazem Kadri had been elected sheriff, things would really be different. As he said after the game:
“I don’t know how that happens,” Kadri said. “I don’t know how that guy’s not taken by his shirt and dragged out of there, but what do I know?”
Kadri later lamented they weren’t tasered and thrown into an alligator pit …
As we’ve said before, throwing a jersey on the ice is the ultimate form of protest, and especially in a Canadian city where the whole “just stop going to the games!” revolution is about as likely as telling a Catholic to stay home from Christmas mass.
Is removing a fan from the ACC for throwing a jersey on the ice justified? Sure. You obviously don’t want to create an environment where fans feel like they can throw anything over the glass to delay the game, unless it’s a hat or a waffle or something that criticizes the opponent rather than the home team.
Is charging them with a crime justified? Of course not, even if the fan threw it during play. It’s petty. It’s myopic.
And above all else, it’s antagonist, which is one of the most surreal aspects of the mess that are the Maple Leafs: The hubristic reaction from the franchise and its players to fans that have suffered through hockey’s longest championship drought and are fed up with it.
The fans jeer. The players shoot back at booing fans in postgame interviews. They don’t raise their sticks after a win. Hey, that’s fine, they’re allowed to have a voice too.
Then management, the root of all evil here, starts arresting fans who protest how unfathomably awful this collection of players fan look.
Could another business act like this towards its customers? The answer, of course, is “yes,” as long as those customers are hopelessly dedicated to consuming that product.
Which is why the Maple Leafs and Maple Leafs fans is, by far, the most dysfunctional relationship in professional hockey.
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