NHL Column: A bunch of jerks

Carolina Hurricanes' head coach Rod Brind'Amour talks with an official during a break in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

The bat-flip controversy is back, but this time in a new sport. This season, the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes have instituted a new postgame ritual for victories on home ice. Following each home win, the team gathers at center ice and performs a unique celebration for its home fans.

Each celebration has varied with creativity. Most recently, on Saturday, the team lined up to do the limbo following their win, with two players holding a hockey stick while the rest of the team proceeded to try to dance their way under it.

In the team’s previous home victory, the Canes mimicked a walk off home run with a bat flip to go with it. Warren Foegele acted as if he had struck a long fly, and then rounded the bases to be mobbed at home plate with a Gatorade shower.

These celebrations have prompted intense criticism from some members of the media who claim the theatrics demonstrate poor sportsmanship. The most notable critique came from famous Canadian analyst Don Cherry, who is notorious for his vibrant suits.

Cherry called the Hurricanes “a bunch of jerks” for carrying out the antics, which he said did not belong in the NHL. He protested that the performance is something he would expect to see in a non-professional league.

How did the Hurricanes respond to this? They embraced the phrase “a bunch of jerks” as their new slogan. They immediately released t-shirts with the phrase on it alongside their logo. They also changed their Twitter bio to the quote too. Fans, of course, are having fun with the attention too, making signs to show off at the team’s following home game after the comments.

In essence, the organization is making Cherry look foolish for his words. The Hurricanes’ new ritual is genius for the team in many ways, and the controversy only magnifies its greatness.

From the players’ perspectives, it brings strong comradery between teammates who have a unique identity that other teams do not. It feels sweet to show joy in winning a game in a way besides congratulating each other before skating off the ice.

And can anyone really say it’s poor sportsmanship when everything they are doing occurs after the opponents leave the ice? It’s not like they are rubbing a win in the other team’s face. If anything, the Canes’ showboats are less insulting than the ones players do after each goal.

Besides that, Carolina’s winning routine is a brilliant way for a team to truly connect with their fans. Following a win, many teams go to center ice to salute the crowd, but none do anything close to what the Hurricanes have come up with. Each show provides an additional spurt of entertainment for spectators who wonder what the team will think of for their next postgame show.

As the players show some personality and excitement, fans see them on a level besides that of a hockey player. They get a glimpse of who they really are. The NHL receives plenty of criticism for its lack of individuality and personality among players. While modesty is admirable, players that show off a little and express themselves are part of what allows the sport to grow. With these performances, the Canes’ players can act as freely as they wish, and the fans love it.

Videos of the postgame celebrations have taken storm across social media, getting people to talk about hockey and, more specifically, the Hurricanes. Carolina is a team that often flies under the radar, so anything that allows them to stand out is significant from a marketing perspective.

Sports are supposed to be entertaining, so if a team is bringing a new form of excitement to its fans and players, it should be encouraged. It benefits any organization to avoid being one- dimensional, finding new ways to please its paying customers.
To top it off, if the Hurricanes make a push towards the playoffs, their fun and games could be the perfect boost to ignite their run.



Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu.