One fan's apparent belief that a ticket to a game gives him the right — no, duty — to be belligerent toward players and spectators led to an early end to a Junior B playoff series in Newfoundland and Labrador last week.
The Conception Bay Renegades of the St.. John's Junior Hockey League were due to visit the St. John's Caps for Game 4 of a semifinal series on March 14. Instead, Conception Bay (which was down 3-0 in the best-of-7 round), claiming that the league was refusing to enforce a ban on a St. John's fan who has been reportedly forbidden from entering three other arenas in the league, declined to play.
Kevin Tobin, who's on the team's executive, said the fan has already been banned from several arenas on the Avalon.
According to Tobin, the man is known to the league and his conduct has been a concern for years.
While the man isn't profane, Tobin said he's extremely aggressive.
"He's screaming and yelling at the players, he's yelling at the parents," said Tobin.
"There was a player injured and was taken off the ice and he was standing near the boards, blocking the path of taking the player to the dressing room."
Tobin said it's taking a toll on some of the young people at the games. He recalled seeing one child, aged seven or eight, with tears in his eyes.
"It's different than heckling like, 'Come on, come on, you can do better than that,' or trying to poke fun at certain players," said Tobin.
"It's, in my opinion, crossing the line." (CBC News)
The league is stating Conception Bay's decision not to appear and avoid a forfeit came too late to effect any decisive action. That might seem a little disingenuous since, there already have been actions taken to revoke the fan's privilege of attending the league's games. The league, which is starting its championship series on Sunday, also hasn't given its side of the story.
On the whole, it's great there are stil corners of Canada where people get fired up over Junior B hockey instead of staying indoors all winter watching NHL on their flatscreens and laptops. However, in this day and age, there should be a basic expectation of a "safe environment for our players and fans," beyond the regular rough-and-tumbleness on the ice. Credit Conception Bay for standing on principle.
(Stick tap: Sean Leahy.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.