Binghamton and its relationship with hockey is legendary. Since the early 1970’s inaugural club, the Broome Dusters, this region has embraced and loved its hockey heritage, teams and players. Beginning with the now defunct North American Hockey League and evolving into today’s higher level American Hockey League, we have much to celebrate, reminisce about and look forward to.
While most hockey traditions at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena are laudable, one in particular is not, and sets a bad example for our kids.
When a game official makes a penalty call the crowd doesn’t like, the public address operator routinely plays a popular kids song called the “Chicken Dance”. Then, in unison voices of hundreds, sometimes thousands in unison sing to the changed lyrics, “Hey Ref You Suck.” echoing around the arena for all to hear.
Families and schools impress the importance of topics such as bullying and respect for authority and then take kids to a hockey game where they can witness thousands of people screaming out to those in authority, “Hey Ref You Suck.” Should anyone be shocked and surprised when our kids mimic our behavior?
The Arena should remove this song from their repertoire and the adults who have forged this sad tradition should be ashamed.
When players square off in the middle of the ice, circling each other while they throw off their gloves in order to fight and the officials back away, watching, while the game stops and the other players get into position for the best view, before that first punch is thrown, the crowd is cheering, on its feet, screaming wildly. Should we be surprised when young kids celebrate that behavior? When finally one of the players is thrown to the ice, a gigantic, collective cheer erupts as they two men are taken away to serve their outrageously severe penalties of perhaps as much as 5 entire minutes in the penalty box, reminiscent of a “time out” for misbehaving adults.
What would be a felony assault charge off the ice and outside of the arena is a reason to celebrate and high-five each other when inside. Should we wonder why our kids are conflicted? In school, kids are threatened with expulsion for pointing their fingers to simulate a gun, bullying or showing affection. Those same kids go to a hockey game and watch men hit each other with sticks, punch each other, slam each other into the boards or onto the ice while being applauded and gaining hero status for doing so.
The culture of hockey is not going to address the fighting issue anytime soon, but we, the fans in Binghamton, can stop using a kid’s innocent dance song as a platform to tell hockey officials that they suck and begin to set a little better example, not only for our kids but for ourselves.