Sabres Officially Request Fan Support

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I love these quotes from Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford.

From the Buffalo News:

“Obviously you hear the fans,” said captain Jason Pominville. “I don’t know if they realize it, but sometimes they have a huge impact on the way we feel, the way we work and compete. We feed off the energy they bring to us.”

“We know we have one of the best fanbases in the league,” added Stafford. “They support us every game and we want to put on a good performance for them. At the same time, we need them to have our backs.

“When we’re not doing well on the power play or getting outshot bad, they’ll start booing us and we deserve some of that. At the same time, it’s nice to have them cheering.”

Buffalo fans aren’t renowned for berating their Sabres. We certainly gripe about sloppy play when sloppy play spills out on the ice in front of us, but we don’t boo at the slightest impulse. We’re a hockey savvy town, and I like to think that we’re boo savvy, too.  Still, this is the third time I’ve been compelled to touch on the subject of fan noise in the arena in the last year.

It just keeps coming up. This time, the issue was brought up by none other than the team captain. So just what is going on here? Who’s to blame for this latest mention of fan complacency/irritation?

SabresFans 300x220 Sabres Officially Request Fan Support

This guy.

There are many of us who would look at the comments above by Pominville and Stafford and shoot back “Shut up and play.” They’re pro atheletes. Aren’t they supposed to be able to tune out the noise and focus on the task at hand, you know, the game, which they’re being thrown millions of dollars to play?

Any armchair shrink will tell you that no amount of money can calm a person’s inner voices, or doubt. Justin Goldman of NHL.com and The Goalie Guild had a great piece on cognitive dissonance a while back – it’s a terrific read on performance and positivity.

The biggest force a goaltender must manage during a game is their own mind. The brain doesn’t only act as your own private commander in battle, cheering you on and boosting your morale, but it can also be a vicious traitor and turn against you at any given moment. Because of this, a goalie must carefully process every single internal thought during a hockey game in a positive manner.

…Negative thoughts during a game, or any kind of substantial thought that distracts you from focusing on the puck and the play, is goaltending suicide. A mentally sound and successful goalie trusts their ability to stop the puck, regardless of the situation. They don’t think - they just react.

…For the more studious goalies that take an interest in psychology, consider this lesson as a way to eliminate cognitive dissonance from entering your mind. Cognitive dissonance, in the sense of a goaltender, could be described as that unsettling feeling you get when you want to look and play like an elite goalie, but at the same time dwelling or thinking about your weaknesses. This leads to negative thoughts and the hope that you don’t get scored on because of those weaknesses. In essence, you over-think and lose confidence in your own abilities.

This is where the moment of truth comes into play. You’re in the game, you understand the power of your mind, and you embrace that power by recognizing you might be prone to processing a negative message at any given moment. So what steps do you take to turn off your mind so it can’t speak until you’re ready for it to do so? Here’s how I do it:

Bang on the link to find out what Goldman does about it.

It turns out, and this of course is no surprise, that elite athletes are still human beings, and are still susceptible to err under the burden of a noisy, belligerent crowd. After  during a close 1-0 playoff loss to the Sabres last season, Philadelphia fans really gave it to their boys in orange and black as the game wore on. It was so misplaced, so ugly, that it caused columnists in that town to simply write “Why?” And back on buffalo74, it caused me to take Philly fans to task for their latest embarrassing rupture of what sometimes just appears to be their own spoiled sense of entitlement.

sad santa Sabres Officially Request Fan Support

Yea, we all know a thing or two about Philly fans.

They (the fans) aren’t impressing other cities.  They aren’t impressing their teams.  And they certainly are not making a positive impression on the outcome of their games.

The tradition in Philly has become an ugly, mob-mentality that buckles under pressure. It’s ugly, because it’s lazy.  During and after a hard-fought game like last night, Philly fans just came across as a slew of spoiled naysayers with a sense of entitlement.  They seem to believe that above all else, that they deserve better.

Deserve?

Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it, sports fans.

In the end, what Philly deserves is exactly what it got – a locker room full of bruised players, wiping the sweat from their brow, trying to process a battle – and stuck with the sorry task that was trying to explain just what is wrong with their own fans.

“I think they were just frustrated,” Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell said in the losing locker room afterward. “A lot of people had questions how we’re going to respond after our February and March. The fans have waited for a winner for a long time here,” O’Donnell said. “And last year teased them a little bit.”

Teased them?  I think O’Donnell unconsciously nailed it, right there.  Teasing does bring out the tantrums.

By all means, Philadelphia, keep on booing.  You might never admit to it, but you are doing the team a heckuva lot of good.

Just not your team.

Then, at the beginning of this season, the Sabres introduced “clappers” into the audience, in an attempt to get some noise and energy into the sometimes listless crowds not located in select locations of the 300 level.

What is it going to take? We’ve had Ryan Miller giving us the big ol’ “Whatever” when he was booed during a dreadful performance. We’ve got Pommers and Staff asking us to not boo and help them out with some more cheers. We’ve been given “clappers.”

Well, the problem there is actually pretty darn simple: you can’t plead with a mob. That’s what we have at sporting events – mobs of folks all caught up in the frustration and glory of the want of Victory, and that doesn’t always happen. The play on the ice is not always pretty. And “doesn’t always happen” and “not always pretty” doesn’t sit very well with a mob.

TheGoldenChalice 300x300 Sabres Officially Request Fan Support

And the six dollar beer doesn't help.

Of course, we can’t leave out the drunken part. No one wants to sit next to the drunkest guy at the sports bar during a loss, except the second-drunkest guy at the sports bar. They’re always the loudest, they’re always the angriest, and they always make the more sober people kinda uncomfortable.

People: that’s just what these elite players really are, too. It’s not a stretch, by any means, to assert that chiding these guys makes them feel a bit uncomfortable too, and knocks them off their game a bit. How much they’re knocked off depends on the player, the team, the coach, and many other elements, but two simple facts remain:

  • The Sabres don’t want to hear boos.
  • Mobs are gonna’ boo.
Oh, and:
  • The beer is SIX DOLLARS.

 

For all that is contentious about this topic, nothing is going to change. This is the way things have gone at the Arena since the days of the Coliseum. No amount of clappers or requests is going to change the fact that underneath it all, we’re all in this together. The fans, the players, the coaches – everyone. We’re all taking part in this mob event we call a hockey game, and we’re not always going to play nice.

We’re only human.

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Boo birds!

Still, we shouldn’t take Pominville’s or Stafford’s request for granted. We can try to be nicer. Reading into their statements tells me that this is a team trying to galvanize itself for a good run to finish off this long homestand – and to kick off a stronger run at the playoffs. I think we can try to get on board with that.

There’s a lot working into what happens on game night – the psychology, the history, the frustration, the glory, the unexpected ugly incidents, and much, much more. And holy cow – it sure makes for a good show. As far as this request from the Sabres is concerned, it’s not much to ask for. The players can make better decisions on the ice, and we can make better decisions in our seats.

In other words, it’s rally time, folks. Let’s gear up for Victory.

Go Sabres.

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