Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we ask the Globe's roster of hockey writers to give their opinion on an issue in the world of puck.
Today we tackle a topic sure to be debated endlessly by the greatest hockey minds of our time.
The question: How do we feel about a Canadian NHL team deciding it needs a cheer team as part of the in-game experience?
This is simply an opportunity to unleash the inner curmudgeon. Forget the cheerleaders, get rid of the outrageously bad music that thunders every time the game stops for a breath. Get rid of the obnoxious "CHEER" and "LOUDER! LOUDER! LOUDER!" commands and the phoney, lying "SOUND METER". Why hockey teams deem it important to pump music from a demographic that doesn't even go to the games is beyond the pale. Why they think fans are so stupid they don't know when to cheer is an absurdity. Get rid of the music and the scoreboard inanities and bring back the leather-lunged wit from high in the stands who, several times a game, would insert more delight into the match than a 3-on-0 breakaway. Let the fans decide when to cheer or boo -- or, at least, let's insist on a "BOO METER" based on the equality requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do all this and, for all I care, they can pack the place with cheerleaders -- press box included.
Sis boom bah humbug, Roy.
The NHL long ago went the way of the NBA and decided its fans are a group of nitwits with the attention span of a Tasmanian Devil with ADD. So who am I to argue when a Canadian team goes for cheerleaders?
Heck, strippers are already known to appear at Leaf games. No, there is no peeling involved but it is not uncommon for a young woman with an astonishing superstructure and a low, low-cut top to show up in the platinum seats with the resulting camera time. And it almost always turns out she is in the employ of one of the local peeler palaces. So it's not like the Oilers hit a depressing new low for the hockey traditionalists.
However, I am reminded of something my old pal the late Jim Hunt used to say back in the 1980s when scantily-clad cheerleaders started showing up at CFL games. Hunt would issue his booming laugh and yell down press row, and this is a rough translation for a family publication, "Get the [females]off the field ... and back in the dressing room where it belongs."
Sources Shoalts. I demand to know your sources.
I guess I'm with Roy. I like the cheerleaders to the extent they are a distraction from all rest of the noise that is a distraction from the games, which, truth be told, might otherwise not hold up to scrutiny. I say do away with all of it and bring back the organists. But keep the Kiss Cams; I kind of like them.
First hockey team I ever covered, the Calgary Stampeders of the old Western Senior League, employed cheerleaders. Some nights, they were the best reason to come out and watch. I'm surprised Mr. Shoalts doesn't remember them, as he was a Calgary resident at the time. Didn't bother me then, doesn't bother me now. And as per Mr. MacGregor's complaint about the noise level in the buildings, the primary failing with the music is that they're just playing all the wrong songs. If they let me program the entertainment for all 30 NHL teams and made it mandatory that they listened to my play list, it would be a far more enjoyable experience for all.
Got no problems with cheerleaders, nor with the Oilers or any other team thinking entertainment. Just know that when a team enhances the bells and whistles to this degree, it generally means that it cannot sell its product on the merits of the sport, or of the athletes.
Take the NFL, where six franchises are still holding out on cheerleaders: Packers, Bears, Steelers, Giants, Lions and Browns. Note that these communities -- Green Bay, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Detroit, Cleveland -- are old-school football markets where the fans are sophisticated, and where the game is enough.
In the NHL, the Canadian Six should be the same.
Does anyone remember when people used to actually go to hockey games to, you know, pay attention to the game?
Matt's on to something: the cheerleader thing is very Florida Panthers-y, not something you'd think the Oilers would feel they need to do - and they shouldn't. The punk rock way to go would be for a team to go retro, scrap the ridiculous contests and clichéd music and leave it to crowd noise and an organist. Although as my friend Duhatschek the Bieber junkie will corroborate, the other teams in the league could learn a thing or two from the person who picked the tunes in Pittsburgh when he and I were there during the playoffs last year. Violent Femmes and Pixies, Rancid and Queens of the Stone Age? Well played sir/madam, even if it was kinda loud.
Why not? But they'd have to be named Betsy and Nelly and Debbie. Don't think Debber would work.