Micheal Grange has a story in the Globe and Mail wondering why the North American fan experience is so sanitized and lacking in both genuine activity and ritual:
It's not as if we can't do rituals.
Canadian sports fans trot out theirs when needed, from the Hey, Hey, Goodbye chorus Habs fans have been raining down on losing opponents since the 1980s, to the white towels Canucks fans break out at playoff time, bringing back memories of Harold Snepsts and Stan Smyl.
But can we not do better? Why, after 80 years of history, is the best Leafs fans can do is "Go Leafs Go." Why, in Ottawa, did the thrill of getting their own NHL team inspire only "Go Sens Go."
And don't get so smug Calgary. Your scoreboard-prompted Stompin' Tom Connors singalongs and "Go Flames Go" chants make you part of the problem.
A huge part of that is the corporate atmosphere at games. The more than professional sports have become, well, professional the more corporations have taken to labelling every aspect of a game. The end result is that there is not one second that is not choreographed by the in-game experience crew or some nonsense. They even pay some clown at the ACC to do the same cowboy dance every game. Hell, at the Olympics(!) VANOC thought it necessary to have a fat guy dancing and ripping his shirt off to pump up the crowd. Even at BMO, which is rightly hailed for the wonderful atmosphere, there is the Purolator delivery of the game ball, Esquire extra time, Pizza Pizza half-time, and the Toronto Police Department sponsored in-stand fights. What is to be done? One step that the Leafs have taken is to get the crowd to sing the national anthem. Here's what I sent Michael that didn't make the cut for the article:
It's good to hear O Canada sung by the crowd before games. Some of the best moments in TFC's history (sad isn't it?) have involved the crowd belting out the anthem whether spontaneously (before CONCACAF games which don't allow anthems to be played), defiantly (when it seemed O Canada might get snubbed at the MLS All-Star Game), or expectantly (before the very first TFC game in 2007). The biggest reason crowds don't sing is that they just weren't raised with the 'terrace' culture where singing to support the team or to belittle management or insult the opposition is common.
MLSE obviously sees the impact that a boisterous crowd has had at BMO Field and while they won't ever be able to replicate the unique crowd circumstances there it's a nice first step towards creating legitimate atmosphere rather than relying on canned bits on the scoreboard.
It goes without saying that the easiest step to get a boisterous crowd is cheap beer and a winning team. Since MLSE isn't ever going to provide the former and struggles with the latter why not encourage some good old fashion shit-talking...or singing. Oh yeah, and cut down on the stupid "Let's Make Noise" prompts. The trained seal approach to North American fandom needs to be killed. The key thing is that it needs to be organic. Free To Be by Alan Frew will never be You'll Never Walk Alone:
But with some of the same support provided to the Red Patch Boys, U-Sector, and the North End Elite as well as the creative minds here I am sure we could come up with some hockey versions of England's best terrace chants.
After the jump, some examples from the greatest club in the world and possible Leafs equivalents.
Jooohhhhn Ar-ne Rii-se! OOOH AHHH! I wanna knoooow how you scored that goal. (This goal)
Leafs Possible Equivalent:
Phiiii-ill Kessel! OOOH AHHH! I wanna knoooow how you scored that goal.
We hate Nottingham Forest,
We hate Everton too (they're shite!).
We hate Man United but
Liverpool we love you!
Possible Toronto Equivalent
We hate the Philly Flyers,
We hate Montreal too,
We hate the Boston Bruuuuins
But Toronto we love you!
His armband proved he was a Red - Torres Torres
You'll Never Walk Alone it said - Torres Torres
We bought the lad from sunny spain,
He gets the ball and he scores again,
Fernando Torres Liverpool's number nine.
Possible Toronto Equivalent
He really hates the colour red - Grabbo, Grabbo
He drilled a Habs fan in the head - Grabbo, Grabbo
We got the nut from Montreal,
He beat one fan, he'll beat 'em all,
Mik-hail Gra-bov-ski, Toronto's eighty-four.