SUN Hockey Pool

Flames handle boobirds

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

When the buzzer sounded to end Wednesday's 5-3 Calgary Flames win, it was met with a sounding ovation from the faithful who'd filled the Saddledome.

A well-earned tribute, too, considering the home side scored five unanswered goals to hand Minnesota its first regulation-time loss -- in convincing fashion.

Funny how less than two hours earlier, the sound from the Saddledome crowd was the polar opposite.

The Flames, as a team, received a cascade of boos heaped upon them when the first period concluded and they were down 3-0, and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff received some Bronx Cheers when he made a couple of easy saves.

Don't kid yourself, the Flames heard it loud and clear as they headed to their dressing room for the intermission.

And, let it be known, nobody was upset from their end.

"It's better than them not caring at all," said centre Craig Conroy. "They're hockey-knowledgeable fans and they're not happy. We weren't happy, Mike (Keenan) wasn't happy. Nobody was happy. They don't have to boo, we know it was bad, but they let us know they weren't happy."

But, he added, the players know it's not personal.

"That's why they pay for the tickets and they can do what they want. I think it was them saying, 'OK boys, let's bounce back' because as soon as it started going good, everything was good," he pointed out. "It's not they don't like us. It's they expect more from us."

It's always an interesting debate whether fans should boo the home side.

On one hand, you have the theory fans pay the freight by purchasing tickets, souvenirs, munchies and refreshments, they have the right to do say what they want.

On the other hand, you can understand the belief fans should support their team through thick and thin, and keep the players positive.

Good luck finding a player who'll chastize the audience for vocalizing their disappointment in the first period when the Flames were down 3-0 to the Wild.

"It's not very fun when your home fans boo you, but we deserved it because we had a poor period," said left winger Kristian Huselius. "We weren't ready for the first period, and Minnesota's a good team so they got the 3-0 lead."

"We'll I'm very appreciative of the fact we do have fans," said Keenan, who coached in the half-empty home of the Florida Panthers a few years back. "I've been in places where, in comparison, there are very few fans.

"I think they do impact your team and that's part of sport."

But do boo birds make a difference? Can they ignite players to perform better?

Conroy said he's not sure.

"We're motivated anyway. You're at home, down 3-0 in the first period and you're embarrassed," he said. "You don't want to play crappy and let them score at will."


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