When is it acceptable for fans to make their displeasure known, either with placards, voices or creatively altered pieces of clothing?
One might argue that if a fan shells out the funds required to enter any of the 30 NHL arenas, they are free to express their opinion, however declasse, as long as they follow all posted rules and regulations.
But it's safe to say the reaction towards Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa in Atlanta on Monday was a surprising one.
Hossa and Heatley were traded from their respective teams for different reasons. In Hossa's case, there was a discrepancy involving the Slovak's worth -- Hossa saw himself as a Jarome Iginla-type player. Ottawa felt otherwise.
The problem was Hossa never proved that he possessed the statistics and leadership qualities that are prerequisites to a large payday.
At the other end of the swap, a star was dealing with an unorthodox situation. Heatley was faced everyday with the reminders of his 2003 car accident in Atlanta, which killed his teammate Dan Snyder.
Two players with contrasting motives were able to find new lives in Atlanta and Ottawa.
However, it seems that not all fans could be happy for them.
Monday's game marked the return of Dany Heatley to Atlanta - this time in a Senators uniform. The welcome was downright chilly, from the cacophony of boos that rang down every time Heatley touched the puck, to strategically vandalized No. 15 jerseys and harshly worded signs.
One 15-year-old girl held up a placard that read, "Thanks for saying goodbye. Heatley is a bum."
Apparently the 14 home games out of the 31 he managed to play in the 2003-04 season weren't enough for his fans.
A ticket gives carte blanche for free expression at games, but Heatley's former teammates were upset by the reaction.
'UNCLASSY TO BOO HIM'
"In my opinion, it was pretty unclassy to boo him," defenceman Andy Sutton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And it was.
Who is worthier of a fan's contempt: A player that requires a change of scenery based on tragic events, or one that's looking to make a cash grab? The answer seems obvious.
But does that mean Senators fans should boo Hossa when he makes his first appearance with Atlanta on Feb. 9? Absolutely not. Behaving the way the league and other fans will expect shall bring little satisfaction.
So how should Ottawa fans handle it?
Let's make Feb. 9 Dany Heatley Day. A day where Hossa's presence will be respectfully acknowledged, but also a chance for the Senators' new star to be put in the spotlight. If he handles the puck, cheer. If he scores a goal, stand up and scream. (And for God's sakes, if he pulls off a hat trick, ditch your cap on the ice and pick up a new one on your way out of the Corel Centre.)
To boo is acceptable, but also predictable. Heatley may not have expected the negative response during his return to Atlanta, but an outpouring of support during the first game in which he plays host to his old team would be a welcome surprise.
Feb. 9 will be the perfect day to do the unexpected, and demonstrate to not only Atlanta, but also the entire league, that Ottawa can maintain a level of class.
HIGH RIDER: Am I the only person that had a problem with Sidney Crosby arriving at Ricoh Coliseum for his game-day skate in a limo? Every possible excuse has been printed since the Penguins' game in Toronto -- from the Pittsburgh masses insisting that Crosby required "protection" from the overzealous Canadian media, to the Globe and Mail's David Shoalts' claim that Crosby just "likes to get to the rink early." Crosby isn't to blame for this, but his handlers are long overdue for a reality check. This sort of activity does nothing to convince us that Crosby is a team player who isn't receiving preferential treatment.
MR. DRESSUP: Team USA has the talent, but now they need the coaching -- or perhaps a coach who dresses the part. Walt Kyle's suits make him look like an extra from A Night at The Roxbury.
SNOW FUN: What was up with Cory Schneider's mask? The all-white effect on the Team USA goaltender's head gave him a snowman-like appearance, leading to more than one "Frosty McFreeze" reference from yours truly.
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