Fan enthusiam put to the text

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

We all know the Ottawa Senators experienced an influx of new fans after their run to the Stanley Cup finals last season.

The scarlet faces and Roman centurion regalia became almost commonplace for several months last spring.

It's been some time since this space has explored a run-of-the-mill night at Scotiabank Place during the regular season.

Has anything changed? Thursday's tilt versus St. Louis seemed like a good opportunity to check things out.

* The fan behaviour update: Oddities are still occurring, but the gender and age brackets affected (at least in one section of the 300s) threw me for a loop.

My immediate area featured the presence of a large group of young girls, as well as a cluster of 20-something guys.

The girls, faces painted and clutching signs, were absolutely bonkers. They cheered both goaltenders. They yelled out players' numbers. They lost it during TV timeouts.

My boyfriend turned to me at one point and said, "They can't keep that up. They'll wear themselves out."

I tried to explain when it comes to girls of that age, their vocal endurance is unsurpassed. Think along the lines of an Iditarod sled dog -- travelling great distances and rarely stopping.

At one point, a particularly rambunctious member of their group ran up the stairs during a first-period scuffle -- arms flailing in the air while screeching, "fight, fight, fight!"

She couldn't have been older than 12. A bit of plaid, a dash of Ritalin and maybe some pasted-on facial hair... someone inform Hockey Night in Canada that there's a replacement for Don Cherry whenever he's ready to move on.

* As for those 20-something guys? They were drinking, texting and people watching, but they certainly weren't paying attention to the game.

There's a difference between indifferent observation during lulls in play, and mistaking a hockey arena for your local pub. No cheers, no comments ... nothing. Shouldn't you just go to a bar instead?

* Okay, so the seats were filled, but could we get some balanced enthusiasm within the hometown crowd? Occasional criticism -- however unusual -- doesn't hurt either. During the third period, I think I heard someone call Senators defenceman Andrej Meszaros a "freaking polyp."

Granted, I was half-deaf from the girls, but if I did hear correctly, then that fan gets bonus points for creativity.

* Music woes: Is SBP capable of progressing beyond Cotton Eye Joe? I've lived in Ottawa for 11 years, and I swear they've played it during every game I've attended.

The only recent music of note on Thursday night was courtesy of Gwen Stefani, and even more perplexing was the sudden volume reduction on Nirvana's grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Was some angry parent outside banging on the walls of the arena? Feel free to mix it up and turn it up, kids. And speaking of music...

* The game's not over yet: With six minutes left in the third period and the Sens up by a goal, the "Everybody in the house ... come on and let me hear you say 'ho!' " clip began to play.

Apparently some fans must have heard "home" instead and took it as a sign, because they were so fired up that they got up right on their feet -- and promptly headed for the exits.

DAY OFF

Up by a goal late in the game with a statutory holiday the next day? Was beating the traffic that important?

All quibbles aside, it was good to see a significant crowd out for a game with virtually no storylines to feed off.

That being said, there's still plenty of room for improvement in fan participation at home games -- and with the playoffs around the corner, everyone at Scotiabank Place will have to be ready to kick it up a notch, both on and off the ice.


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