“Way to go.” Those may be the most depressing, condescending, and out-of-character words ever spoken through the public address system at a National Hockey League game. The fact that they were entirely appropriate given the chaos that was erupting in the arena doesn’t change the fact that things have gotten so bad in Philadelphia that the voice of the Flyers, Lou Nolan, actually resorted to the kind of language usually reserved for older brothers and upperclassmen rebuking their younger counterparts. “Way to go.” Could it get any worse than to hear those words amplified across the entire arena, through the cameras, and out into thousands of homes where stupefied hockey fans stare at each other and ask, “Did he just say that?”
For those not in the know Nolan’s words came after the second round of game disruption where fans threw promotional bracelets onto the ice as an expression of their disgust or their unhappiness or their whatever. They were mad at something or other and chose to convey that by tossing light-up LED trinkets not only on the ice but also at the officials and even opposing players. The fans earned a minor penalty for delay of game, which might have mattered more if the Capitals weren’t already trouncing Philly 5-1.
The ruckus began after Flyer’s forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare delivered a brutal check on defenseman Dmitry Orlov, slamming him headfirst into the boards. While Orlov managed to skate off the ice under his own power he clearly needed medical attention and the rest of the Capitals came to his defense. After officials pulled the ensuing scrum apart, Bellemare received a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. Two other Flyers’ players received penalties as well but the bracelet rain didn’t begin until the crowd realized none of the Capitals’ players would be receiving penalty time.
As the storm of white promotional toys gained momentum announcer Lou Nolan pleaded with fans to stop the madness. His appeal seemed to work for a time but it wasn’t long before the shower continued and the officials were forced to call a delay of game penalty on Philadelphia. It was at this point that a clearly exasperated Nolan offered his rebuke, ““OK, those of you that have been throwing, you’ve done it now. Two-minute bench minor on the Flyers for delay of the game … Way to go!”
Throwing items on the ice isn’t new and the list of items launched from the seats is as odd as it is long. From pennies and nickels in the 1940s to Detroit’s bizarre octopus fetish that began in the 50s. There’s also a 3-foot leopard shark that made its way onto the ice as a show of support of the San Jose Sharks or the slabs of Alberta beef thrown out for Edmonton’s Oilers. In Toronto, fans of the Maple Leafs became so disgusted with their team’s play they even threw their valuable jerseys over the glass. Former Hawk’s President Bill Tobin recalled a game in Montreal where some disgruntled fan threw an alarm clock into play. “They thought it was time we woke up, I guess,” Tobin was heard to say.
While celebratory traditions like throwing hats for a hat trick are rarely penalized the kind of angry demonstration exhibited in Philadelphia crossed the line. Orlov was even hit in the face by a bracelet while receiving medical treatment after Bellamare’s hit. Had the game been closer, or the series for that matter, the ramifications would have been more severe but not only did most Philly fans leave the Wells Fargo Center with a 6-1 loss; they had a bad taste in their mouths as well.