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Heatley, LeBron and Bobby Orr: If you really want to get in their heads, don’t boo them, just ignore them

I’ve often wondered why fans boo certain players on the other team.  You might as well put up signs that tell the opposing player, “You’re in our heads and we can’t beat you”.

This was driven home to me in recent days when Dany Heatley and LeBron James returned to their “old” towns to play.  Fans were particularly vocal in excoriating Lebron, while Ottawa fans showed their own vehement displeasure toward Heatley.

Of course, the real insult was that the Heat and the Sharks walked all over the Cavs and the Senators, respectively, in their own home buildings.  (Cav fans must have loved watching Cav players embrace LeBron seconds before the game.  They no doubt wondered, if the players don’t really care about beating LeBron, why do we?)

Leaf fans have had a propensity for booing certain visiting players (we boo our own as well, but that's a story for another time) through the years, as far back as I can remember, which is pretty a long time.  I seem to recall some mild booing in the early-mid ‘60s when Bobby Hull was in his prime.  I don’t think Gordie Howe was ever booed vociferously.  I’m guessing Rocket Richard would have been, but I wasn’t old enough to fully appreciate whatever reaction he would have received at Maple Leaf Gardens, as he retired after the 1959-’60 season when I was only six years of age.

But I definitely remember Bobby Orr (pictured at right) being booed, a lot, when he was as young superstar with the Bruins.  He would get the puck and the fans would start—as if it was going to send a message or somehow disrupt the supremely gifted—and mentally strong— Bruins defender.

Now, I’m not sure what the purpose is of booing the opposition.  Are people booing because the opposing player is so good?  Because the Leafs couldn’t/can’t compete with him?

It’s just always struck me as a waste of breath, and actually counter-productive, in terms of helping your own team.

I mean, it’s not as if Orr, for example, was somehow intimidated.  Good God, he owned the Leafs, and everybody else but the Canadiens, who could sometimes control him. (The Bruins never beat the Habs in the playoffs  when Orr was with them- 1968, ’69 and ’71 come to mind.)

To me, if you want to get into someone’s head, as a fan, take a very different approach: ignore them.  Let the silence send a message: "We don't care about you."

Opposing players or teams who get booed love it.  It shows they are in your head.  And it sends a message of lack of confidence in your own team.

You only boo if you’re worried or upset.  If you’re not, you just ignore the other guy.  Otherwise, you show you simply, as a fan, aren’t confident facing that particular player or team.

Fans from the ‘70s will well remember that Leaf fans did much the same when Flyers became the "Broad Street Bullies”.  Booing them, as Leaf fans did,  likely just encouraged their idiotic on-ice behaviour. It certainly didn’t bother them or somehow get them off their game, which was pure intimidation.  (Even the Ontario courts couldn’t do that, so booing certainly wasn't going to do it.)

Lafleur and Gretzky got some boos, too, over the years.  I seem to recall that didn’t do much good for the Leafs, either.

Again, if fans want to have a real  impact?

Let there be silence.


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