Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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‘Hit somebody’ needs to go


Players stand facing the flag during the national anthem during the Battle of the Badges Toledo Police Department vs. Toledo Fire Department hockey game at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Saturday, December 2.

Blade/Kurt Steiss Enlarge

Nobody is sure when the crowd began shouting “hit somebody” during the national anthem at Toledo hockey games.

Some say it was during the Toledo Storm era in the early 1990s. Others believe it was during the 1970s Goaldiggers games at the Sports Arena.

But there needs to be a new tradition for Toledo Walleye fans. Though nobody claims that the shouting is intended to be disrespectful, it is perceived that way by many fans, particularly veterans. It is time for fans to quit shouting “hit somebody” during the pause before the final line of the anthem and move the shouting to right after the puck is dropped to start the game.

The Walleye organization has tried over the years to encourage fans to amend the tradition. But trying to tell a sports fan to change his behavior often results in him doubling down on the behavior you don’t want him to do.

In 2011, Joe Napoli, the president and chief executive officer of the Toledo Walleye and the Toledo Mud Hens, told The Blade: “Yelling during the national anthem has been a source of heartburn for us. What we have suggested in the past is maybe there’s another time during the game or proceeding the game that ‘hit somebody’ can be yelled.”

On Tuesday, Neil Neukam, the Walleye’s vice president and general manager, told The Blade’s editorial board: “The Walleye organization honors Toledo’s tremendous hockey history and its traditions. However, we, as an organization, have never endorsed the “hit somebody” chant during the national anthem.

“Over the past nine years, the Walleye have encouraged moving it to a place during the pregame where the organization can give full promotional support to this tradition that began decades ago ...”

The change has to come from the team’s supporters. Shouting “hit somebody” makes little sense during the anthem, but it makes a lot of sense to shout it once the puck has been dropped — when somebody can actually be hit.

The Toledo Walleye organization is one of the most successful in minor league hockey for a simple reason: It has a dedicated and loyal fan base. Those fans need to begin a new tradition and ensure that all those who attend the games feel respected.

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