This is truly a unique evening of cross-sports hatred.
In case you’re under a professional sports rock, Dany Heatley is making his first appearance in Ottawa since he demanded a trade (yet refused to go to Edmonton) two summers ago. If you’re living in an even more isolated sports cave, you might not be aware that LeBron James also makes his return to his home state and original team in Cleveland, Ohio tonight after breaking their hearts like an Earnest Byner fumble with “The Decision.”
As long as it doesn’t devolve into violence, looting or other over-the-line behavior, it’s actually kind of fun to study the actions of a large group of people making too big of a deal about games. With that passion in mind, I decided to observe the opening moments of each game (Sharks-Oilers is currently in the first intermission; Heat-Cavaliers just passed the eight-minute mark) and compare the crowd reactions.
Ottawa’s reaction to Heatley
Most apparent chant: “Heatley sucks.”
Habits: Crowd boos whenever his line comes onto the ice.
Crowd effectiveness: Above average
The vitriol level was pretty high, but not completely unreasonable. One thing I like about that booing pattern: by beginning with jeers when his entire line came out on the ice, that actually could be a tactical advantage for line matching. It seems like it settled down to the industry standard “only when he touches the puck” though.
It seems like he’s been motivated by the boos. Although he didn’t register a shot on goal, he hit a post on a shot and drew a penalty. The Sharks are also up 1-0, so he’s getting the first laugh.
Cleveland’s reaction to LeBron
Most apparent chant: Sing-songy “A——” chant. Also “Ak-ron hates you” which gets huge bonus points for creativity.
Habits: Booing when he touches the ball.
Crowd effectiveness: Medium
It’s almost impossible for the angry fans in Cleveland to live up to the hate hype without going over the line, but they’ve done a decent job of making their former hero uncomfortable. Beer only being sold in paper cups = solid decision.
LeBron’s start (through 8:25)
Three points on 1-3 shooting, one missed three pointer, three rebounds and two assists.
(Note: He hit a couple great plays in a row and has eight points as of this immediate writing.)
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any other interesting developments, but don’t expect much more LeBron-specific talk tonight.