Thirteen years covering the Ontario Hockey League, roughly 800 games, another couple of hundred in the stands as a fan, and it was easily the most bizarre on-ice moment I’ve ever seen.
During the second period of Guelph’s game in Mississauga a young man – since dubbed “the Glasshopper” by a Mississauga News headline writer much wittier than I – climbed over the glass and onto the ice at the Hershey Centre.
Taking photos in a corner at the time, I didn’t initially realize what was happening as the players pointed and yelled and the play was whistled dead.
It quickly became apparent, as the young (seemingly slightly-sauced) man stood mid-ice, ran to the Mississauga end and slid into the net, then trotted the length of the ice to slide into the Guelph net, which Storm goaltender Anthony Popovich was more than happy to vacate for the occasion.
The “fan” briefly appeared to give everyone the finger. Then raised his arms above his head, kneeling and out of breath, before politely being escorted by referees Mike Cairns and Josh Schein through the nearby Zamboni entrance.
The fact that he managed to scale the glass in a rink with less than 500 people watching was a feat in itself, given that the usher-to-fan ratio was pretty much 1:1.
Nobody seemed to initially know what to do. Officials and players initially just got out of the young man’s way.
In this day and age, the initial response is to make sure that the person is not up to anything more nefarious than trying to get on that night’s highlight reel.
That was the case in the most notorious fan-on-the-ice incident of all time, when an irate Boston Bruins fan jumped on the ice in 1989 and headed for referee Bill McCreary, only to be steamrolled by linesman Ron Asselstine before he could get there (Guelph! Represent!).
As Missisauga coach James Richmond told Iain Colpitts of the Mississauga News after the game: “I was worried for the player’s safety, but after he went down to the other end and slid, I knew he was out there just to run around.”
If nothing else, it distracted from the misery of the 11-3 drubbing the Storm was enduring.
But they have bigger things to worry about these days, like the fact they have lost four games in a row heading into Friday’s game with Erie, allowing 29 goals over that span and a league-high 39 goals overall.
Colpitts reports The Glasshopper has apparently been banned from the Hershey Centre, but no charges or tickets issued. Arena staff dealt with the issue, police were not involved.
Thankfully, it’s a rarity that fan behaviour reaches such levels. It’s at the least disruptive and at the most potentially dangerous.
But The Glasshopper did get the attention he wanted, as video of the incident hit the television highlights that night and exploded on Twitter and YouTube, where the video has had 14,000 views, which is about 35 times the number of people who actually saw it in person.
There is enough clownish antics in the stands at many games without bringing it on to the ice.
And not to sound too 'get-off-my-lawn-you-kids!'-ish, but in this day and age of social media attention seekers, I guess it’s inevitable that these types of things will happen.
Let’s just hope not too often and not with any more serious consequences.