Last night, the Minnesota Wild laid a giant egg, and it was far from golden. In a "win and they're in" situation, the Wild lost 6-1 to a team they rarely lose to at home, that Niklas Backstrom absolutely owns, is eliminated from playoff contention, and sits at 24th out of 30 teams in the league despite drafting first overall three straight seasons. If the Wild are not absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of themselves, then they all need to find new careers. If Mike Yeo got a wink of sleep last night, he should be asking himself how, since you can bet there were fans that didn't.
Yes, Wild fans the team flat out sucked last night. That word doesn't get thrown around in the body of a post here at HW very often. The thing is, a team "sucking" is difficult to quantify. It isn't... "fair." We have no obligation to be fair, but we have tried very hard to be for the duration of this site's life. Fairness gets you access, which improves coverage. We don't lash out at players, calling them names and calling for the coach's head after every loss.
To quote Brian Rolston, "never to high, never too low."
Whatever that was last night, though, doesn't deserve fair. It deserves the flat out tongue lashing that only a hockey fan can muster. It deserves to be berated in a manner that would make the US Navy blush. Yes, Wild fans, you have every right to be pissed off, and you have every right to express that anger. 19,990 of you paid to be there. Thousands more were there in spirit, watching at home and listening on the radio. That support buys you the "right" to do quite a few things.
It even buys you the "right" to boo Josh Harding.
Yes, I'll admit it. If you follow me on Twitter, or read my comment in the recap, I think the people who booed Harding are disgusting. The people who followed it up with a Bronx cheer when he made a save? There are no words to describe just how stupid and pathetic that behavior is.
Some will say that Harding wants to be treated "like one of the boys." That his MS shouldn't be an excuse and that fans should boo him just like the rest of the team. You know what? If that helps you sleep at night, then keep telling yourself that, because not only does it mean you aren't paying close enough attention, it means you're trying to justify vile behavior that you will, one day soon, regret participating in and defending.
I get it. He's just one of the boys. What I am betting is that if you were honest with yourself, you came up with the justification after you mocked him with the Bronx cheer, and after you booed him. You, terrible person of the day, did not think to yourself, "While he has MS, he simply wants be one of the guys, and he has played poorly this evening, so I should probably even things out and boo him like I did the other chaps."
No. It did not happen that way. You were angry, riled up by the shitastic performance of your favorite team crapping the bed in a game they needed to win. You wanted everyone and their mother to know exactly how you felt about the situation, and no one, not even the guy who missed two months of action and was thrown into a no win situation cold, was going to escape your wrath.
It's called group think. Mob mentality. Pick your moniker, but that's what it was. One guy booed, so another did, then another, and finally, it's not me booing, it's us booing, and I no longer have any personal culpability in the situation. After all, I didn't start it.
Just an FYI - this is what children say when they join their friends in doing something wrong. I didn't start it. This is what the idiots who destroyed their own cities in Montreal and Vancouver said. I didn't start it. Nope. But you damn well didn't stop it, either.
You can find any justification you want for the way Wild fans, sorry... most Wild fans behaved last night. None of them are acceptable when looked at without the glasses of someone looking for an excuse to do something stupid. If you booed Josh Hardin last night, know that you are the same type of person who gets pulled into participating in a riot. You're the same person who doesn't call 911, and doesn't act in an emergency because you think someone else will.
Play a little game. Remove the MS. Remove the names. Remove the playoff push.
It is January of the 2013-14 season. >A Wild goaltender has missed two months of action after being on IR. He has been cleared by doctors to play. He has been given his NHL mandated stupidly short reconditioning assignment. The team cannot carry three goalies with the other injuries the team is facing, and with your regular backup cleared to play, and your AHL team in need of a starter, your hand is forced. You have no justification to bench the guy, you can't leave him on IR once the doc clears him. You can't send him to the AHL without clearing waivers.
Now, the Wild are getting beat up on the ice by a lesser team. They give up, let's say, three goals in the first, all of which could have been prevented. The starter has performed poorly, and the team needs a shake up. Mike Yeo pulls the starter, and puts in the backup. First NHL action in two months. It's really quite a story. Almost... award worthy.
The backup, with no time to warm up, and facing a terrible situation and with a team that has forgotten how to play hockey in front of him lets in two quick goals. The speed of the game, the quality of the competition on the ice is a bit different from the AHL, after all.
Do you still mock this goalie if it is a "meaningless" game in January of an 82 game season? Two points in January are the same as two points in April.
Again, if you are honest with yourself, the answer is no. You understand that the game was lost in the first, that this goalie came into an un-winnable situation, and had a bad start. You would remember that goalies don't score goals, and that the team... the team lost.
Back to reality. The Wild lost six to one. SIX. This wasn't a tenuous 1-0 lead the Wild were holding and Harding came in and blew the game. The game was lost before Harding ever took the ice. You can justify it all you want, but the situational awareness of Wild fans last night was far worse than the play of the team.
If you booed and / or mocked Josh Harding last night, you're just like everyone else. And maybe that helps you sleep better at night, knowing you are just like everyone else. When you get through this little temper tantrum, whether it be by the Wild making the playoffs tonight, or somewhere down the road after they lose tonight and people lose their jobs to satisfy your blood thirst, know that forgiveness for this one doesn't come easy.
Some fans (just like players) rise to the occasion when the pressure is on. Maybe it is fitting that the Wild and their fans both melt down at the same time. If I'm a business on West 7th, I'm questioning whether or not I want to be open during the playoffs or not. I'm at least buying plywood for the windows.