I’ve always been a hockey fan. Maybe I was genetically predisposed to love the game, considering my father taught me to skate as soon as I could walk, and that his father coached his neighborhood peewee teams. It could also be a byproduct of growing up in St. Paul, Minn. and being told at a young age the only valid reason to miss Sunday morning church or put off a homework assignment was hockey practice.
All I know is the first physical injury I can remember was a broken leg I sustained falling across the boards of my cousin’s backyard rink – when I was three years old.
I’m not here to give an autobiographical account about growing up in a hockey family or describe the great importance of hockey to Minnesotan culture – but I want to make it clear I’m writing as a hockey fan, because I’m about to write on a contentious issue.
At the Wisconsin men’s hockey game last Friday night, I observed an irritating trend in the way student sections cheer and chant for their teams and against their opponents: imprudent overuse of the cheer, “SIEVE!”
For those of you not initiated to the finer details of hockey chants, a sieve is a screen or mesh filter used to separate large particles from unwanted finer particles – for instance, during the gold rush, miners would “pan for gold” using sieves to separate gold nuggets from unwanted sand. When they chant “SIEVE!” at a goalie, fans are stating metaphorically he is merely a mesh filter with many, many holes that let the puck through.
After freshman forward Nic Kerdiles scored to put the Badgers ahead of the Minnesota Gophers by one goal in the first period, the student section lambasted Gopher goalie Adam Wilcox with chants of “SIEVE, SIEVE, SIEVE!”
Now, I’ve got no problem with the sieve chant, in and of itself – but can you really call a goaltender a sieve midway through the first period when he has let one goal in and the score is 1-0? Personally, I feel chanting “SIEVE!” at this point is overeager.
Even the best goaltenders get scored on from time to time. So frankly, calling a goalie a sieve after he lets in one goal is unwarranted – at least when a goalie has only let in one goal, there is not yet sufficient evidence that he is, indeed, a sieve. If Badger fans called every goaltender that entered the Kohl center a sieve before the end of the first period, would the chant even mean anything?
When the sieve chant becomes completely overused, it loses its meaning and makes fans look like they have no barometer by which to judge a true sieve.
Moreover, jumping the gun and launching into a premature sieve chant displays a tendency towards negative cheering – that is, heckling the opponent rather than cheering for the home team. I think a healthy amount of heckling is a good thing. But there is something to be said for sportsmanship and cheering for the Badgers in an upstanding way – that means reserving aggressive heckling, including sieve chants, for instances where it is truly warranted.
Plus, there is no quicker way to accumulate bad sports mojo than to hurl aggressive and unsportsmanlike chants at the opposing team.
While there is no precise criteria for when a sieve chant is warranted, this is a case in which some quantitative statements can be made. Personally, I feel the opposing goaltender has to let in at least four goals before he is declared a sieve, and, of course, the Badgers ought to be winning when the chant is started.
Given my description of the impact Minnesota hockey has had on my life, some of you might be thinking I’m writing this as a sour Minnesota kid who can’t suppress an undying allegiance to the Gophers and feels an inexplicable, subconscious pang of anger when he hears a sieve chant in the first period. It’s true. I was raised on Gopher hockey, and if they’re playing say, Notre Dame, they have my full support.
But I’ve been in Wisconsin for the past three years, and that’s time enough to become a Badger hockey fan. When the Badgers play the Gophers, to me it’s just good hockey.
What I mean to say is that it isn’t out of a lack of Badger spirit I’m opposed to reckless abuse of the sieve chant. On the contrary, as a fan, I think that part of cheering on the Badgers and heckling opponents in an upstanding, dignified and sportsmanlike way is knowing when to use these sort of chants.
Charles Godfrey (email@example.com) is a junior majoring in physics and math.