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So you want to go to a playoff hockey game? Great. Come out, bring the family, bring your friends, and wear your team’s colors. But don’t forget bring your sense of reality.

If you yell “SHOOOOOT!” every time your team has possession of the puck in the offensive zone, you WILL get nasty looks.

If you wear a jersey of a team that is not even PLAYING that day, prepare to be heckled. (That’s a shout out to you, girl who was wearing a Rangers t-shirt at Game 3 of Isles/Caps).

If you don’t know players’ names, that’s fine. Not everyone eats, breathes, and sleeps hockey as I do, but please don’t scream “atta boy, Okposo!” when Frans clearly has the puck.

If you’re of age, and you want to have a few drinks, go for it. But know your limit. Hockey games are family events. If you wouldn’t drink that much around your own family, don’t do it around strangers. And if you do, don’t act surprised when you’re booted out.

If you’re a fan of the visiting team, we welcome you and your silly jerseys with open arms…given you know your place…

I live in New York City. New York City is Rangers territory. I’m a die-hard Islanders fan. It doesn’t even have to be game time; I KNOW I’m going to hear insults directed at me, and that I’m going to be heckled when I wear Isles gear.

After game 3, I walked back to my apartment from the subway and had a twenty-something guy (I don’t know for a fact that he was a Rangers fan, but one can assume…) walking with his parents “Booooooo” in my face, and drop a sexist comment about female hockey fans. I just smiled and gave him a courtesy score update that the Isles had just won in OT.

In efforts to avoid being heckled when I’m just not in the mood, I’ve gone so far as to pack away my jersey in Penn Station, and then throw it on once I get out to Long Island. Whether you’re an Islanders fan living in Rangers territory, or a fan of the visiting team at a playoff game, you should be cognizant of what you’re getting yourself into.

Expect to be heckled. Expect to hear people tell you that you suck, and expect it to be screamed in pretty close proximity to your face. Expect the fans in front of you to turn around and cheer staring right at you when their team scores, and know how to handle yourself if your guys lose.

Also expect that fans will be drinking. A lot. I don’t believe in blaming alcohol for decisions adults make, but it sure as heck exacerbates these already tense situations. If our goal is to really eradicate any pockets of poor behavior at sporting events, I frankly think we’d have to ban alcoholic beverages. Considering that’s never going to happen, we have to react accordingly.

Make good choices. If you’re walking into a white out at MTS Arena in Winnipeg in head-to-toe orange and black, you’re going to be met with some pretty fierce animosity. Respect that you’re a visitor, and maybe the home fans will respect you too.

Hockey fans are the most passionate fans out there. We might be smaller in number, but our passion outweighs that of any other professional sport’s fan base. We’re all emotionally, physically, and financially, invested.

I’ve been going to hockey games at Nassau Coliseum for a quarter of a century now, and never have I felt unsafe. Never have I seen Islanders fans engage in anything other than playful mockery with visiting fans. I was at Game 3 on Sunday, and as I walked out celebrating John Tavares’s glorious reign as Captain, I saw Islanders fans shaking the hands of Capitals fans sitting around them.

I am proud of the Islanders fan base, and feel lucky to have grown up with such an unwaveringly loyal, welcoming group of individuals. I have always felt safe attending games, and I think the incidence of unrefined behavior is relatively low in comparison to other hockey, football, and baseball games I have been to throughout my life.

That all having been said, racial and homophobic slurs are in no way, shape or form, acceptable means of expressing yourself. I don’t care how much you’ve had to drink, which team you support, or where you’re from. If you can’t be respectful of people and property around you, stay the heck home.

So here’s the advice I’d give: those fans that show up in visitor jerseys spent just as much as you did on tickets, and have every right to be there. Do not confuse heckling with targeted verbal abuse. Do not take things that are not yours. And do not take the liberty of ruining the reputation of an entire fan base simply because you still haven’t mastered the art of behaving appropriately in public.

To me, what happened at Game 3 is an issue of public decency. It’s not about hockey. It’s not about either fan base. It’s about a subset of the population that does not possess the ability to exhibit socially acceptable and responsible behavior.

The media has done quite the job of allowing the decisions of a few to give a dedicated, passionate fan base a bad name. Several individuals made irresponsible, pathetic choices. Not the majority, or even a sizeable subset, of a fan base.

Nassau Coliseum has been, and still is, the best place in the world to watch a sporting event. Don’t let the actions of a few stupid people change your mind.

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