Fans of the Boston Badgers get their excitement where they can. In the Badgers’ first two seasons of existence, they finished dead last. This season, the team has made some significant upgrades – including midseason trades for LW Casey Thurman and RW Gordon Lunsford – but they still have a sub-.500 record and are a long shot to make the playoffs. But while they may have much hope for the postseason, Boston fans have something else to get excited about. A local pizza chain runs a promotion for all home games: if the Badgers win and score five or more goals, all fans in attendance can bring in their ticket stubs to get a free pizza the next day.
Needless to say, the promotion is hugely popular. When the Badgers are sitting on four goals late in the game, chants of “Piz-za! Piz-za!” will echo throughout Shawmut Arena. After that, every save by the opposing goaltender is met with robust boos. When the fans are denied their shot at free pizza, things can get ugly. And on Tuesday, when a questionable call by a referee wiped the pizza-winning goal off the board, the fans nearly rioted.
Up to that point, the crowd had been in a good mood. The Badgers were hosting the Western Division leaders, the Portland Bluebacks, and the home team was well on its way to a surprising rout. Boston goalie Roger Orion stopped every Portland shot, while the Badgers scored repeatedly. After D Brett Stolte scored Boston’s fourth goal less than five minutes into the third, only one question remained: would the fans get their much-desired pie?
As the game reached its closing minutes, the familiar “Piz-za! Piz-za!” chant rang from the rafters. And with two and a half minutes remaining, it appeared that the fans would go home happening. Boston broke loose on an odd-man rush that ended with LW Lix Darnholm firing a shot that trickled between the pads of Bluebacks netminder Jesse Clarkson and trickled toward the net. As the puck crossed the line, Darnholm and a Portland defender crashed into the goal and dislodged it from its moorings. The goal siren went off and the crowd went wild, with visions of pepperoni dancing in their heads.
But referee Brandon Fosse called for a review to see whether the puck crossed the line before the net came loose. The crowd booed as Fosse watched replays for several minutes. And when Fosse came back to center ice and announced that the goal didn’t count, the mood turned furious. A new chant filled the air: “Bull-s***! Bull-s***!” About a minute later, a tense situation turned worse when Fosse sent Stolte to the penalty box for elbowing, essentially ending Boston’s chance at a fifth goal. Fans began throwing coins and beer cups onto the ice. A couple people even ran down the aisles and tried to climb the glass to assault Fosse; they were ejected from the arena.
The game ended with a 4-0 Badgers victory, but no pizza. Irate fans continued to aim obscene chants at the refs and bombard the ice with debris. Fosse and his crew needed a police escort to escape unscathed.
After the game, Badgers coach Kyle Barrow admonished the fans for their reaction. “Look, I understand the allure of free pizza,” the coach noted. “But come on, if you can afford a ticket to the game, you can afford your own pizza, right? And there’s no excuse for threatening the refs. You can be unhappy about a call without turning into a mob.”
Stolte, on the other hand, seemed impressed by the fans’ wrath. “You don’t want to mess with these fans, boy!” enthused Stolte. “We’re a team with an edge, and I love that our crowds have an edge too. Get between them and their pizza, and… well, sucks to be you.”