Last season, New York Night coach Nick Foster spent considerable time trying to ignite a rivalry with the Hamilton Pistols. He enraged the Pistols by accusing star Steven Alexander of cheating, then doubled down by calling Hamilton’s arena a “total dump” and claiming the only thing that could improve it was “a bulldozer.”
This season, Foster and the Night are taking their trolling to the next level. New York hosted the Pistols on Tuesday, and they celebrated the occasion with a “Canada Night” promotion that left the Pistols – and their fellow countrymen – furious.
The 15,000-plus fans who showed up at Neon Sky Center received what the Night described as the “Finger of Friendship,” a red foam finger emblazoned with the slogan “Canada’s #1!” But instead of the index finger being extended, as is typical, the giveaway item featured an upraised middle finger. This set the tone for the evening.
During the player introductions prior to puck drop, pictures of the Pistols players flashed by to the tune of “Blame Canada,” a satirical song from “South Park.” When Alexander’s face appeared, both the chyron and PA announcer Morty Shandler referred to him as “Steven ‘The Nutcracker’ Alexander,” referring to the mocking nickname that Foster gave the Hamilton winger last year. The fans greeted the images of their foes with loud boos; several of them also held up their Fingers of Friendship to make their feelings abundantly clear.
The mockery of Canada in general and the Pistols in particular continued throughout the game. Between the first and second period, the Night displayed a “Hamilton Highlights” video, which contained pictures of Pistols players falling over, getting checked into the boards and whiffing on shots, interspersed with their mug shots from the karaoke bar fight incident from earlier in the season, all scored to the parody song “Canadian Idiot” by “Weird Al” Yankovic. At various stoppages in play, the Jumbotron showed clips from the 1995 movie “Canadian Bacon,” whose plot revolved around a fictional war between the US and Canada. When the Pistols skated onto the ice at the start of the third period, Shandler encouraged the fans to “wave your Fingers of Friendship” at the visiting team. The crowd gleefully complied.
The stunt seemed to backfire on the Night. The Pistols erupted for three goals in the third period to cap off a 4-0 shutout of the Night.
In spite of their sizable win, the Pistols were irate about the “Canada Night” promotion. Coach Keith Shields led the charge, calling the event “classless and vulgar. It’s nothing but the same cheap punchlines over and over again. My 5-year-old son could come up with better jokes than that. The Canadian people have been nothing but wonderful to me and my family since we moved there, and they deserve better than this.”
Pistols RW Kenny Patterson, a former Night player, agreed with his coach. “Xenophobia is a real problem in our society,” Patterson told reporters. “Using another nationality as a punchline, even as a joke, is irresponsible and inappropriate. Unfortunately, that’s all you can expect from an obnoxious and morally bankrupt organization like this one. At least we crushed them, which is the best revenge.”
Alexander added that the Night might be getting the rivalry Foster wants, but they should be careful what they wish for. “If [Foster] wants to be rivals so bad, that’s fine with me,” the Pistols star said. “As we showed them today, it just gets us fired up to beat them. But sure, we can play this game. Foster better watch out, though. If one of his guys winds up getting cold-cocked, that’s on him.”
For his part, Foster was delighted by the promotion. “It’s about time somebody called out our so-called ‘neighbors to the north,’ the New York coach said in his post-game press conference. “Everybody thinks Canada’s just this cute harmless little country, but let’s get real. What have they given us? They gave us Canada geese, those suburban terrorists who waddle around honking and crapping on everything. They gave us Celine Dion. They gave us Justin Bieber. They even gave us round slices of ham and tried to tell us it’s bacon, for God’s sake. Canada’s a danger to us all, and it’s about time someone called them on it.”
The league fined the Night $5,000 and Foster $1,000 for the stunt, and SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell warned the coach and the team to cut it out. “I’m all in favor of team rivalries, even heated ones,” said Commissioner Mitchell. “But that’s no excuse for a promotion that’s essentially a bunch of insults about another country. That kind of thing has no place in our league. The SHL is a league that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone, including Canadians.”