Lesson #7 – Hockey Supports Connection and Feedback

This post is part of a series I’m writing about lessons that Music-in-Canada can learn from Hockey-in-Canada.

Here’s #7:

Hockey Supports Connection and Feedback

If I want to clap, I’ll clap.

If I want to heckle, I’ll heckle.

If I need to cough, I’ll cough!

Can you imagine attending a hockey game, where the crowd made no noise except to applaud when the home team scored? Can you imagine everybody giving you a dirty look if you applauded at the “wrong” time?

Making noise is part of hockey culture.  But crowds don’t make noise for the sake of making noise; it’s more symbolic than that.  Hockey, and sports in general, are open to crowds connecting and responding in any manner that fits their needs.

Of course, there are limits – fans can’t bring their own skates and jump on the ice!  But it’s clear that the vocabulary available to hockey fans is massive compared to the vocabulary of symphony audiences.  This includes clapping, heckling, cheering, socializing, analyzing, eating, drinking, standing and leaving whenever and however they want.  And if this isn’t how you like to connect and respond to hockey games, you can always stay home and watch it on TV!

One of hockey’s advantages is in its ability to accept a diverse amount of feedback from spectators.  In fact, spectators are given so much freedom that they can be creative with their feedback.  Examples include fans showing up with signage and fans wearing funny outfits. Creative feedback strengthens the feedback loop (Lesson #6) even further.

Check out this short, hilarious video:

(Can’t see the video? Click here)

Compare this to music performances, particularly the symphony or opera.  If you’ve ever been to the symphony, you know that any kind of bodily movement is frowned upon.  Methods for giving feedback are few in number and rigidly structured.  Further, unknowingly breaking concert etiquette is a reason to feel embarrassed and “ignorant.”

The differences in audience feedback between hockey and music symbolize hockey’s cultural dominance over music in Canada.  Of course, music performances can still be wonderful, life-altering experiences.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with experiencing symphony concerts in this manner.

What concerns me is whether symphony concerts and operas are providing optimal experiences for listeners.

The issue extends to audience development as well.  If concert audiences are diminishing, and arts support is dwindling, and organizations want to support a healthy arts community, they should prioritize creative feedback from audiences – not just applause and $$$!

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