The Modesty of the Hershey Bears

Wait, that's not right. I meant "immodesty."

Bears sport Moose patch / photo by Winnipeg Free PressGary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote today about how the Hershey Bears are flaunting their recent championship victories over the Manitoba Moose and Texas Stars with patches on their jerseys, reminiscent of notches on a bedpost.

Warning: The rest of this post features opinions you may or may not agree with. Proceed cautiously.

In his article, Lawless thrashes the arrogance of an organization that — despite a rich and classy hockey history — would resort to such childish behavior. I can understand why he'd see it that way. I'm kind of appalled, myself, to be honest.

On the other hand, who says teams have to be gracious in victory? Being classy is overrated. A hockey championship is a long, hard-fought physical/emotional/mental battle. That's just how it is. It's not easy, to say the least. Why should you keep your excitement to yourself when you do win? And on the other side of the coin, who says losing teams have to keep their chins up?

You have bad losers — like the Pittsburgh Penguins refusing to shake hands with the Washington Capitals after their Winter Classic defeat. And you have bad winners — like Penguins fans, who chanted Steven Stamkos' name after an embarrassing fall during a penalty shot amidst an 8-1 Pens victory. Was that necessary? No, but there's nothing wrong with not being classy. This is a sport played by grown men. It's not a debutante ball.

But I seem to have gotten a little off track. I'm not saying it's a classy move for the Bears to brag about their championships by wearing the logos of their victims. I'm just saying it doesn't matter if it's classy. The only thing getting hurt by a patch is feelings. Time to be an adult.

Still... there's a certain level of pettiness that goes with this kind of bravado. If you're going to take the low road, be prepared for the steep drop in respect that follows. And that's what this story is really about. It's hard to have respect for a team that doesn't know how to win well.

That's where I stand. I have no problem with what the Bears are doing, but I certainly wouldn't do it. I'm curious to see how the rest of you feel. Is being classy important to hockey? Do you feel that it in some ways separates our sport from others? Or should we all just get a thicker skin?