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THN.com Blog: Hockey shouldn’t be used as a political backdrop

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the Flyers 'Hockey Mom' contest winner Kathy O'Connell drop the ceremonial first puck with Mike Richards of the Flyers and Scott Gomez of the  Rangers on Saturday night. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the Flyers 'Hockey Mom' contest winner Kathy O'Connell drop the ceremonial first puck with Mike Richards of the Flyers and Scott Gomez of the Rangers on Saturday night. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider makes it very difficult to root for his team. And I’m the guy who picked them to win the Eastern Conference this season.

Listen, I don’t give a tinker’s damn if he supports Sarah Palin on his own time. Stars owner Tom Hicks did just that, and that’s well within his rights. But for Snider to foist his views on his fan base the way he did Saturday night, to openly bang the drum of politicians while they’re still running for office, to associate the NHL with one particular ideology, is beyond nauseating and will go down in history as a black mark on his ownership for the rest of time.

Even as a business decision, it makes no sense. Does Snider and the NHL wish to completely alienate the millions of people who think the current Republican ticket is an affront to the intelligence level of women and voters? And what about his and the league’s employees who aren’t for creationism in schools or endless war or the erosion of the constitution or forcing rape victims to pay for their rape kits?

Hey, I know we shouldn’t be talking politics in this space. But Snider left himself open to this kind of criticism the moment he connived to use his customers as a backdrop for his own ambitions. Did he honestly think this stunt would generate a geyser of only positive publicity? Why, that’s nearly as naïve a notion as somebody who thinks a nation that occupies another nation based on cherry-picked, false information would be greeted as liberators.

And yes, I would say this if Barack Obama were invited to show up at another NHL team’s function prior to the election. I wouldn’t be as disgusted, mind you, but I’d still argue the principle is the same; allowing the greatest game there is to be co-opted in the name of boosting someone’s political power is almost as great an injustice as any gambling scandal or ugly episode of excessive on-ice violence.

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Moreover, it’s another element of the cutesy-fication of politicians that has lowered public debate in North America to the equivalent of the phony speech portion of beauty pageants. As the old bromide goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and all Snider did was unnecessarily polarize the experience of all fans who showed up at the Wachovia Center with the sole intent of watching good hockey.

So shame on Snider – and on the NHL for not stepping in and stopping him from denigrating and diminishing the sport as he’s done here. And my eternal thanks to all Flyers fans who booed Palin (and, I’d like to think, the guy who invited her) for their enthusiasm and volume Saturday night.

If ever a moment called for a public rebuking, this was it. The head Broad Street bully and the broad who seems to be a bully richly deserved every raspberry.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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