Hockey Fan Takes Antiwar Protest to Arena

By O'Neill, Patrick | National Catholic Reporter, June 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Hockey Fan Takes Antiwar Protest to Arena


O'Neill, Patrick, National Catholic Reporter


Mixing politics and hockey may seem unusual, but the combination has worked just fine for criminal defense attorney and author Alex Charns and his family.

Charns, 50, a civil rights lawyer who represents two North Carolina death row inmates, used the Carolina Hurricanes run to the Stanley Cup finals as a way to promote his love of hockey and his opposition to the Iraq war. A: Catholic who worships at the Franciscan Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, Charns and his wife, Tucker, and the couple's two children, Willo-Jane and Leo, have started a hockey antiwar movement in the South by bringing antiwar placards to Carolina Hurricanes games at Raleigh's RBC Center.

While most Hurricanes fans, known as Caniacs, yelled for victory over the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup finals, Charns gained international fame for his signs, "Make Hockey Not War, Be More Like Canada," and "More Hockey, Less War."

Charns also authored How Hockey Saved the World: And Defeated George W. Bush, But Not Necessarily In That Order (iUniverse Inc.), a sports humor book that Charns wrote during last year's National Hockey League strike season.

In the book, Charns builds a conspiracy theory that Bush ordered the 2004 NHL strike to punish hockey-crazed Canada for refusing to back the Iraq war. A recent review in the Durham Herald-Sun said Charns delivers "humor and laughs that recall the work of Mark Twain, Joseph Heller and Ambrose Bierce."

In the book, Charns credits the idea for the in-game protests to his wife. When the family attended a New Year's Eve game between the Hurricanes and the Montreal Canadians, Tucker "repeatedly and very seriously yelled, 'Stop the war! Stop the war! Stop the friggin' war!' "at the conclusion of the national anthem.

"My son stared at his mom," Charns wrote. "My daughter cringed and inched away in her seat. I nervously looked around to discover either no one else had heard her or [they] pretended they didn't hear. No chant rose up from the other fans. Even I was caught by surprise, mildly embarrassed, and didn't join in....

"My wife's banshee scream of 'Stop the war' after the national anthem kept bubbling up in my mind. Guilt, as it so often does, moved me to action."

The Charns family returned to a Hurricanes game to carry out the second antiwar protest at a hockey venue. On Military Appreciation Day, a Sunday matinee game against the St. Louis Blues, Charns and his kids brought along a placard stating, "Bring Our Troops Home."

"We walked from the parking lot to the arena and passed the buses that had brought troops in from Fort Bragg and other local bases for the game," Charns wrote. "On the lawn just outside the entrance to the arena, stood a hulking, black attack helicopter with machine guns at the ready and assorted field artillery cannon. (Apparently, the troops outside were given orders to allow the Canadian team into the building.)... …

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