One way or another, Chris Davis is probably doomed. He attends Cincinnati Cyclones games in a hockey jersey bearing the number 666. Upon each shoulder is sewn a patch, depicting the devil. The name on the back reads: Heckler From Hell.
If Davis is not destined for eternal damnation, he has surely set himself up for a fall. When a man advertises himself as the Heckler From Hell, he has a lot to live down to. He can not permit passivity to creep into his game. He must always be able to find fresh invective. His forked tongue can not tire. He has a reputation to uphold.
''If I don't heckle, I get heckled,'' Davis said Saturday. ''The fans say I'm not doing my job. I feel like I am a part of the team.''
Davis, a 30-year old salesman for Century Motors in Loveland, has been a Satanic staple at Cincinnati Gardens since he bought season tickets for the Cyclones' 1991-92 season. He chose seats directly behind the opponents' bench, and moved across the ice when the visitors were relocated. It's not the greatest view, unless what you're looking for is trouble.
''I just wanted to get as close as I could to the opponents' bench so I could do a little heckling,'' Davis said. ''Some guys don't listen and some teams don't listen. But as soon as you get their attention, you've got control.''
The Cleveland Lumberjacks were in town Friday night, which allowed Davis access to his favorite foil, former Cyclone Rick Hayward. Between shifts Friday, Davis announced that he had received a ''Tickle Me Hayward'' doll for Christmas. This cracked up the Cleveland bench, Hayward excluded.
''He came after me after one game,'' Davis said. ''I was talking with some friends and he came around a corner of the rink and he had a stick in his hand and he started getting on me. I said, 'What's wrong? Can't you handle a little heckling?' Then he started calling me these names and wanted to put the stick in a place I didn't agree with.
''Certain guys around the league have certain things that get to them. That's what I'll get-after. With (Detroit coach) Rick Dudley, I used to call him a crybaby and he'd start throwing things.''
Some players have flipped pucks in Davis' direction, and several have used their water bottles to hose him down. When Davis was slow getting back to his seat for the start of Friday's third period, neighboring spectators told him Cleveland center Jock Callander had been looking for him.
Each of these episodes represents a personal triumph for a heckler. If a player is preoccupied with a spectator, his head can not be completely in the game. On such small distractions are home-ice advantages built.
''Whenever a guy's heckling, you try not to give him the satisfaction of acknowledging him,'' said Cyclones left wing Mike Stevens, acquired last week from Manitoba. ''But he (Davis) has got a lot of guys riled up. ... I've heard a lot of players say, 'Geez these fans are crazy around here.'''
Periodically, Davis pays a price for his provocation. He has been ejected from the Gardens for verbal abuse, though he is careful not to use profanity or touch the plexiglass that separates the crowd from the combatants.
Like any bold performer, Davis will sometimes push the envelope of etiquette. When he settled on the Heckler From Hell concept, he wasn't sure how far he could take it.
''When I went down to Koch's Sporting Goods and got the number, I thought they weren't going to do it at first,'' he said. ''I told them to just put down (the number) '00.' The guy said, 'I thought you wanted 666?'''
Instead of the letter ''C'' that designates a hockey team's captain, or the ''A'' that identifies his alternate, Chris Davis asked that his jersey carry a ''B'' above the Cyclones logo.
It stands for Beelzebub.