I went to my first hockey game the other day. I’m not exactly sure why we are playing this Canadian sport here in the South, but it seems to have caught on. We even have our own pro team here in Nashville called the Predators. They play in the arena called the Gaylord Center. Their logo is a funny looking cat with Dracula-like fangs. It is supposed to be a saber tooth tiger, I guess.
Anyhow, the Preds played pretty well, or the Penguins played pretty badly, cause the Preds smeared ‘em 5-0. According to my friend, who understands the game and sprung for the tickets, it was because the Penguins did not have their regular goalie. Sounds like a rationalization to me, but no sense rubbing in a loss.
At first I half expected the players to go into a Double Axel or a Triple Salchow, but it never happened. They sat on the ice and stretched their legs then skated around hitting the puck with their sticks. They seemed to be having a lot more fun down there on the ice than I was having so high up in the stands I was dizzy from the thin air.
The thing I really liked was that I could actually see the puck. On TV I never can. I really can’t understand what my friend sees in the game, but then he is a man and men like all sorts of dumb things, like football, for example.
Hockey is a little bit like football and a little bit like basketball, and a whole lot like soccer – except different. I learned to passionately hate hockey in a northern high school where I was forced to play field hockey in girls’ physical education. We ran up and down that stupid field, freezing to death in our blue bloomer gym suits and ugly shin guards, with our hair flying, noses running, and hockey sticks dragging.
Exercise was supposed to be good for us. Also, the school board sprung to buy that expensive equipment and, by golly, it was gonna be used. But that was in the “bad old days.” Ice hockey, of course, is much faster, which makes it a different sport entirely.
They seemed to do a lot of banging into each other on skates, pushing, shoving, elbowing and generally rough-housing. This sometimes resulted in the players forgetting about the game and just resorting to fist fights. The referees seemed to generally just let ‘em slug it out and then send them both to the penalty box to cool down, like kids in time out.
The audience liked the fights better than the game. Sometimes minor shoving incidents turned into fights and more serious pushing matches went unnoticed. There was not a lot of logic as to what was worth fighting over. My friend says it depends on the players, some are fighters and some are not and sometimes fights can just result from previous grudges.
Anyhow, I munched popcorn and watched the overhead screen, which reminded us to cheer, stomp, or whatever was deemed appropriate for the occasion. Like all pro sports nowadays, the game itself is not considered entertaining enough to amuse the audience for long.
The main focus was the big overhead screen, which also shot pictures of fans being fans. The fans liked to ham it up for the camera as soon as they saw their mugs on the screen. I could not figure out where all those yokels were that were kissing and waving to the folks in the audience and began to suspect they were pre-recorded, at least in part.
Some people really got into it. They had season tickets and knew all the other season ticket holders. They screamed for every goal and cheered like it really mattered who won. Guess that is what it was all about, feeling like they are a part of something and having the catharsis of cheering and yelling.
I did manage to pass by the T-shirts without buying one, but I did not turn down the free promotional posters that were being passed out. Who knows, in the unlikely event that I ever do actually become a hockey fan, it might just come in handy.