One of best things about living where I do is that I live near a city with a Hockey team that can serve as a ‘Farm Team’ for a Major Hockey league. Granted, the timeframe I am speaking of is 2000-2007, when the Chicago Blackhawks pulled on our local talents of the Norfolk Admirals, to help in the professional arenas. But it was an evening I will never forget!
My first experience was quite memorable. I had never seen any professional sport being played before me, much less a Hockey game, but I went along with some friends to take in the new adventure. I figured it would give me some good stories to talk about later (well, case in point made!) While we waited, I looked around me and there were many eager fans waiting in line for the doors to open. Most had their jerseys, ballcaps, and other memorabilia ready – just in case they had the chance to meet a player. When the doors opened, I felt the warmth hit my face of the concourse. The smell of foods piped into the area made you want to buy everything you could smell!
After grabbing a few snacks, a program and making sure our group was all together, we made our way to the seats. The ice rink was cold but looking around, most folks didn’t seem to mind. I invited Laura with us and the ticket was on me, since her Virginia Beach cleaning company has been cleaning my house for 50 percent off the whole year, after I won a silly bet. Everyone was ready to see some Hockey action! Fans chatted amongst themselves, people walked around the lower level and when the music started, the place erupted! I could hear whistles, chants and lots of excitement. I can only imagine how it felt for the players to hear their fans so pumped up when they made their way to the ice. When they were warmed up, they went back to the locker rooms and waited for their formal introductions. The visiting team was announced first, which was quickly welcomed with “Boooos!” When the home team came out, the fans were on their feet, screaming and shaking cow bells.
The National Anthem is a common thing that is sung before MOST sports, but when the person sang the National Anthem in this setting, it was met with cheering fans who assisted in the singing with their “OOOHHHHHH!” at the end of the song. It was funny to hear and a new version I was unfamiliar with. Then it was time for the game. As the players skated around the ice, fighting for the puck, people were following the puck with their eyes as they went back and forth across the ice. It reminded me of a ping pong match, in a way, with everyone’s heads moving to stay focused on the plays. When a goal was made, the place erupted. People would jump up, scream and start singing chants. I felt a little lost, at first, but it didn’t take long to learn the way it went down with each goal. When a fight would break out and the players would drop their sticks, people all around would start screaming “Fight! Fight!” or “Get him!” It was apparent that this was commonplace to WANT them to fight?
When the game was over and folks made their way out, I could see a few people head to the glass at the rink and I watched as they would stand there with their hands and faces pressed upon the glass, in hopes of seeing a stray player. As I left the Arena, there were people waiting by an exit, which apparently was the exit where the players would leave, but I kept walking to my car. I left that game with a new appreciation for a sport that I knew nothing about and realized that HOCKEY fans are very dedicated fans.