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Hockey Night in Canada

Last night, we went to our first NHL hockey match, Edmonton Oilers vs the Minnesota Wild. Being adventurous sorts, we wanted to experience hockey in Canada first-hand, and it was certainly something!

First off, let me just say that the Oilers (the home team) *suck* right now. They suck horribly. They're at the bottom of their league/division/whatever right now, and after last night's performance, I can totally understand why - even without any working knowledge of hockey. (I have a joke that you can tell how well the home team is doing by how many flags people have on their cars; when the Oilers went to the Stanley Cup a few years ago, we saw as many as 7 flags on 1 car. I have seen nary a flag this year.) No communication, very sloppy puck handling... If I notice it, it must be very bad indeed.

That said: the hockey coliseum was PACKED. It was not quite sold-out, but there were not that many open seats anywhere in the arena. People turn out for hockey; from whole kids' clubs to little old grannies who have probably been watching since God was a child.

We shelled out for center ice tickets, simply because if we're going to go for the experience, let's have an experience. And my GOD - I was slightly terrified of how close those maniacs were to me. When they body-checked against the plexiglass directly in front of me, I could feel concussive waves. We did have the penalty box in front of us, though, so there was a little buffer between the testosterone-laden ice-violence and me. One puck did go flying over our heads to be caught just 3 rows back. I learned that you must be of hearty stock to sit so close to the ice.

The fans around us were obviously hard-core and criticized each player's performance individually, making comments about, "Well, yeah, put in the rookie, he knows what he's doing," or "You haven't made a goal all season", and the like. I take it one cannot be a casual hockey fan, at least around here. I was also surprised at the level of snark aimed at their own players! Very little was said about the opposition; all the sarcasm was saved up for their own. Somehow, that seems very Canadian.

Hockey, I have surmised, is a game of disappointment. Out of 25 or so goal attempts - some of them simply millimeters from a score - only 1 actually made it past the goalie. And that doesn't seem unusual (well, perhaps not 1:25, but a high attempt to goal ratio seems to be acceptable). There was the sound of the crowd as the attempt was made - building, building... then that sad, trailing, "ohh" sound as the puck was batted finally away. This was repeated over and over.

The loudest cheer of the night was, of course, for the 1 goal that was made, and you'd think it was the winning shot from the way the fans were celebrating, rather than a pity score after being 4 - 0 for 3 periods. The second loudest cheer? For the fight that broke out on the ice that resulted in 2 players being ejected from the game. The crowd went electric. They had been waiting all night for that moment, and were not going to be disappointed. To my unpracticed eyes, though, it just looked like two men hugging - until one decided to start weakly punching the other in the head. There must be some nuance there I simply did not catch.

I would definitely go again, just for the crowd and the fights, but perhaps we'd sit further up from the ice.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
karimariw
Jan. 21st, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
We took my sister and her family to an Oilers/Flames game when they visited a few years back (my bro-in-law is a HUGE hockey fan). Our collective kids at the time were 2, 3, and 4. A group of young 20-something male Calgary fans were in front of us; they got fairly rowdy, but never crossed my "mom line of appropriate behavior at a sporting event".
Edmonton won.
When the game was over they stood up and turned around and saw all our kids. I held my breath when one of them started talking to my niece: He smiled, held out his hand, and said with great seriousness: "Congratulations. You have an excellent team."
The juxtaposition of things like that on top of the awesome fights is contributing to my slow but steadily increasing appreciation of hockey.
Glad you had fun!!
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