Visit to a hockey game
Apr 23, 2008 | 773 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hockey is a bizarre sport. Here’s proof. I went with a group of school teachers to watch a hockey game at the E Center in West Valley City the other night. Maybe that was my problem, going with school teachers. (Just kidding… put the eraser back down all you school teachers out there).

Some observations: First, let me say that hockey is electrifying to watch. I find it fascinating: powerful, athletic, amazingly agile skating, with large players starting and stopping on a

dime, sending shavings of ice radiantly flying, coupled with a kind of brutality that makes you sit up and take notice like ice down your back.

Most of the time, players seem mostly interested in knocking opponents up against the wall, with the intended recipients equally interesting in remarkably dodging the “checking”, as they call it in hockeydom.

The best skaters of all are the officials, who seem to enjoy it when play occasionally stops for a face off. They flit around the rink, in and out of the players, seemingly without a care in the world. It actually looks fun.

But the peculiar happenings began in the parking lot. Thousands of people were filing into the building, lining up to buy tickets, without ever seeming to enter the stands. I don’t know where they all went, but they weren’t in the arena once the game started as far as I could tell.

Secondly, I can’t understand some of the rules of hockey. One that is enforced constantly is icing. Now I’ve been known to go deep on icing, especially when some chocolate cake is under it, but icing in hockey makes no sense. It has something to do with sending the puck down to the other end.

Sometimes icing would be called and other times it wouldn’t. I can’t figure out when or why? I figure the refs call it when they are a little winded or peeved at the player for sending the puck clear to the other end, making the ref chase it.

The refs did a lot of house cleaning, by the way. Hockey players must be nightmares in classrooms or homes when they are kids.

They never pick up after themselves.

Whenever a player’s stick is broken, he lets it sit on the ice, untouched until play stops. Then, a little pompously, he skates over to the bench and gets a new stick. The poor ref, like some overworked mom with eight children, has to go get the stick and return it to the bench, all the while flittin’ and flyin’ through the players with a blissful smile on his face.

Let that be a lesson to you moms and school teachers out there. The refs were especially adept at dodging careening players and screaming pucks, both obviously harboring murderous intentions.

I wonder, by the way, what kind of a word “puck” is anyway? Being a school teacher, I looked it up in my pocket dictionary. It’s a “mischievous or rascally sprite”. There’s a school connection again.

Another bizarreness is the substitution patterns. In hockey, substituting is done without stopping play. I could never understand the signaling, timing or rationale. I couldn’t see the coach gesture or hear him say anything.

Just every minute or so, one to five players leap over the boards from the bench and the same number of players skate off the ice. Some nicely use the little door that someone always politely opens, while others simply jump over the boards. Substitution is non-stop. The first ones came only a minute into the game.

Then there’s the penalty box. When a foul is committed, like high sticking or tripping or spitting or stealing someone’s pencil, offenders are sent to the penalty box.

And get this; the team can’t replace them! They have to play one player short. “Power Play” the announcer says when the home team has the most players, like some blue light special at K Mart.

Basketball ought to try that, or football. Amazingly, however, they reward those guys for their penalties! There are refreshments in the penalty boxes, water bottles, nice soft chairs instead of the benches the rest of the team sit on and of course, that ubiquitous door opener/closer. They at least should make them open and close their own door, shouldn’t they?

Shouldn’t they?

I can’t figure this out either. There are two halftimes and three 20-minute periods! Is that mathematically, or even grammatically possible?

I wondered about the sanity of a 65ish year old gray haired lady who was honored at one of the halftimes as the season ticket holder of the year!? Two periods would have been plenty, let alone a whole season!?. Who are these people, these hockey fans?

The exciting thing about halftime is watching the Zamboni smooth up the ice. It would be fun to have one of those things, except it reminds me of a teacher erasing the chalkboard and missing a spot. It bothers you all day.

The wackiest thing of all, though, is The Fight. The players were on the verge of The Fight most of the night, mostly when someone skated too close to the goalie. They must be off limits, like a prom queen or something.

If an opposing player got too close to the goalie, the pushing and shoving starts a little, though The Fight didn’t break out until two minutes were left and the game mostly over with the score 2-0.

The Fight is clearly what the crowd is there for. It was never noiser than during The Fight, except for once when the ref couldn’t dodge a careener and was duly deposited on his duff.

During The Fight, helmets come off, sticks drop, and gloves come flying onto the ice. The players conveniently pair off and take turns blindly and wildly swinging at each other’s sweaty heads or try to pull the opponent’s shoulder pads up over his head like some shoulder pad-wedgie, all mostly inconsequential, while the refs back off, fold arms, have a hotdog, and give running commentaries on the bag-like punching.

Then amazingly, after The Fight, who has to clean up? The mom/ref. The refs pick up every glove, stick, helmet, eraser, and pencil, while the offenders parade to the penalty box like a class clown who gets sent to the principal.

They tried to start another fight a minute later but the mom/refs wouldn’t hear of it. There’s only one The Fight a night.
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