Notes from a Hockey Game

I know.

When I was seven, I used to drop my hockey stick in a snowdrift, shuffling off on my baby skates to build snow castle for the unicorns while my dad and brothers zoomed around our backyard rink. Slapping a puck around wasn’t my idea of a good time. It still isn’t, but I have to say I’ve changed my story when it comes to watching.

Last night’s playoff game against the Coyotes was FANTASTIC.

Here’s the skinny:

  1. We’re fortunate people. Our seats turned out to be great, close enough to feel the chill from the ice. This is my fourth game, and the Wings have won every time. Sigh.
  2. Detroit could be beautiful down by the water. We parked a couple of blocks away and walked through Hart Plaza and along the river. It could be a really nice urban area. But it isn’t. And never will be? Also SIGH.
  3. Apparently being on the JumboTron is a BIG DEAL. The girls sitting in front of us were dancing and waving signs and generally salivating until they finally got picked up by the camera during a commercial break. One of their signs read I’m missing my niece’s birth… to watch the Wings. “I love who you are,” Carl said to me.
  4. You get funny looks when you read essays about George Orwell’s politics in line for the bathroom. Whatever.
  5. Bad parenting crops up everywhere. During the last period a guy brought his 5 yr old son down to sit in some empty seats next to us… and proceeded to tell his son to stand up/sit down/wave his towel/NOT wave his towel/sing Journey lyrics/tell the team NO MERCY/be quiet/be loud/ETC. The weirdest part was how supportive—nay, crooning—he was toward the team, interspersed with impatient digs at the kid. Dude needs his parenting license revoked.
  6. Also between the wondrous workings of alcohol and the security of being a nameless face in the crowd, people feel weirdly comfortable yelling death threats to the refs. Granted, we got like five penalties in 30 minutes. It was pretty rough. But “rip his face off” or “kill the ref”? Really? Yes. Awesome. Later in the game a foolhardy Coyotes fan dared to cheer for his team, and the whole section stood up to turn inward on him and boo.
  7. I did, however, sort of love the experience of being in a huge crowd and hearing them chant (at ear-ringing volume) the name of the Wings player who eventually dropped his gloves and gave one of the Coyotes a beat down. Hockey fights are fascinating because there are rules, times, and purposes for them. I’m basically opposed to violence (and I HATE boxing), but the fact is a hockey player is less likely to be hurt in a fight than he is playing the dang sport. I’ve seen players get their jaws broken and teeth knocked out during the game, but the worst I’ve seen from a fight is a some ice on the knuckles after hitting an unforgiving helmet. Anyway, about the crowd chanting—I feel much better prepared now should I ever find myself needing to write a Colosseum games scene. Material is a good thing.
  8. Finally, I know this sounds odd, but there’s something almost spiritual about huge arenas and the intensity of playoffs. Not necessarily the sport aspect—but where else in life do you see twenty thousand people in the same small space, totally absorbed in the same thing? At one point the Coyotes had a 5 on 3 advantage for well over a minute, and by the time the Wings escaped without giving up a single goal the whole arena was on its feet, cheering so loud I couldn’t even hear myself cheering, my ears splintering. I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly religious experience, but spiritual yes. There is something about it that makes you strangely aware; there are so many souls present, such a concentration of life. A natural high. An unexpected beauty—despite the drunks, or maybe just as much because of them.

Hard to describe, but fascinating stuff.

And the game was good too…


2 thoughts on “Notes from a Hockey Game

  1. I like that natural high thing too. I like that part of highschool pep rallies and sporting events that are well attended and concerts. There’s a special kind of zing there.

    I would not deal well with the “unkind” feeling parts of the game experience though. Am a wuss or a Pollyanna or something.

    Weird that players are injured more in the game than they are in fights.

  2. I totally agree with Carlie. I love the natural high. I haven’t been to any pep rallies and precious few sporting events, but I’ve been to my share of concerts and ballets, and it’s definitely similar. I would also be a complete wuss about the meanness, and probably even the injuries.

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