Until three weeks ago, I had never been to a hockey game. In fact, besides back in 1980 when the USA defeated the Soviets, I had never watched one at all.
Always anxious for an excuse to take pictures, I snatched up two free tickets to the Allen Americans, a fairly new Dallas Stars farm team. The wife quickly cleared a guys’ night out and I frantically dialed up a couple of local friends. One of them is an avid hockey fan and even has his own skates and stick. Both of them are fellow shutterbugs.
(click any pic to enlarge)
Sadly, nobody’s schedule allowed a night out on such short notice.
Between calls, I e-mailed my Canadian buddy and bigtime hockey fan (G’Oilers!) Simon to give me a few tips for a first-timer. He did that and more, and I was all set.
Only after I had wandered into the arena alone did I think to give away my other ticket. Oops.
I sat six rows up from the ice, near the corner — in football terms, about the 20-yard line. Maybe the 10.
Surprisingly warm, I shed my coat and took in the newness of it all. Besides the actual game, there was nothing new. The coupon-dropping miniature blimps I had seen at the National Junior College Basketball Tournament, and the supersized screen showing random surprised fans could be seen anywhere.
The game play was fast, and I had a very hard time keeping up with the puck for my pictures. By the time I aimed my camera at players slamming into the Plexiglass wall right in front of me, they were somewhere else on the ice. Usually when I’m not having luck with action shots at a sports event, I turn my lens to the spectators.
At the first intermission, the Zambonis came out. The marvelous machines drove over scuffed and scraped ice and left behind what looked like smooth, wet glass. I fixated on it despite having seen it just a few months prior at a birthday party for a friend of Benjamin.
For something completely different, there was a guy ramming a screwdriver into one of the holes used to secure the net to the ice. Occasionally he sprayed something into the icehole, and then drew the liquid out with a syringe and squirted it into a bucket.
That, I had never seen anywhere.
The second intermission offered another first. Without warning, red foam pucks started flying from the crowd down to the ice. I had no guess as to what was happening until a tiny dot of light appeared on the ice.
The fans who got their pucks the closest to the lighted dot won prizes. And there I sat, alone and puckless.
A minute or so into the third period, it was 9:20. I wanted to spend at least a little time with my wife, but figured that if there was another 18-minute intermission and another period after that, there was no way.
I’m sure some of you are adding all that up and thinking, “Wait a minute…” And you would be right. Not knowing, however, that there were only three periods in a hockey game, I grabbed my coat and left for home.
Although I picked up a few things by eavesdropping on a dad explaining the action to his son, and subsequently informed him when he had dropped his bag of peanuts, the solitary nature of my attendance left me feeling empty.
If free tickets come along again, I will go. This time, I will plan to take my son.