Mississippi Riverkings vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers: Pink In The Rink

This weekend, the Riverkings held their Pink in the Rink game, to support breast cancer awareness and donate to local cancer charities.  They wore pink jerseys that were auctioned off at the end of the game, with proceeds going to charity, and held a raffle to shave player’s heads.  More on that in a bit.

This was a return to the scene of the crime.  The Riverkings faced off against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, who the Riverkings beat 6-2 last week in Mississippi, and 3-1 in Pensacola the night before this game.  The Ice Flyers were 0-6-1 in their last seven coming into the game, and this was the ninth of ten meeting between these teams.  Needless to say, Pensacola wanted this one.

I’ve been to a few pink jersey games.  I even own a pink jersey.  These are the pinkest jerseys I have ever seen.  Ever.

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Wow.  Seriously pink.  I had a moment of cognitive dissonance, simultaneously wanting one of these and never wanting to wear one.  They are quite something.

The fans brought out their pink jerseys from previous games.   As with any photo, click it to get a better look.

But we came for a game, so let’s get to it.  Action!

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Yes, that’s Flemming, from the 6-2 loss last week.  He faired better this time, but he faced a “measly” 26 shots compared to 50 last game.

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Sometimes this is what they mean by paying the price in front of the net.  Just staying there can be a challenge.

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That’s a goal.

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We head to intermission, which featured a youth hockey shootout.  Love this stuff.

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The fans love it too.

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The first intermission also featured a wedding proposal.  Unlike the AHL All Star game I went to in 2005, she said yes.

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Back to the game.

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Bodies everywhere!

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And a fight.

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This eventually went it.

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At the second intermission, the Riverkings led 2-1.  The coach for Pensacola didn’t agree with a face off location and wanted to discuss it with the refs.  He didn’t care for what he heard.

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Second intermission featured a diamond giveaway, which this guy won.

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Third period action!  That’s a goal, and the Ice Pilots tie it up 2-2.

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The Riverkings would get it back shortly, and pull ahead 3-2 with plenty of hockey to play.

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Daniel Sobotka of the Riverkings is listed as 6-6.  He is the tallest guy on the ice.  Remarkably so.

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This didn’t go in.

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The final, the Riverkings beat the Pensacola Ice Pilots for the third time in a row, 3-1.  A more evenly matched affair, Pensacola turned up the effort in the end, but could not get one past the ‘Kings.

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BUT WE ARE NOT DONE!  We still have a jersey auction and a post-game skate.

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Here’s how the Riverkings run their jersey auction.  The bidding would start and the highest bid would win a jersey.  That winner would get their pick of jersey, then the bidding would start again.  The next high bidder got to choose from what was left.  I thought this was a cool way of doing it, so you could pay a little more to get the jersey you wanted, rather than wait for a player’s name to come up and a bitter bidding way to start.  It kept the pace of the auction moving along as well, unlike San Antonio where it took a long time to get though.  If I remember correctly, highest bid was around $700 and lowest was around $250.  The auctioneer wasn’t well prepared and had to be coached along as to what was going on, but once he got on board, things picked up nicely.

While that was happening, there was a skate with the players going on.

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Every so often, they would come off the ice to give up their jersey to the auction.

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If you are a pure NHL fan, I hope this illustrates how close the fans are to the players, both in terms of proximity and of connection.  There are a lot of good reasons this sort of thing doesn’t happen with players earning millions of dollars.  There are many more good reasons it happens at this level.

The players take time to skate with the younger fans.

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Then it was head shaving time.

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Not all the players were so “lucky.”

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And that does it from Mississippi.  One more Riverkings game to go.  Looking forward to it.

Mississippi Riverkings vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers: What Is That Thing?

Sometimes, a game is simply a game.  There isn’t a lot of depth or wackiness to the thing.  You go, you have a good time, you see a hockey game.  Not every game is a transcending experience.  They don’t all have something you have never seen before, or something so remarkable that it requires some long exposition.

This is one of those games.

Rather then make it out to be something it isn’t, let’s simply enjoy the experience of a fun hockey game together.  This coming weekend is the Pink in the Rink game, and I will have more pictures from that.

Welcome to the Landers Center.

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For all the talk I do about cookie cutter arenas, the Landers Center is not that, at least, not on the outside.  It looks like it tries to honor some of the southern Antebellum architecture style (yes, I had to look it up).  There are even some highlights of that in the concourses.

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It looks completely cosmetic, but it’s great to see a building try to be somewhat modern while being stylish as well.

Let’s head inside.

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This was taken at the second intermission, so no snarking on the crowd.  The crowd was great.  They had more life than I’ve seen at some NHL games.  They love their Riverkings.

We got to the game a little late, due to some work scheduling issues (not mine, as I don’t have a job (but if you have one for me, that contact page is here)), so we missed a few goals, and the Riverkings led the game 2-1.  Right after we sat down, the Riverkings made things interesting my maybe scoring.  At least that’s what the goal judge thought.  Not so much the ref.  In the minor leagues, they don’t have the sort of setup as they have in the NHL.  There is no War Room to call, and the ref’s decision is the final say.  That said, a call was made.  To the goal judge, to see what they saw.

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I admit, I had never seen this before.  There was no goal, so play moved on.

Action!
(click any picture to make it bigger)

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Yes, the lighting in the corners does leave a little to be desired.

There are a few photos and sequences I have here that I call, “what is going on there?”  Such as the legs of the player to the left.

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Or what is the goalie doing here?

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I guess that works.  Here is the goalie making a save and batting the puck away.

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The mascot for the Riverkings is a turtle.  Here is the turtle mascot scaring a kid.

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I’m with you kid, I’m with you.

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This goalie looks almost too perfect for a goalie.  He looks like a drawing or a graphic of a goalie you would use on something that you wanted to convey, “this is what a hockey goalie looks like.”  If you made a silhouette of this guy, he would be the perfect hockey goalie clipart.

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Let’s head to the pro shop to get our puck.  And some… hockey socks?

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Yep, those are hockey socks, and I guess they are for sale.  They look new and unused, maybe overstock from previous games. I like it.

Here is the pink jersey they will wear for their game this weekend.

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That could be the most pink jersey I have ever seen.  Wow.

It was military appreciation night, so there were charities set up in the concourse.  The support dogs were the hit of the night.

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Here are a few Riverkings alternate jerseys for you.

Wait, is that last guy on the wrong side of the glass, or am I?  I am, and I will get to that in a moment.

Back to the action!

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Go Kings Go.

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A few nice goalie sequences.

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And on the other end…

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And back…

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And one more time…

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And that ends the second.  Let’s see what the booster club has.

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You don’t see this often at minor league games, an all you can eat option.

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That includes beer.  If this were an NHL game with NHL prices, you would jump at that price.  Here, it’s a little more friendly to your budget (but not that much more), so if you are hungry, it makes total sense.

Back to the third period!

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Backup goalies.

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The final, YOUR Riverkings 6, the Ice Flyers 2.  Shots on goal were 50-29 favoring the Riverkings.

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But we aren’t done yet.  We get to do a post game skate.

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They actually have a pretty good setup for a post game skate.  This is why I was on the ice side of the glass for that autism jersey above.

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The bench.

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Banners.

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And that does it from the Landers Center.  Yes, it was JUST a hockey game.  But just a hockey game is still a hockey game, and I love a hockey game.  I had a good time, and I’m looking forward to doing it again this weekend.  It’s going to be hard to bring you much that is new from the game on Saturday, other than a lot of pinkness, but I will do my best.

Until then, happy hockey.

Wysh and a Prayer: Clever Headline, eh?

Last night, flipping between hockey games in my current hovel in Memphis, TN, I saw this tweet come across my twitter feed.

And my immediate thought was this: You better tell him who the hell you are.

Greg Wyshynski has been the editor of Puck Daddy for Yahoo! Sports for years, leaving AOL Fanhouse to start the site.  If you are reading this blog, you probably know who he is.  He’s orbited some blogging controversies lately, like the removal of Harrison Mooney from the blog.  He’s criticized often, sometimes pretty rudely.  His mentions on twitter usually feature the words “idiot.”  He takes a lot of crap.

He is also a friend.  Well, friend might be a strong word.  We have walked in the same circles for years, but I don’t call him up to chat and visa versa.  I really like Greg, I have hung out with him, seen a Washington Capitols game with him, and if I’m around, he tries to make time for me.  Better than acquaintances, but not quite call you up friends.  I don’t know what you call that.  Stephen King says in his book On Writing that you should think of an ideal reader and write to impress them.  When I was writing regularly on this site, I had two: Eric McErlain and Greg Wyshynski. If something I wrote was enjoyed by both, I had the perfect post.  I have a ton of respect for both those guys.  Love them to death.

My problem with Greg (or more accurately, my issue with what Greg does on his blog) has been what I considered an unnecessary meanness to the tone of Puck Daddy.  I didn’t like some of the directions the humor on PD went, and some of the choices in posts were maddening (the one with the kid picking his nose at a game was one of the worst).  Mind you, some of those posts are not ones Greg created, but he sets the tone of the site.

Some of it has come from Greg.  I took an exception to one of his jokes in a post a while back and said something about it (it was a throwaway fat joke).  I said something about it, Greg and I had a few (respectful) tweets back and forth about it, and that was it.  After that, I noticed a slight shift in tone in PD.  I don’t know if I had anything to do with that (I kind of doubt it) or if it’s simply a perception on my part, but I haven’t seen the kind of cruelty I used to see in their pages.

Back to the moment at hand, Greg and NHL Ref Tim Peel.  Peel has been an object of scorn for a long time on Puck Daddy.  He receives quite the thrashing on the site, and if something about Peel comes up, I tend to skip it.  I know the gag.  After a while, it’s wash, rinse, repeat.  It’s the same with a few of the recurring columns over there.  Nothing to see, move along.

Wysh and Peel in a bar.  It sounds like the setup to a gag, but no, they were meeting to have drinks and finally get some face time with each other. Greg wrote about it:

NHL referee Tim Peel and I are at Foley’s pub in New York, which is the only logical place for a hockey summit. He’s between games, having officiated in Washington the night before and headed over to New Jersey on Friday night. He’s affable, engaging, the kind of guy who gives you a tap on the knee before hitting a punchline in that “you’re going to want to hear this one” way.

And he’s sitting across from a guy who’s ridden his ass like a jockey for the last two years.

If you are in to verbal bloodsports, this is where you lick your chops and sit on the edge of your seat.  Here comes the smack down.

Anyway, here’s Peel, beer in hand, explaining that for all the derision, all the criticism, there was one thing that really hurt.

It was when he was named to officiate the Sochi Olympics hockey tournament in Dec. 2013, and our response was to publish a laundry list of his mistakes in the NHL. But it wasn’t so much that as the headline that got to him: “Tim Peel is an Olympic referee; what’s Russian for ‘blown call’?”

It was at that point, he tells me, when he realized that there was this permanent stigma attached to his name; that when his two young children are old enough, that they’ll search out their dad on the Internet and this is what they’ll find.

Yeah, that.  No smacking around, no sparing, just two people talking about the one connection they seem to have, the critic and the subject.

Whenever I think about PD, I have to remember that it was started in the era of the “snarky hockey blog.”  Sites were springing up left and right with a new model of success: we are snarkier than the last guy.  For a while, it works.  Heck, maybe it still does work.  Some of those sites are still around.  Some are doing really well.  Some simply burned out and faded away.  It’s a race to the bottom.  The problem with a race to the bottom is you might just win (h/t to Seth Godin for that).

Many of them deal in what I like to call “artless snark.”  Doesn’t need much explanation, does it?  Maybe a better way of putting it is the mean and cruel joke.  The throwaway.  It isn’t really snark, it’s just an excuse for a cheap shot.  And PD has peddled in those wares plenty of times.

So what next?  From the post on PD:

I couldn’t quite tell if he ultimately found our coverage amusing. I got the sense this meeting was so I could put a face to the name and he could do the same. That it was an informal request for fairness in criticizing him, and maybe not to be so abjectly nasty about it.

The former, frankly, I think we’ve done for years. Tim Peel can be a bad referee. His mistakes aren’t just goofs, they’re glaring, embarrassing moments. There’s a reason fans know his name, and it’s not because we write blog posts about him. It’s because he makes questionable calls, be it because he’s serving the League’s best interests or because he just didn’t get it right. If there’s any caveat I’d offer here, it’s that he’s not the only NHL referee to make these calls, although you’d think it based on fan reception.

That said … yeah, we could be nicer. Admittedly. He’s a good guy. He’s trying. Maybe we drop the banana peels at the very least. Because ultimately the goal is to criticize his performance, not crush his soul.

Nicer is a good start.  Even better would be dropping the meanness.  Or at the very least, make better jokes.  Evolve from the standard gag.  If you can’t make a new and better joke, maybe you shouldn’t make one in the first place.  Running gags are great, but has the gag worn thin?  It’s worth asking.

We like to think that the hockey players, refs, executives or anyone we write about shouldn’t care about what we say, and if they do, that’s their problem.  Free country, free speech, blah blah blah  (if the best defense you have for what you say is free speech, upgrade what you say).  But we know that isn’t the case, ala Phil Kessel for example.

I know I couldn’t take it.  I’ve shut off comments on the blog, taken social media hiatuses, and even thrown friends to the lions because I tend to be too thin-skinned around that kind if derision.

PD has gone away from criticism plenty of times.  While he says “ultimately the goal is to criticize his performance, not crush his soul,” Greg possesses the self-awareness to know this hasn’t entirely been the case.  He has defends his work enough to know where he strikes a chord and where he doesn’t.  He has also made editorial decisions to remove some of the bad choices and address them head on with the readership (case in point, the nose picking post mentioned above).

My hope is that PD moves away more from the cheap shot and mean streak the blog has been infused with for so long.  I believe Greg and his group are capable of better.  Not everything he does has to be a perfect journalistic output or a crusade for social justice.  But I would love to see the tone of the blog even out a bit.

Good for Greg for meeting with Tim Peel.  He said some things that were pretty mean about Peel, and he faced him.  It can be uncomfortable to do, but I believe when you write something about someone, you take your licks.  I did the same with Adrian Dater, and Greg did it here.  It is a surprisingly liberating thing to do.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens the next time Peel makes a mistake.  I’ll certainly read that article.

Kessel and the Lack of Kindness in Hockey Coverage

Did you see Phil Kessel lash out at a reporter yesterday after Randy Carlyle was fired from the Leafs?  The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk asked Kessel if he was uncoachable.  It’s a pretty rough question to ask.  Kessel, obviously miffed, answers, which takes some courage and anger management skills.  Then Feschuk presses and asks again, which is where things go awry.

It reminded me of something I saw in the Edmonton Sun after Viktor Fasth was pulled from a game and yelled at the Oilers bench:

There was a scene in the Oilers dressing room as the media headed to the goaltenders corner.

“What was your mindset when you can off the ice?” came the first question from Mark Spector of Sportsnet.

“I gave up three goals,” said Fasth. “It’s not good enough.”

Your correspondent then asked him what he screamed at the players on the bench.

“Is that really the story, you guys are looking for?” said The Professor (apparently of journalism), Ben Scrivens, sitting beside him.

“Yes,” your agent replied.

“Stay out of our scrum. That’s the story we’re looking for. We’ll ask the questions here,” said Spector.

To me, that’s crazy.  This is how you talk to people you cover?  This is how it works in a locker room?  It’s amazing players keep their cool at all.

Let’s go back to Kessel for a moment.  He is the poster child for what is wrong with the Leafs, fair or not.  He is the guy who was traded for by a previous regime to a team that made the most of that trade.  And it’s the Leafs, which means that the media coverage, and therefor the beatings in the press, are constant.  Warranted or not, that is the hot seat he sits in.

Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy had some background on Dave Feschuk’s history with writing about Kessel (sorry for the lengthy quote, but I think it’s needed here):

This isn’t just some random reporter asked Phil Kessel, essentially, if he killed his second coach in Toronto. This is a guy who has written in the last two years that:

- The Leafs should trade Kessel while his value is high. Also, David Clarkson had “a Bruins-worthy heaviness and has scored 30 goals in a season.”

- The Leafs might not be able to win with Kessel; or as he wrote, “Can the Leafs win anything of significance if their pudgy designated goal scorer happily sports multiple chins in a league dominated by gluten-free, goji-berry-favouring fitness nuts? Can the Leafs win if their best player, the fastest skater on the team when there’s a goal in his sights, becomes a slow-as-anything laggard when coach Randy Carlyle asks for extra effort near the not-so-merciful conclusion of a long practice?”

- Having exhausted his “the Leafs lose because Phil Kessel is fat” ammo, Feschuk used an anecdote told by assistant coach Steve Spott as a coaches’ clinic to paint Kessel as an un-coachable prima donna.

That’s a lot of pushing from one guy towards one target.  Is anyone shocked that Kessel would push back?  Does anyone think Kessel has no right to push back?

It gets me thinking about compassion and kindness in the reporting we see.  I am trying to remember the last time we saw something that wasn’t snarky (which was the quality so many hockey blogs prided themselves on to be different and edgy), mean, entitled (including these-millionaires-aren’t-performing-to-expectations), or cranky when dealing with players that aren’t perfect or preforming well.  Aside from articles surrounding tragedy, there doesn’t seem to be much.  But you can easily find a link to some unnecessarily cruel shot at a player or coach.  That’s easy.

Maybe I’m looking at it because I finished reading Boy on Ice recently, which was a very unflinching look at Derek Boogaard.  I didn’t know what to expect from his life and career, but it certainly wasn’t that.  It certainly wasn’t someone as shy and quiet as that.  I can’t imagine how, after reading the book, he handled the New York media.

This isn’t hug-a-player month.  I’m not saying we should be all Kumbaya and start asking why we can’t all just get along.  But does it have to be this tough all the time?   How hard is it for players to sit there and take it, day after day?

There is a certain meanness that sells in hockey and sports reporting.  Some of the writers I respect the most don’t travel in those realms (I’m thinking specifically of Roy MacGregor).  I’ve been guilty of it myself.  I’ve made jokes that aren’t the kindest things to say.  I also know that I don’t say them out of meanness.  Maybe that’s an excuse.  It’s something to look at.  But as I’ve said in the past, when you say something about someone, you take your licks for it.  You can’t disparage someone taking a shot back at you.

It’s refreshing to see a player push back.  Especially one so maligned as Phil Kessel.  He may deserve criticism, but there is a line I feel Feschuk crossed.  I would love to see Kessel not take any more of his questions, or tell the Leafs PR department not to allow Feschuk into his scrums any more.  I don’t know if that is a doable thing, but wouldn’t it be nice?

That is a media scrum I would love to see.

Soo Eagles vs. Johnstown Tomahawks: Small All Around

The other day, my Avs fan buddy Hersh posted this on twitter:

So I asked him what he meant.

You know I agree with him.  Part of why I love my travels and these travel posts is the variety of venues and experiences the game has.  It’s the same sport, but the rink can change how you see the game, how the game affects you, and how your “fandom” is shaped.  I’ve lamented the cookie-cutter nature of the modern venue, and I’m going to do it again in the next travel post.

There is something about going to the War Memorial for a game that harkens back to “old-time hockey,” even if the game on the ice has moved on.   When you walk into the McMorran Place Arena in Port Huron, MI, you know hockey has been played there, games that meant something to the people on the ice and in the stands, years before you came through.  The quirkiness of Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo or Hara Arena in Dayton add to the game, even if it seems like it would take away from it.

And so does the home of the Soo Eagles, in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.  Don’t confuse this with the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.  There are two Sault Ste. Maries, one in Canada and one in the US, facing off across the St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks.  This one is firmly planted in the USA.

Welcome to Pullar Stadium.

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Let’s be fair.  Calling this a stadium is like calling my old apartment in Denver a luxury suite.  Stadium may be technically accurate, but it isn’t big enough to own that sort of title.  This is a rink.

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And it feels like a rink.  It’s small, but bigger than the arena in Janesville, WI.  It has a lot of character.  There isn’t much in the way of amenities, but that’s not a bad thing, as we will soon see.  No luxury boxes, no video screen, and you get the impression that asking the fans about these omissions would get you laughed at.  It doesn’t need those things.  They would just get in the way of the hockey.

It feels homey.  It’s a place you could come to and feel like it’s your rink, like this is your place.  This is the kind of place I imagine when I hear about Canadian hockey moms taking their kids to the rink at six in the morning.

It feels like hockey.

It’s also very quirky.  For example, entering the stands from below.

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The stairs pop up in the front row of seating.

The hallway under the bleachers lead you around the ice, but you can only walk around one side and the ends of the arena.  The locker rooms take up the bench side of the rink.  You have to go through the stands if you want to get around that side of the rink.

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See the stairs that lead from the seating area to the benches?  The visitors had security guards at their bench, but I can’t imagine anything happening in this rink.  It feels too cozy and nice to have any shenanigans going on.

Also, the benches are separated from each other by the neutral zone.  They start inside the blue line and extend towards the goal line.  You can see how close the face-off circle is to the near end of the bench.  It’s a lot like Dayton in that respect.  The second period long change is very long here.

Tickets were general admission and dirt cheap.  There is one stand for concessions and another for beer sales.  The team merchandise store is practically a closet.

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The angled panels above the benches are the underside of the seating area of the rink.  They look like they were added later.  Why do I say that?

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Oh, no reason.

The lobby.  There are some great pictures in the display cases by the doors.

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Trophies.

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Another weird thing was the penalty boxes.  For the visitors, they simply stepped in the box and sat down.  For the Soo players, they open the door, step in, take a left, walk several steps, then sit down. It’s a little hard to describe.  You can see what I mean.  Look at where the door on the right is versus the players sitting in the penalty box.  It’s even labeled as such.

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The fans can walk down the steps from the stands to the penalty boxes and chat with a player.  I didn’t see it happen, but there is no separation from the players and the stands.  Note what looks like a security guard at the Tomahawk’s box.

Stick around until the end for the last quirky thing about this rink, something I have never seen before.

Enough of this jibber-jabber.  The teams are taking the ice (photo credit to Meg for this one):

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Action!

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Note the guy walking by the action.  The seating is that high.

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The steps down to the penalty box.

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At intermission, they honored the local students of the month.  Note the height of the mascot.

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We moved to the other side for the second and third periods. Action!

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In the second period, Johnstown’s goalie, Ryan Bednard, suffered an equipment issue.  His mask broke and he couldn’t fix it quickly.  He came to the bench and got the backup goalies mask.  That didn’t fit, so he was subbed out until it could be repaired.

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The backup, Andy Lee, got set in net, the puck dropped and the Soo Eagles scored on him.  Shortly after that, Bednard returned to the net.  Looking at the NAHL stats, Lee hasn’t played a game since.

More action! That’s a goal.

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Snack time. Yes, there are deals to be had here. And POUTINE!?!?!?  I missed this before!  What a fool I am!

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Let’s head back to the game.  Yeah, I know, you don’t need to see more stairs, but it’s so weird.

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Action!

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Hey, this doesn’t look very sporting.

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This looks alright.

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The third period got chippy, but there were no fighting majors handed out.

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This game had it all, including a penalty shot.

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Glove save.

We headed to overtime and with 51 seconds left, the Soo Eagles put one away on the power play.  The final, Soo Eagles 2, Johnstown Tomahawks 1.  The game sheet is here.  Had it not been for the equipment issue of the starting goalie, this could have been a 1-0 shutout for the visitors.

The last strange thing about this rink has to do with the Zamboni.  This wasn’t your typical ice scrape.  Everything looks normal until the guy with the shovel comes out and heads to the end of the rink.

Then he opens a little door.

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The Zamboni finishes it’s scrape and heads to the end of the rink.  The scraper is lifted and the back towel is removed.

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The Zamboni drives away, leaving the slush behind, and the guy shovels it into the door in the boards.

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The Zamboni drives back to its entrance and then BACKS IN.  Also, did you notice the doors open towards the rink, and not away?

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Like I said, it’s strange.

I highly recommend heading to the Soo to see a game.  It’s not the first winter vacation destination you could come up with, but Pullar Stadium is the perfect argument for seeing a game outside the NHL stadium system.  It’s hockey at its core, no bells and whistles.  Just a game, right there in front of you.  Nothing to get in the way.

Don’t worry about the lack of amenities.  You won’t miss them.

Green Bay Gamblers vs. Madison Capitols: Home and Home Part 2

This is the second of the back to back games between the Green Bay Gamblers and the Madison Capitols of the NAHL.  If you missed the first part of the series, it’s here.

The Green Bay Gamblers have, oddly enough, been on my list of teams to see for a while.  Why?  I have no idea.  It’s just always been a team that has stuck in the back of my mind ever since I heard of them.

Welcome to the Resch Center. (click any photo to make bigger)

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Is it just me or does this look like the habitat the Mars One people would love to live in?  If the Madison Capitols arena looked like an old Funkadelic space ship, this looks like one Bruno Mars would tour with.  Very sci-fi.

Safety first.

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Frankly, I would like to see more moshing and crowd surfing at hockey games.  Mostly in the beer garden areas, but that’s just me.

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The inside is a lot like an older Boston University arena.  It’s steep, the seats are a similar color, and… and…. let’s just forget I said anything.

Let’s take a look at those seats for a moment.

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Yeah, they are kind of weird, and yet they are super utilitarian, and not uncomfortable.  Note that I did not say they were comfortable.  But they get out of the way when you need them to, and are roomier than you expect.

The name Resch Center comes from Dick Resch, the CEO of KI, an office furniture company.  You can see a picture of Mr. Resch here, as well as read a lot of corporate speak and history about the company. Those seats, I was told by an usher, were made by KI.  They also have a showroom at the arena.  So now you know.

The concourses are rather wide, and we never had to fight the crowds (and there were crowds later).

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I’m not entirely sure what the mascot is.  A gambler?  That is paying off his debts?

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Like the Madison arena, the Resch Center has a beer garden on the end of the rink.

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As far as beer goes, they have a lot of it, for this is Wisconsin, and it is a good deal for arena beer.

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But we have not come to talk about hops, we have come to talk about hockey.  First, we have warmups and a little sizing up to be done.

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Ohhh… Scary….

Action!

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Nice toe save.

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Second period action. Another nice save.

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And back at the other end, a good glove save. DSC_8559_GBG

What the heck is going on here?

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More action.

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Hey goalie, you suck.  Or at least the crowd thinks you do, and would like for you to know it.

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Nice.

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Second intermission featured the main staple of chuck-a-puck, which WE WON!!! Well, us and about forty of our closest friends.  We won a free sandwich from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit… with the purchase of a drink.  I feel like a winner.

Third period action.

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Another save.

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The third period solved nothing, so we went to overtime.

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Nope! For the second night in a row, we went to the shootout.

Nope!

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Nope!

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Nope!

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YEP!!!

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The final, the Madison Capitols win 4-3 over the Green Bay Gamblers in the shootout.  They win both games of the home and home in the shootout.  Here is the game sheet.

A few tips about going to Green Bay for a game.

  • Go when the Green Bay Packers are not in town.  The arena is right next to Lambeau Field, and game days must be crazy.  I hope the league schedules road games for the Gamblers on those weekends.
  • If you are going to eat at Brett Farve’s Steakhouse as a lark, understand that it is an expensive lark.  Also, it isn’t worth it.  We saw a few guys in their hunter’s camo and jeans sit down for dinner, look at the prices, and promptly walk out.  Also, there are Brett Farve name wines on the menu.  We decided against them.

We had a good time, but what we were really looking forward to was the next night, headed to Sault St. Marie, MI for a game.

Soon.  Soon.

Madison Capitols vs. Green Bay Gamblers: Home and Home Part 1

I was lucky enough to take in a home and home weekend between the Madison Capitols and the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.  Madison played host on a Friday night with the Gamblers hosting on Saturday.

Welcome to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Looks like a spaceship, doesn’t it? The Veterans Memorial Coliseum is on the Alliant Energy Center campus.  Frankly, I don’t entirely understand what that means.  The place looks like a large fairgrounds, much like where they hold the Texas State Fair in Dallas, TX.  I drove in at night, so I didn’t get a great look at it.  But there are livestock barns and agricultural buildings on the grounds.

And they charge $7 for parking.  It’s a pet peeve of mine.

The University of Wisconson – Madison used to play hockey here.  I bet the place was rocking for Badgers games.  Let’s go inside.

First stop, the lobby to buy a ticket.  And… oh my.

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That is some special carpet.  So special, I had to get a few photos of it.

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Wow.

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Don’t you want that for your next 70’s themed party?

The ticket cost me $18.50.  A bottle of water was $3.50.  This isn’t exactly a bargain.

Let’s just hope the arena is better.  Let’s head to the concourse and… oh… my….

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OK, but what about the arena itself?  Well, it’s big.

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It reminds me of the Scope in Norfolk, VA or the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR.  It feels gigantic.

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The seats at the ends are covered up, but there is a beer garden at ice level.

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1980 Olympic gold medalist Bob Suter, who passed away recently, played here with the UWM Badgers.

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But it’s just about game time.  Please rise for the singing of our national anthem.

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If you go to a game in Madison, here’s a tip.  Sit in the first few rows of the upper “bowl.”  The lower bowl is very flat, so you wind up sitting up on the edge of your seat a lot to see the action.  But the arena staff doesn’t hold people out of the game when the puck is in play.  And the spacial awareness of the fans is not at its peak.

In other words, when the game is on, they tend to roam around.  They like to stand.

In the aisles…

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At their seats…

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Along the glass…

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Stand stand stand.  And if the rake of the seating area was steeper, it would be fine. But even the ushers get in on the actions.

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Really?

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Come on!

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Fine. Let’s get to the action. Here we… what the heck is going on here?

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Just like coach drew it up.

Alright, well. Let’s move on. And… OH COME ON!!!

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What the…?

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Sure. How about a break in the action. Those are kids shoveling the ice by the players.  Note the discrepancy in height.

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And a little chuck-a-puck.

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OK. Enough of that. Game on.

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AHHHH!!!! YOU ARE STANDING!  WHY ARE YOU STANDING!!! THE GAME IS GOING ON RIGHT THERE!!!

The penalty boxes are a little weird.  Normally the timekeeper’s booth is between the boxes.  These are next to each other and skinny.  The Capitols’ box saw lots of first period action, as Madison took five penalties to Green Bay’s two. There were six total in the second period, two in the third.

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What you can’t see in that photo is the worst DJ at a hockey game I have ever heard.  Playing songs from his computer, there was more gratuitous scratching than a big and hairy flea circus.  I don’t even know what that means, but it was bad.

Hey guys, guess you know you are standing up and people are behind you, right? Yeah, I guess you do.

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That’s a goal.

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This one would go to the shootout.  Only one goal would be scored.  And I’m here to tell you, if you think every hockey fan doesn’t like the shootout, you would be wrong.  They loved it in Madison.

Nope.

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Nope.

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YEP!

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Nope!!!

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Your final, Madison beats Green Bay 4-3 in the shootout.  The game sheet is here.

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An OK game, but obviously I will be sitting a little further back next time.  It was a little hard to get into with all the distractions.  Speaking of distractions, I’ll leave out what the people behind me were talking about during the game.  Some things do not need repeating on the blog.  Ask me in person some time.

The crowd was rocking, and it can’t be easy to get a good crowd in when you live in the shadow of Bucky the Badger.  Wisconsin is all about the college hockey.  But maybe hockey is just hockey here, and they take anything they can get.  Or the Capitols are good at drawing a crowd.  Either way, the fans had a good time.

Time to get ready for the other half of the home and home.

‘Sup, bro.

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Danville Dashers vs. Steel City Warriors: Start Somewhere

When I went to the season opener of the Dayton Demonz, their opponent was the Danville Dashers.  It was a given I was going to stop in for a Dashers game if one was reachable.  It turned out I could get to one when I was on vacation in Chicago.  2 1/2 hours of driving later, it was game time.

Welcome to the David S. Palmer Arena.

(As ever, clicking on the picture makes it bigger. You want bigger, don’t you?)

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Come through the front doors, take a left…

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Walk a little further…

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And you are ready for some hockey.

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Pucks chilling in the ice water.

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There is a certain level of grunge to the arena.  Like the dehumidifiers bolted to the beams over the ice.

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Keep in mind where we are.  We are at a game between the Danville Dashers and the Steel City Warriors of the Federal Hockey League.  This is A level hockey.  It’s three steps below the NHL.  A shiny coat of paint isn’t on tap, and maybe the David S. Palmer could use one, it isn’t coming any time soon.  This is what gives a rink character.  There is an industrial feel to the place.  It isn’t perfect, but it has its charms.  But like Pig Pen from the Peanuts, the charm lies under a layer of grime.  And maybe some of the charm is from that grime.

Coming into this game, the Steel City Warriors were not doing well.  The FHL season started with six teams, including the Southwest PA Magic.  The Magic played one game and promptly folded, not even making it to their home opener.  New ownership has came along and rescued the team, but it hasn’t been an easy ride for the Warriors.  They had yet to win a game.  We will get to the reasons why in a moment.

At one end of the Palmer, they store their ice bumper cars. Yes, ice bumper cars.  I really want to try this.

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The players take the ice, we hear the starting lineups, and then the announcer asks us to rise for the singing of our national anthem.

Then he sings the national anthem.

And he messes up the words.

Just a few, but he got it wrong.  I don’t know, maybe the regular singer wasn’t available on a Wednesday night.  Maybe this is just how they do things in Danville, but if you are going to sing the anthem, get it right.

Action!  Oh, and since neither the home nor away teams are wearing white, the Dashers are wearing orange.

This went in.

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Merch

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Yes, the Zamboni has antlers.  Fairly awesome.

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Back to the game.

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The fight.

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The single fight of the night felt staged and gratuitous, and pointed to what was wrong with the Warriors.  After a few punches were traded, the Warriors’ Nicola Levesque (listed as normally wearing number 25 but in this game wearing 13) shook Danville’s Clinton Atkinson off-balance, and that was the end of the fight.  Levesque signed to a contract with the Dashers earlier in the season, he was cut and wound up with the Warriors.  Maybe that was what prompted the fight.

Still, the fight was characteristic of the play for the Warriors.  After taking a few shots, Levesque seemed to have enough.  He didn’t want to get hit.  Throughout the game, none of the Warriors were willing to take a hit to make a play.  I’m not a fan of being hit either, but I don’t play professional hockey (and at this level, yes, it’s professional hockey).  The Dashers were more than willing to do some hitting.  The Warriors looked shy and weak.  They looked like they had something better to do tomorrow, something they wanted to look good for.  The Dashers were happy to take advantage.

The goalie keeps his eye on the puck.

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That’s a goal.

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What the heck happened here?

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Want a drink?  I’ve seen better bars in the basement of my Aunt’s house.

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When was the last time you saw a goal like that?  Old school.

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I like the older logo for the Dashers more than the new one.  The new one is nice, but there is something about the old one that speaks to me.  It’s perfectly of its time, but would look great on a jersey today. I don’t know why they have Blackhawks Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters.

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These guys stood most of the game.  No one minded.  They had a great time.

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One of the Dashers got injured in the third period.  When he got up off the ice, the trainer simply grabbed him by the waist of his hockey pants and pulled him up off the ice.  Then he went to get bandaged up, but not in the locker room.  Just… you know… over there.

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Nice save.

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Something at the end of the game pissed off the ref.  I have no idea what, but he has some words for the Warriors players.  He even barked at them as they skated off the ice.

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Whatever the issue, the Warriors just got smacked around with a 7-2 loss.  Taking that into consideration, maybe the Warriors don’t need a lot of guff.  He called a decent game, but I don’t think I’ve seen a more flamboyant ref.

So yeah, your final, Danville 7, Steel City 2.  The game sheet is here.

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So what did I think of the Dashers experience?  It was fun, but the crowd was oddly quiet.  It was the quietest game I’ve been to in a long time.  It was less animated than the first period of a Colorado Avalanche home game, and that’s saying something.  I felt the in-game entertainment (music, announcements, etc) could have done a better job of keeping the crowd in it.  I appreciated that the music wasn’t blaring and the announcer wasn’t blasting our ears off (like the Demonz), but the volume was inconsistent, the choices were off, and it made the experience a little flat (they also forgot to mention a misconduct penalty given at the very end of the second period).  We don’t need a call to MAKES SOME NOISE!!! every break, but the crowd didn’t seem engaged in the action.  Or if they were, they didn’t show it.  The Dashers could do a better job of entertaining the fans.  The on-ice product did a fine job.  They could work on the other stuff.

There is a part of me that feels like I should apologize for my criticisms.  Other than screwing up the words for the national anthem, they are doing the best they can.  It is a good very low-budget operation.  There might be a lack of experience, there could simply be not enough in the kitty to pay for everything you want in an organization.  If I felt they didn’t care, I would flat-out say so, but that obviously isn’t the case.  They are trying very hard with limited resources, and it shows.

What they do have is a sense of community.  The crowd knew each other, and they were spending time at the rink together.  I saw many examples of families and friends meeting up to chat, then move on to their seats.  It’s something you don’t experience at a sold-out NHL game.  I mean, come on, there was a table set up with cupcakes on it for a birthday party.  It’s more like a junior high school game on a Saturday afternoon, in a good way.  You only get that when there is space to spread out a bit, when you can have a conversation with the people around you.  You get it when you don’t have to fight the loud music, or battle the announcer for someone’s attention.  So yes, I just said they needed to work on the entertainment, but it’s a balance.

The Dashers could use some support.  They need more sponsorships and advertisers (as far as I can tell, they have one major sponsor, and that’s a real estate person).  They need to clean a few things up about their operation.  I’m sure they are aching for some press, to get the word out about the team.  But they have something else as well.  They have people showing up on a Wednesday night to cheer the boys on, maybe in a reserved way, but they are there.  They have some love for the team.

That’s something to build on.

Hockey Hole

Adrian Dater No Longer With The Denver Post: My Experience

By now, you have probably heard that Adrian Dater is no longer working for the Denver Post.  The latest issue was related to his use of social media, which has always been a contentious point with him.  He was brutal on twitter to even the nicer people who disagreed with him.  The dancing-on-the-grave seen on twitter over the loss of his job says a lot about his style there.  He blocked and bullied plenty of people.  They gave it back to him as well.

Let me tell you about my experience with Dater.

About five and a half years ago, an item came across my RSS feed from Dater that I couldn’t believe he posted.  This was after his rant about ESPN that he took down and apologized for.  This one was about women calling NBA games.  He was, to put it nicely, against it.  But when I went looking for the post on the Denver Post site, it was gone.  I tried to contact the Post about it, ask for a comment, but I got no response.  They already seemed to know about it.  I wrote Dater directly, and he responded, but he didn’t want to talk about it.  I wrote about his post, and later, he apologized in the All Things Avs blog on the Denver Post site.  That apology was later taken down.

Cut to a few months later.  Dater was meeting up with some Avs fans at my favorite Denver hockey bar, SoBo 151.  I went, and hung out for a bit.  I was trying to find a good time to tell him who I was, that I was the guy who wrote about him and his post, and it took a little while until I got the opportunity.  Finally, I let him who I was, and waited for the backlash.  There was a pause, and then he surprised me.  He was super gracious.  He was nice as hell about it.  I wrote something that gave him negative attention from a wider audience, and he was not mad at me, at least in the moment.  He joked a little about it, and he shared a few personal things.  It was not what I expected.

Let’s be clear.  I did not go to meet him to rub anything in his face.  I went because if you write something about someone, you take your licks.  I was ready to get my head ripped off.  I was surprised when I didn’t.

Later, on social media, he was a lot less gracious.  He was much more biting, much more aggressive, back to his old ways.  I wound up blocking him on twitter before he blocked me.  He blocked a lot of fans that relied on him for information.  He made a lot of things about himself that should have been about the team he covered.  His rudeness was celebrated by some, admonished by others.  I wasn’t interested in that game, and it made following the Avalanche harder.

What it seems like is there were two Adrian Daters, the one most everyone experienced on twitter, blogs, podcasts and other media, and the one people who saw him in person knew.  The stories about Dater from people who he had time for, who he helped, who he mentored and was friends with paint a very different picture from the one who wrote angry, biting, belittling and sometimes abusive things online.  He helped people who sought him out, including Jessica Redfield.  He was awful to people, and he was good to people.

It’s too bad the way things went down.  I feel bad for him and I feel bad for the people he hurt.  I’m glad that he doesn’t have the position he once had to lash out at people who wanted to know more about the team they loved.  I’m glad he is going to finally address some of his issues, ones he mentioned on facebook about no longer being with the Post.

And I hope that the culture that allowed this to go on for so long, that allowed the behavior that got this bad, is finally squashed.   I’ve seen some of it from other writers at the Post.  Perhaps it had something to do with the culture and people already there.  But then again, they have decent writers (Terry Frei, for example) who doesn’t pull the kinds of shenanigans we’ve seen.

For a long time, Avs fans have deserved better from the Denver Post and their beat writer.  It’s too bad it had to come to this to get there.

Rockford IceHogs vs. Texas Stars: Trek Into Darkness

Pull the blindfold down
So your eyes can’t see
Now run as fast as you can
Through this field of trees

Editors : Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors

There are all kinds of hockey arenas out there.  Big, small, beautiful, ugly.  Some have character, some have little to no character (I’m looking at you, Ontario, California), and some have so much character, they should have their own sitcom.

The BMO Harris Bank Center….. Wait a minute, wasn’t I just here?

No, the Milwaukee Admirals play in the BMO Harris Bradley Center.  The IceHogs play in the BMO Harris Bank Center.  And what a bank center it is.

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Wow.  That’s a… That’s some… OK, I don’t know what it is.  It’s…. utilitarian looking.  Yeah, it looks like it’s… functional.

I didn’t get much of a look at the outside of the building.  I was here eight years ago when the IceHogs were a part of the UHL, and I don’t remember much about the building then either.  It’s not the prettiest of things, but considering it is a smaller arena in the middle of downtown Rockford, IL, I wasn’t expecting the Sydney Opera House.

What matters is what’s inside.  So let’s head in.

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OK, here we go.  And…. wait…

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Hold on, what….

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Did someone forget to turn the lights on?

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Surely, they can’t mean for it to be this dark in here, right?

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Oh man.  Welcome to what you can see of the BMO Harris Bank Center.  This was the darkest rink I have ever been in.  It was like being in a production of Les Miserable (and I would know).  I felt a major separation from what was happening on the ice and what was happening in the crowd.  It made the far end of the ice seem like it was in another building.  Between myself and the fans, there was us and them, and them was only a section or two over.

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The pregame had players vomited from the mouth of an angry pig.  I am all for players being vomited forth from inflatables.  There was a time when I wasn’t, but I believe I have come around.

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Once the pregame is over, the lights on the ice snap to full brightness, further alienating the crowd from the hockey.  The lights here appeared to be LED fixtures, which looked a lot better than I expected them to.

When I go to a game, I like to sit on the sides, preferably on the penalty box side.  Maybe this is conditioning from watching games on TV, but I feel close to the action at either end.  When I’m in an upper corner, the action on the far end feels very distant, and here I was five rows or so from the top of the arena.  Not where I would normally choose to sit.

The reason I didn’t sit where I usually would was that this was a free game.  Yes, you read that right, every ticket to the game was free.  I had no idea this was happening.  I had never heard of such a thing.  A professional hockey team hosting a free regular season game?  When I showed up to the BMO Harris Bank Center, I was greeted with a sign that said the game was sold out.  My heart sank, but I went to the box office and they handed me a single ticket.  My row, in fact, had only four other people sitting in it.  There were plenty of no-shows for the game.

But as I said, I was far away from the action on the other end.

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But on my end, it was a fun game.

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The most brightly lit area of the arena is the team store.

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What the heck is this?

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Speaking of the Blackhawks, the parent club for the IceHogs, they were hosting the Dallas Stars that evening, parent club to the Texas Stars.  I wonder if it was planned that way.

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Second period action.  That is Antti Raanta in net.

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Framed pictures of some past specialty jerseys.

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Is this taking the pig thing too far?

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Mmmm….. Tasty…

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Around the rink.

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This is a goal.  Good try by Stars goaltender Jack Campbell.

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Twice at breaks in the action, they played Billy Idol’s cover of Mony Mony, to which the crowd would chant “Hey-Guess-What-Your-Goalie-Sucks.”  I guess they really mean it.

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The Stars tried to make it interesting in the end, pulling within one with a few minutes left.

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Your final, the IceHogs beat the Texas Stars 3-2.  Game sheet is here. The one unusual moment was the unsportsmanlike penalty given to IceHog Pierre-Cedric Labrie at the end of the first period, for shooting the puck on net after the horn.  I’m not sure the crowd realized it happened, and there wasn’t an explanation given at the start of the period.  The IceHogs were simply starting the second killing a penalty.

I had a good time at the game.  It was, as I said, the darkest arena I have ever been in, and the hockey felt very textbook at times, but it was a solid game with a crowd that liked their hockey.  Can you ask for much more than that?

Maybe someone turn on a light switch.