I had thought that live hockey games would be over for the season after my trip to Tulsa, OK. After all, I am currently in Atlanta, and moving on to Tampa, FL in two weeks, not exactly places that are steeping in post season action. But a check of the schedule, and a local visitors guide showed that the Gwinnett Gladiators had a hope, a dream, and a home game about 30 miles away. With Monday being my day off, how could I say no?
Welcome to Gwinnett Arena, which is nice building, but a little sterile. It looks like a lot of modern arenas, but only at a smaller size. The parking is ample, with only one exit to the parking lot. And this…
is the longest damn wait for a stoplight, with the shortest payoff in green light time. Seriously, eight cars got in on one green light, and we waited forever for the next cycle. This picture was taken while I was making the turn. I put my life in danger for you.
The ECHL is in playoff mode right now (see their bracket here), and the Gladiators are already facing elimination. The South Carolina Stingrays were up two games to none in a best of five (only in the minors) series, and this was the first game in Gwinnett. The mood was somber when we entered the building, and I would say it was the quietest I had ever heard a crowd outside a hockey arena. There was no buzz, there was no chatter, there were no cowbells. There was nothing. It felt like a death march.
Nice place. This place has bigger hallways than the Hartford Civic Center, and they used to have an NHL team. Oh the conveniences of modern arenas. Such as the food. Our bounty of plenty for the night:
The one on the right should explain itself (if not, that’s a chili cheese dog), but the one on the left may need a little… understanding. That is what is called a Georgia Dog, which is a hot dog with cole slaw on it. The one on the right was the one I ordered, and I made the wrong choice. On to the game!!!!
The place was a little under populated, but is actually a healthy crowd for a minor league team, especially one that is located in a suburb.
And they have luxury boxes. How much do you suppose it costs for a luxury box at a Gladiators game? Can’t be that much.
The first period was slow, sluggish, and disorganized. While some may make snarky comments that the minors are usually that way, I love minor league games, and for the home team to come out so sluggish didn’t bode well. I figured the crowd was going to be headed home with the season over, but things started getting better late in the second.
Fist knocking = goals, and the Gladiators got one. The Stingrays came back back to tie the game up, which is how things were left at the second intermission. I had to do something, anything, to dig this team out of the basement. This called for desperate measures.
OK, so I have to work on my shot, but I will say that it worked. The Gladiators came back, and scored some great goals. The last goal of the game was one of the most perfect tip in goals I have ever seen. A simple shot from the high slot made the goalie jump to stop it, but a Gladiator stick had other plans, sending the puck careening down between the legs. I would call it a five hole, but can you have a five hole when you are jumping in the air? Perhaps….
One of the things they do for the playoffs is hang the opposing team in effigy (and yes, that is how they put it). This is a crappy picture of it, but it was what I could do. They drop one from the rafters after each win.
Remember, the playoffs are happening all over North America right now. Find a team near you, and see some hockey. The minor leagues need your money more than the NHL does, and they need less of it. My tickets cost $18 apiece. I could have been in the first few rows had I wanted. Go see some hockey.