Indy Fuel vs. Evansville Icemen: Back to the Future

If memory serves, the last time I was in Indianapolis for a game was 2008, when the team was the Indiana Ice of the USHL.  Before that, it was 2004 and the Indianapolis Ice was in their 15th season and playing in the UHL.  Ah, the old Pepsi Coliseum.  It was a barn.  A shed.  Heck, it was barely four walls and a roof.  It was barely a floor and an ice surface.

Ah, there it is.  In all its municipal glory.

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Well, might as well head in.  It’s raining outside and I’m sure there are mice in the place waiting for me to drop a little snack or two for them.  Just try not to touch anything too grimy and keep your hand sanitizer close.

Wait… What?

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What is this?  Where am I?  This can’t be the old Pepsi Coliseum, can it?  Where is the pro shop stocked with years-old Jofa gear?  Where are the tiny bathrooms?  What do you mean I have to go upstairs to get to the seats?  WHEN DID THEY GET AN UPSTAIRS?!?!?

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Wait, you can see in here now?  There’s a roof?  The paint on the outside glass isn’t peeling?

IS THAT A SCOREBOARD WITH VIDEO?????

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You see where I’m going with this, right?  This is quite a transformation.  Because believe me, there wasn’t a bar like this here before.  I would have known.

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The whole place was renovated and renamed in the last few years.  They gutted the building and in it’s place, installed what looks like the worlds largest Larkburger.

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I was gobsmacked.  That’s the only word I can use to describe it.  This is so different from the old arena.  It looked like somewhere people would actually want to be.

We will get back to the old place in a bit, but first, the players are taking the ice, and WHOA!!!!

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I can not guarantee that the player in the picture is not on fire.  But he isn’t.  So relax, kids.

ACTION!!!

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I just really like this photo for some reason.

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This was the theme for the night.  Pucks at the Evansville goalie.

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Sometimes, it’s the simple solutions that work the best.

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It was superhero night at the game, so we all got a free comic book.  It was more like an Indy Fuel coloring book, but it was a nice gesture.  Some fans got in to it as well.  This gentleman is the ever popular, fearful defender of truth and justice, Tough Guy On This Side Of The Glass Man.

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Let’s just get back to the game.

This is the Evansville goalie ducking a shot.  Yes, he is wearing a mask, but Evansville is nowhere near the playoffs.  Why take one in the noggin if you don’t have to?

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Check out this guy’s skates.  I think those are pads for shot-blocking, not just the tongue of his skates.

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Fancy Dan (his name is not Dan).

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I mentioned it was superhero night, right?  How hard was it to find a Batman mask that fit the mascot?

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Is there anything more demoralizing to a hockey player than a cleverly written message on a dry-erase board?

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I love this sequence of events.  Yes, it’s a goal, and yes, these photos are in the right order.  The glove isn’t fast enough, but that shot was in and out of the net in a hurry.

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At the other end, another glove save.  I’m sure there is something in the fundamentals of catching pucks that you watch it all the way into your glove (like my Dad always tried to teach me catching a baseball… tried), but the way the goalie held it there several times, you got the impression that someone criticized his glove hand recently, and he was trying to make a point.

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NO! YOUR SECRET IDENTITY IS REVEALED!

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Not the Batmobile.

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I will call him Orf.  (Sorry, inside joke)  Evansville should have signed this guy and taken him home with them.  They could have used him the next day (and you will see why in the next post).

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You can still see some of the old arena.  This wall used to have a Gretzky banner hanging on it.  If you aren’t sure why they would have a Gretzky banner in Indianapolis, you can find out more here.

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The bones of the place.

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This guy loves to smile.  I just saw him play in Cincinnati, and he was smiling.  It stood out.

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I’m a sucker for a flexing stick picture.

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The final, Evansville is shut out by the Indy Fuel, 3-0.  Here is the game sheet.  That seems bad for the Icemen, right?  It would be nothing compared to what happened the next night at home.  Stay tuned, true believers.

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As for Indianapolis, good for them for the improvements on the arena.  They managed to do something very few new buildings do, combine character with modern conveniences.  Part of that is because of the older parts of the arena that are still exposed, and partly because they made some good design decisions.  I like the place.  I look forward to going back when I am not so stunned by the remake.

Gatineau Olympiques vs. Rimouski Oceanic: In Quebec

I had originally tried to write something somewhat poetic about the differences between my experiences in Quebec and Ottawa.  Something about Parliament overlooking the town of Gatineau, about leaving the shiny polish of the country’s capital to the more working-class feel of the city in Quebec.  I even tried to quote the movie Goon.

None of it fit.  Crossing the bridge into Quebec, we were leaving a city and entering a town.  The main road was lined with houses and smaller businesses, not condos and department stores.  Gatineau was grey and piled with snow along the streets.  We finally got to our destination, and it didn’t look like much.

 

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When we told people we were coming to a game in Gatineau, everyone said the same thing: the fans are passionate about their hockey.  We didn’t know what to expect.  Was it going to be rough?  Were we going to be in the middle of another Danbury, home of the roughest fans I’ve ever seen?

Stepping through those red doors, we knew we were in for something different.  When we showed up to the Ottawa 67s game, we were at the wrong end of the building.  They escorted us through the building to will call to pick up our tickets.  Here, I decided to buy them at the box office.  So, apparently, did everyone else.

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When I go to new arenas, I have to rely on the people there to fill me in on what is normal for the place and what is not.  According to those I talked to, this was normal.  We only had half an hour before game time to get to our seats, and I didn’t know if we were going to make it.

This is not a big space.  The lines are ten deep and you could hardly squish any more people into the area.  As we waited, the team mascot Hully worked the crowd a little.

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Yes, those are bulging googly eyes. They make for an interesting effect when you see it live.  The kids loved Hully.  You could buy a mascot doll and take him home with you.

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We got out ticket, and headed in to the arena.

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At the Robert Guertin Centre, the walkway around the arena is behind the seats at the top.  There is some room to move around next to the rink, but everything you want is above and behind.  The place reminded me of Germain Arena, home of the Florida Everblades.  There is a dark and well-worn feel to the place.

A few things to note.  The benches and the penalty boxes are on opposite sides of the ice from each other.

The seating is steep, so sitting a few rows back still provides a good view.  But it’s the back row that’s really unusual.  I like to sit around 10-15 rows back.  This put us in the last row.  Not a big deal, but our center ice seats were between some of the structure of the building.  To get to them, we had to walk through the row in front of ours.  Here is what it looks like after the game.

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The ceiling over that back row is low.  How low?

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Is that duck face? I think it is. I’m not sure.

Yes, that’s a plywood ceiling.  And the lighting is pretty basic.

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This is an old barn.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Talking with a few of the fans, there is an expectation that a new arena will be built soon.  But there are, as with anything involving arenas, plenty of hold ups.  I didn’t do a lot of research, but it seems that the local government may have something to do with it.

But barns like this have character.  I have yet to see a modern arena that has constructed character.  That takes history, inconvenience, and no small amount of discomfort.

But man, what a view.

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This is Quebec, so all the announcements are in French first, and occasionally English.  The penalties and game-related info is in both languages, everything else is only in French.  What I found out was that it didn’t matter.  Most hockey games follow the same structure.  They all follow the same basic script.  Besides, most of what happens off the ice for a game can be ignored.  If there was something really important, like an evacuation, panic is the same in any language.

Hully get’s the pregame ceremonies out of the way…

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Man, those eyes.

Let’s get to some action.

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Rimouski was the best team in the league (they finished the regular season as the top team and just won their first playoff series).  The Olympiques are not doing so hot in the standings.  This game was on Sunday, February 22nd.  They had beaten Chicoutimi on Friday, but there may have been some shenanigans going on after that game.  From Buzzing the Net from Yahoo! Sports:

The issue of young athletes and sexual entitlement has come to the fore once again following disturbing allegations against several members of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques.

On Monday, Le Droit’s Louis-Denis Ebacher reported that Gatineau police have received a formal complaint about indecent acts involving “at least six” players and an intoxicated woman at a Boston Pizza restaurant last Friday, following the Olympiques’ win over the Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

There was more allegations to come, from things that may have happened a month before.  You can read about that here.

We knew none of this.  The article above posted the day after this game.  I don’t know if the fans knew anything.  We were there for a hockey game.  I have no idea if any of that carried into this game, but it was one of the most physical games I’ve ever seen.

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Rimouski got 22 minutes in penalties, Gatineau had 20.  Somehow, Gatineau only registered seven hits and Rimouski seventeen.  That feels a bit low.

(some of these photos look a little pixelated small.  I don’t know why.  They look better bigger.  Click them if you want better versions).

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The fans absolutely loved it.  While Ottawa was a social gathering, this was a party.  The fans knew their hockey and they let the players and the refs know it.  They booed, they cheered, they were into the game in a way that Ottawa wasn’t.

Glove save and a beauty.

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That’s a goal.

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With the first period done, let’s head to the concourse.

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If everything seems a little drab and grey, that’s how the place is.  The lighting is all fluorescent tubes, the walls are grey and blue, and the ceilings are low.  There isn’t a lot of room to move around.

Box seats over the crowd.

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There is some history here.  Check out the photos from the 1997 Memorial Cup championship.

A few of the banners flying over the ice.

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The flags.

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The thing that stood out to me about how different hockey was here than anywhere else I’d been was one of the smallest things.  It wasn’t the French PA announcer.  It wasn’t the fans.  It wasn’t the arena.  It was the kids skating between periods.

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You know how it goes.  The kids come out, the Charlie Brown music plays, and everyone gets a good laugh as they run around the ice, chasing the puck, clumps of kids crashing into each other.  It’s cute.

Not here.  These kids could skate.  I don’t mean they could stay on their feet.  I don’t mean they could run on their skates.  No, they could SKATE.  They didn’t all chase after the puck, they played positions.  These were hockey players.  This is not what we see in the states.  All I could do was stare.

Back to the game.

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If there is an obvious fan favorite for the Olympiques, it is number 71, Tommy Veilleux.  He was a first round draft pick of Victoriaville and a sixth round pick of the Nashville Predators.  The crowd loved him.  They chanted his name.  They wanted him to take care of the rough stuff.  In this game, he would take three penalties, two for roughing and one for checking from behind.  He was scrappy. Here he is, ready to go.

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This led to a roughing penalty and roughing and checking from behind penalties for Dunn of Rumouski.  Veilleux did not appreciate any of it, and let Dunn know.

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Back to the action.

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That’s a goal!

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Good to see some hockey being played and… Oh come on!

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This was how the night went.  Hockey, roughing, hockey, scrum, hockey, roughing, repeat.  Meg said to me, “Can you imagine if this was your first hockey experience?”  If this were someone’s first game, I don’t know what they would think of if.

This was not a goal.

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Second intermission.  At least this one didn’t feature eight year old kids who put my skating to shame.  It did have the popular shaved ice stand.

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Some good deals at the concession stand.

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Back to the third period.

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That’s a broken stick.

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GOOOAAALLLL!!!!!!

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This put Gatineau up 2-1 with about 7:30 left to play in the game.  Rimouski brought everything they had.

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It was not enough.  Gatineau wins the game, 2-1.  You would have thought they won the championship, they way they acted after the game.

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The photos don’t do it justice.  It was a huge celebration for a regular season win.  I asked the people sitting next to me why, and all they said was that it was a big game for them.

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What would come next for Gatineau?  The next day, there would be controversy.  Soon after, major problems.  For this night, an intense game of hockey.

 

Ottawa 67s vs. Saginaw Spirit: Space Oddity

They say that in space, no one can hear you scream.  If you find yourself at a Ottawa 67s home game, you don’t have to worry about it.  No one is making much noise at all.

One of my bucket list items / dream vacations was to go to Ottawa and skate the Rideau Canal.  It’s a wonderful experience, and if you are a skater, pencil it in on your itinerary.  Treat yourself, and treat it like a ski vacation.

We flew in on a Friday with enough time for a brief skate and take in a 67s game.  The arena itself makes going to the game worth it.

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This is TD Place, the home of the Ottawa 67s, as seen from the Rideau Canal.  But let’s look at it from the side.

(And as ever, click the photo to make it bigger)

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That’s a little odd, it looks like grandstands.  Outside.  That’s because TD Place is also where the Ottawa Redblacks, the CFL team, play.  And yes, they play outdoors.  So what is going on here?  So glad you asked.  Step inside to find out.

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I’ve never done this before, but I think this needs a little markup to see all the weird stuff going on here.

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First, the red arrow.  TD Place is a few venues in one, but this takes it to a whole new level.  It’s not unusual to see the underside of the stands overhead in the concourse of a hockey arena.  It is unusual to see the underside of the stands for a FOOTBALL STADIUM poke into a hockey arena.  Huh?

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Let’s talk about the green arrow.  That’s the main lighting for the ice surface.  Mostly on one side and fairly low. It creates a strange look for the game.

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You might think, well, that sucks for the people who have to face those lights.  Yes, but at least there aren’t that many of them, and that leads us to the yellow arrow.  Those seats are under the football stadium seating, and therefore can only go so high.  So they are covered by a false ceiling and limited to ten rows.

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Note the scoreboard on the TV.  The rest of the arena can see the large screen mounted over the short side seating (I don’t know what else to call it), but the people sitting here can’t.  This is a decent solution, but I wonder how many TVs have been damaged by flying pucks.

There’s a nice food spread on this side.  Possibly an all-you-can-eat setup, but I’m not sure.

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Other food options on this side.  The garlic fries were excellent.

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From the far corner under the ceiling.

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You can see how lopsided this arena is, but to truly appreciate it, the side view really shows it off.

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Here is the view from our center ice seats.  The lighting is less oppressive on this side.

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Let’s get to some game action.

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At the top of the post, I said no one could hear you scream.  Here, no one screamed.  Hardly anyone yelled.  It was one of the quietest games I’ve ever been to.  When I say that, keep in mind that I’m a Colorado Avalanche fan, and I’ve compared the atmosphere at the Pepsi Center to a wine and cheese party.  I had to ask the people sitting next to me if it was always like this.  Turns out, it is.

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During the game, the arena staff had to fix the netting.  But why is this guy being held up rather than standing on a ladder? Because they only had one ladder and needed it for another part of the netting.  Remember folks, safety first, and if not, safety second.

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Back to the game.

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The 67s have a raccoon as a mascot. But they also had the Redblacks’ mascot in attendance.  Hey, I didn’t name them.

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Oh, this will end well.

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It didn’t end well at all.  The raccoon mascot decided to ‘check’ the lumberjack mascot head first.  It was not a good idea.  I got the impression there was some pain involved, but neither one of them showed it.

Nice big hallways.

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There are some luxury boxes, but they aren’t in use.  Need a little work.

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Second period action.

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Glove save.

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Let’s all go to the snack bar and get ourselves some… poutine.

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Third period action.

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Your final, the 67s handed Saginaw their backsides, 4-1. The game sheet is here.  You can read it as a bedtime story.  It will put you to sleep.

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A weird arena and a tame game.  Two days later, things would be very, very different.

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.

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

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.