Pull the blindfold down
So your eyes can’t see
Now run as fast as you can
Through this field of trees
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.
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.
OK, here we go. And…. wait…
Hold on, what….
Did someone forget to turn the lights on?
Surely, they can’t mean for it to be this dark in here, right?
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.
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.
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.
But on my end, it was a fun game.
The most brightly lit area of the arena is the team store.
What the heck is this?
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.
Second period action. That is Antti Raanta in net.
Framed pictures of some past specialty jerseys.
Is this taking the pig thing too far?
Around the rink.
This is a goal. Good try by Stars goaltender Jack Campbell.
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.
The Stars tried to make it interesting in the end, pulling within one with a few minutes left.
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.