Of all the places I’ve been to see hockey, Glens Falls remains one of my favorite. The arena is just right, the atmosphere fits what I appreciate about minor league hockey, and the place just oozes atmosphere.
Unfortunately, all is not right in Glens Falls, and the experience has changed. The game is good, the rest – the things that make hockey games fun to go to – needs a little help.
Welcome to the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Glens Falls, NY has been though a lot of hockey teams in recent years. My first time seeing a game there was the Adirondack Frostbite, a team owned by ESPN’s Barry Melrose and Steve Levy This was during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. The Frostbite also hosted the UHL All Star Game that year. Neither that team nor the UHL are around any more.
Before that, the Adirondack Red Wings were a long-term tenant, but since, after a dry spell, they were home to the Adirondack Phantoms and Adirondack Flames. This season saw the Flames swap locations with the Stockton Thunder, taking AHL hockey to California and bringing ECHL hockey to Glens Falls.
When you walk into the GFCC, you are at the top of the arena bowl. There is no upper bowl, just lower bowl. The lobby is small, and the merch is right there. Everything seems a little makeshift.
The GFCC also hosts the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame. Which is a hallway.
But none of these things, obviously, are what make the GFCC such a great place to watch hockey. It’s the arena itself. Or at least one big feature of the arena, the seating.
(As ever, click any of the photos for bigger versions)
No, it’s not pretty. It’s not luxurious. The seats are thin and the cushioning has been crushed and decimated by years of butts, beers and soda. But the angle, the steepness, it’s nearly perfect. Go to an NHL arena and wait until someone in front of you leans forward a bit. Just a bit. Boom, you can’t see the boards. Head to Lincoln, NE, and the seating is so flat, the best seats are back row, but only if you are standing. Here, it is a perfect view of the ice. Nothing in your way. You feel as close to the action as any arena. Well, that is, if you are sitting on the side with the penalty boxes. On the side with the benches, that’s a little different of a story.
That big thing in the middle? That’s the Zamboni entrance. Who puts a Zamboni entrance in the middle of the prime seating?
This factors in to where you want to sit for a game, as well as how much you pay. The center three sections on the penalty box side are twice as expensive as the ones on the bench side. Twice. Which means it must be obstructed view seating over there. So if you go, sit in the corners or sit as high as possible on the bench side. You are still close enough to the action even at the top of the section. Save a few bucks.
I have no reason to post this photo of players stretching than because I think it’s cool.
The players leave as warm ups end, they scrape the ice, the players come back, they sing the national anthem, and we are underway.
Seriously, it’s as basic as that. No big entrances, no light show, no smoke and fireworks, nothing. Players take the ice, stand and remove your hats, anthem, play ball. There is something a little refreshing about the lack of fanfare, and yet, it sets up the rest of the night.
Also, for a team called the Adirondack Thunder, I didn’t hear AC/DC’s Thunderstruck once, which shows amazing restraint.
Here is something I had never heard before. When they asked us to please rise and kindly remove our hats for the singing of the national anthem, they also told service members to show the “proper salute.” I thought that was weird and kind of jerky. Service members don’t need to be told how to honor America.
OK, game on, let’s get to the action.
The first period felt timid. There was plenty of up and down action, but it was mostly a feeling out period between the K-Wings and Thunder.
This was an interference penalty.
Anatomy of a tipped shot. Note how little the goalie can see.
Right before the end of the first period, we saw our first big hit along the boards, which led to things being said.
Which led to this…
Which led to this…
Not much came of it, other than promises of more.
Time for the first intermission, and whatever they had to entertain the crowd. Which turned out to be the Zamboni’s scraping the ice. Let me be more clear about this: There were no games, no t-shirt tosses, no fan cams, nothing. Just an ice scrape.
This is the minors. I can’t remember the last time I was at a minor league game that didn’t have something to entertain the crowds. So far, the best word I could use to describe the experience of this game so far was “Precious.” Everything felt like it was a polished ring, and you couldn’t sully it with such things as “fun” and “interesting.” This was the super serious business of hockey.
For example, every place I go to a game, I buy a puck. One puck for every venue. Here, they had several pucks out, one with the Calgary Flames logo, one of divisional opponents, one “throwback” puck featuring the Adirondack Red Wings, and one featuring the Mascot. All of these were six-dollar loose pucks. The only puck with the Thunder logo on it was in a plastic case with a hologram sticker (which is peeling off) and Official Puck labels. This was eight bucks. They had nothing else with the Thunder logo on it.
That’s some real don’t-step-on-the-logo stuff right there. Which is fine when you are in the locker room or taking your career seriously and all that, but not so hot when it’s on the other side of the glass, where the fans are.
Speaking of this side of the glass, how about the crowd? I snapped these at the end of the second period. No one was rushing off to beat the crowd to the beer stand or bathrooms. There was no crowd.
The ECHL lists the attendance at 1,532, which feels a little generous. Mind you, it’s a Tuesday night, so things are bound to be better for the weekend, but… yikes. By comparison, the last Saturday game (February 27th) was listed at 3,082, which isn’t bad for the ECHL, but not great. The Thunder ranks second to last in the league in attendance, beating out only – and this surprises me – the Kalamazoo Wings. The Thunder are nearly 2,000 fans per game below the league average. Weekday hockey is a tough sell in the minors, but something is going on here.
Let’s revisit the fun factor after the second period. Back to the action. When we last left the game, it was a back and forth affair, but went to the intermission tied at zero. This period was much more… physical.
I think my favorite part of that hit is how disinterested the players on the bench look. There might as well be a knitting circle happening in front of them, for all they care.
He’s got this one between his blocker and his chest. If you can’t see it, click the photo.
Chances at both ends.
In the second, a few penalties that probably should have been called slipped by, and by slipped by, the ref was looking right at the play and decided not to make the calls. There are two ways you can take this kind of thing. If people are feeling generous, the ref is “letting them play,” and letting the “players decide.” Or you can take it how the fans here did, and the ref is an idiot ruining the game, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a fine line.
Plenty of hitting, including whatever this is.
All of that hitting led to this…
You see where we’re going…
And of course…
Both players were sent off for fighting. Fair enough.
Eight seconds later, Kalamazoo scored, which was blamed on the ref. Mind you, this was even strength, one of the straightest slap shots I have ever seen, and the goalie was snoozing a little. Sure, the refs fault. I’m sorry I didn’t get a shot of it.
The second period ended with the K-Wings up 2-0. They still looked beatable, if the Thunder could just get one.
First, let’s see what kind of fun they have in store for us at the break.
That is one guy dancing to Uptown Funk. One guy. On the Dance Cam. Who must have been the buddy of the announcer, because that guy was ENAMORED and EXCITED, to an uncomfortable degree. The crowd wasn’t into it. Even the guy dancing didn’t seem all that into it. It was the thirty second bit stretched into 4:30, or pretty much the last few seasons of Saturday Night Live played out at a hockey game.
This was the fun of the second period. Oh, and beach balls.
Are they even trying? Do they even care? Even the t-shirt toss during a time out seemed dull and tired, as though the people throwing the shirts had taken too much cold medicine before. Where was the excitement? Where was the fun? Was the director of entertainment out with the flu?
Back to the game.
If you don’t see the puck, look over the goalie.
This is your nightmare fuel. You can thank me later.
Both goalies played well, but this sequence was just too much fun not to include.
It’s just hanging there. This was seven shots at 11 frames per second, so it took 2/3 of a second for all that to happen, but it looks like it took forever. Life of a goalie.
Here is a blocked shot in action. The expressions of the players sums up how it must feel to be in the way of a puck going upwards of 90 miles per hour.
The Thunder would not get one by Kalamazoo, and fell 2-0. Not for lack of trying. Shots on goal were 38-22 in favor of Adirondack. Sometimes, you just run across a hot goalie.
If you go to a game in Glens Falls, here are my Pro Tips:
- Sit on the player’s bench side of the arena, way high. You will pay half the price of the same seat on the other side. Sit in the last row if possible.
- Off street parking can be found easily, and for free. I parked a block from the arena on the street, and got out of town quickly.
- Bring a book, or some knitting, or a game on your phone. You will be more entertained by your own means than by anything the team provides.
Glens Falls is still one of my favorite places to see a hockey game. I’m just a little disturbed at how the game is being handled there. I could put in all the usual caveats like the fact that it was a Tuesday night, so maybe they didn’t pull out all the stops (or put a few things away for a weeknight), but even that doesn’t hold up. They didn’t lower the ticket price for a weeknight game, so they should give the paying fan the same experience as going on a weekend. They should work harder to make the weeknight worthwhile. Show people it’s worth coming to a weeknight game, that missing out on a Tuesday game is missing out on something special.
Instead, it all seemed a little too precious, a little too revered, as if hockey needs to be serious business at every point, to the exclusion of fun. And if it isn’t fun, why bother going?
Remember when hockey used to be fun? Doesn’t it seem silly to say that?
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