Not long ago, at the height of the Central Hockey League, Texas could boast having the most professional hockey teams of any state.
That’s right, Texas.
Lubbock, Laredo, Hidalgo, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Odessa, Corpus Christi, and yes, Amarillo. They all had teams, a few in the AHL, but most in the Central Hockey League, which was competing with the ECHL to be a feeder league to the A. The CHL wound up spreading itself too thin, and slowly lost teams to the less expensive junior leagues. Low minor hockey is a tough sell no matter where you are. As you can imagine, it’s even harder in a state like Texas, where snow, let alone ice, isn’t a normal visitor.
The Amarillo Bulls are the result of one of those CHL teams falling by the wayside, and a junior (NAHL) team coming in. Their opponent on this night, the Jackalopes, are another.
And hockey is alive and well in Amarillo, even if on this night, the crowd was a little sparse.
Welcome to the Amarillo Civic Center.
No, it’s not the prettiest building you’ve ever seen. On the right is the truck ramp that leads down to the loading areas of the building. We will get into that in a moment.
What you might not notice immediately is the snow on the ground. This is hockey, so you would expect hockey weather, except Texas is not prone to snow storms. On the way from Denver, the highways were coated with packed snow. There was ice on the roads. In Texas, they don’t have as much equipment to deal with it.
So now you know why the hallways looked like this:
But there were fans, and those that made it, they saw something you don’t see often in hockey these days: shots, and lots of them.
This is a wacky arena. The four trusses / walkways overhead are all painted different colors.
The walls look like Piet Mondrian painted them:
Meet Rampage, the mascot that looks awkward as all get out:
The captains meet for the ceremonial puck drop, and they couldn’t have gotten away from each other quicker. Not fans of each other.
OK, let’s do this thing. Time for some action.
In this post, a high percentage of the photos will be of saves. And there is a reason for this: There were a combined 107 shots on goal.
Let’s get to it. Things started off physical, and the Bulls were shooting from everywhere.
My angle was a little low for the first period. I moved back in the second, so don’t worry, the glass doesn’t interfere as much later.
The first period ended 1-0 Amarillo. I didn’t get a photo of the goal. I’m a little rusty at this.
Let’s head to the concourse. Merch table.
Meet Victor. As you can tell, he’s a fan of the Bulls. He told me he dresses like this for every game. He was here when the Gorillas of the CHL were playing, and he was here when the Rattlers were playing in the WPHL. And I’m not making this up, he also works as a Santa Claus. He gave me his Santa business card.
I don’t think there are enough people here for horseplay to be a going concern.
Let’s get back to the action. 2nd period, go!
Here’s a goal.
When the Bulls score, the fans throw Bulls Balls on the ice (I didn’t name them). The team sells them for a buck each. One of the better ways for a team to make easy money.
To clean up the balls, they send a bunch of kids out on the ice with buckets. While they are great at getting to the balls and putting them in their buckets, they aren’t so hot at keeping the balls in their buckets. A ball might be picked up three or four times before it finally made it off the ice.
This was a thing of beauty. I couldn’t leave out a shot. From almost losing the puck to the backhand spin-o-rama. This made it 4-1 Bulls.
A little equal time. This was a bad photo, but it was a goal against the Bulls. First, the shot from the point that wound up sitting in the crease, then Connor Wood puts it in.
Wood also liked the rough stuff.
The second period ended 4-2 Amarillo. Let’s head back out.
So why is the Amarillo Civic Center such a boring building? Because it’s not just an arena. There’s an auditorium, a convention center with exhibit halls, meeting rooms, and a “Grand Plaza.” It’s everything the city needs, even if it’s bland.
It’s the epitome of functionality, unless you are playing the auditorium. That’s a story for another time or blog. But we aren’t here to ogle at the architecture. We are here for the hockey. Third period action, coming your way.
That looks like it hurt.
This is not how you want to see your goalie.
Sometimes, your goalie is the only one who knows where the puck is.
Apparently, this pig flies in every time Amarillo scores a goal. I never saw it happen. Again, I’m rusty. But I completely respect that flying it in is someone’s job.
A nice toe save.
Things got a little heated late in the third. Too late for it to make a difference to the Jackalopes.
The penalty boxes are next to the player’s benches here, rather than the opposite side. If you are a regular of these posts, you’ve seen this before, and even wackier layouts. And hey, look. It’s Wood! I told you he likes the rough stuff.
The Bulls won this one 5-2. Shots on goal were 61 for Amarillo, 46 for the Jackalopes. Wouldn’t you love to see an NHL game with those kinds of numbers?
I don’t know what to tell you about going to games in Amarillo. I mean, sure, I was just at a game in Amarillo, but this wasn’t a usual night. Thanks to the weather, it was a poorly attended game. I know there are more fans than showed up on this night.
But I did get a lot of shots on goal. That was fun to see.