Or “I Finally Attended My First Professional Hockey Game”
That’s right, I’m a virgin no more. Friday night I took Alex to a London Knights hockey game at the JLC. It was Scouts night for the OHL team and apparently there were 800 scouts (and family) in attendance. For some reason, Alex’s troop was selected to present the colour guard so he was down on the ice during the national anthem and everything. At least I’m assuming he was on the ice. There were little people, presumably kids, on the ice and they were holding flags, but from the seats we had at the opposite end of the arena they were sadly no more than colourful little blobs.
Those who know me know that I’m not a fan of professional hockey. To be more specific, I’m not a fan of the fighting in professional hockey. It’s a polarizing issue where everyone seems to be strongly on one side or the other. I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind it’s just a belief I hold. I’ve always said that I could be a fan of hockey if they did something about the violence that permeates the game. Do I still feel that way? Read on!
Let’s start with the venue. As usual, the JLC is a premier facility for, well, just about everything it seems. Our seats were in section 308, Row M. For those that don’t know – that’s as high as it gets. There were no seats higher than ours. While the players did look a little small at the far end, we had a completely unobstructed view of the entire ice surface. The only time I had to shift in my seat was if the play was right down in front of us; I had to sit up a bit to see over the guy’s head in front of me. The center score board was JUST high enough that the far end of the rink was not obstructed. Something I have a feeling was carefully measured. Kudos to them. My ONLY complaint about the facility was that where we were sitting it was very difficult to hear to the announcer. It wasn’t that his words were muffled or garbled, they just weren’t loud enough. I think it may be due to the roof structure muting it. A few small speakers mounted on that structure would do wonders.
The fans. What to say about the fans? Well…they’re an energetic bunch! Indeed, their energy and involvement made the game all the better. Except for those with damned vuvuzelas. If the OHL can draft a draconian camera policy that, as written, gives them de facto control over ALL events held at the JLC (which I’ve been assured is not the case and likely not legally enforceable but who knows) then surely they can draft some sort of policy that prohibits vuvuzelas from the arena.
On to the game. Was I right? Could I be a fan of hockey? Let’s take a look. As I mentioned above, I’m not a fan of the fighting. In fact, I hesitated bringing Alex to see the game because of the fighting. Right now we’re trying to teach him that punching and hitting is wrong and I was worried how he would react to two players squaring off with 7,000 people cheering them on. Fortunately I didn’t need to worry. There was one fight early in the game and because of the colour guard he wasn’t in his seat yet so didn’t see it. As for the fight itself, it left me more disappointed and disgusted than I had been prior to watching a game. In my rainbows and unicorns world I had envisioned that as soon as a fight breaks out the referees quickly would jump in and separate the two. That simply was not the case. The gloves came off and the two faced off for a good 10-20 seconds before the first punch was thrown. The refs stood by and watched. It wasn’t until the two players ended up down on the ice that the referees interrupted the fight and sent the players off to the penalty box. There was ample opportunity to separate the players before the first punch was thrown and ample opportunity to separate them after the first punch was thrown but it wasn’t until they were down on the ice that action was taken. Okay, enough about the fight. The rest of the game was high energy and fun to watch. I was right into cheering on the team (although not quite as vocal as some). Sadly the Knights didn’t seem to playing at their best. Even what little I know about hockey was enough to see that their puck control was poor at best. The final 4-1 score in Windsor’s favour was proof of that.
So, could I be a fan? Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt. But not until the fighting is all but eliminated. Even the one fight I saw was enough to turn me away from the game. Would it have been that way if the refs stopped it immediately? I don’t know. So until that happens I’ll just sit on the sidelines and watch our local team churn out overpaid NHL players while our education system struggles to provide for its students.