It was our fourth hockey game of the season on Friday. Huck's boss is a big fan which means we've got free tickets. I'd rather go to a theatrical or symphonic production, but we have yet to befriend one of those season ticket holders. Hence, our family entertainment this winter has been boxing on ice. No really, it's hockey.
I feel a little weird about violence as entertainment. But the thing is, we're not going for the violence, we're going to watch the puck get hucked into a net... and if some violence erupts during this attempt, se la vie, or something like that.
The fun in these fights is that they're supposed to be doing something else, like paying attention to the puck, not throwing fists. Whereas boxing is a little boring and predictable, you know someone's going to get punched, these eruptions are surprising, sort of.
At the beginning of the season, our tickets were right on the ice, and those boys would slam each other up against the glass, right in our faces. And as they smeared across it, you could really see how smashed they were and young too. This is a junior league, so the players are enormous 16 to 20 year olds. This is where my main problem comes in. Are these 16 year olds really consenting to concussions, fat lips, and high sticking? Is this any worse than what happens behind the gas station by the high school? A 25 year old foot ball player is old enough to vote and drink his bruises away. But at 16? I have problems with young kids being provided as entertainment, especially if their bodies get bashed in the process. But what of those 14 year old ice-skaters? And the 15 year old models eating salad with nothing on it? I've got problems with the whole shebang. There's something very Roman about this.
And yet, four free tickets in hand...
This Friday's game wasn't as violent as usual. They were playing another American team. Now those Canadians, they know how to start the fisty cuffs quick and dirty. The crowd stands on it's feet like a goal's been shot. They cheer. They scream.
My other issue is the advertising. Every person in there paid for their tickets, or someone they know did, and yet every surface is covered with advertisements, as if the arena was starving to death had to prostitute itself out. 25 ads are frozen in the ice. 50 ring the rink. A Jimbotron advertises Geico. An LED display circles the place like a hand cuff. There's a Round Table blimp. Pizza place games. And sponsored plays. This is the thing I can't stand the most. Every time a goal is scored, they pull out the IHOP gong!! My god. The Les Schwab penalty kill (or something like that). And if the Cheif's score in the next five minutes everyone in Section 112 gets free Chalupa's from Taco Bell!! Everyone chant: CHA-LU-PA! Now we have the Washington Mutual Memorial puck save. And on and on. Every word uttered over the loudspeaker has a corporation in front of it, like prefixes. It's this whole new language. I understand I'm a captive audience, I just wish I didn't feel so much like a prisoner.
I actually enjoy watching the actual game, except when those moral issues come up. It's fast paced. Makes your head spin. Never a dull moment, unlike the snoozers of baseball and football. It's like basketball meets soccer meets boxing on ice, double timed. And I've learned enough about the rules by watching to sort of understand what's going on.
What's going on is a lot of penalties. They even had an awards ceremony where they brought back those prior Chief's with the most penalty minutes per career. This is confusing. It's like giving out candy to the kid with the most time-outs. I can't imagine they're trying to promote good citizenship on the ice... not that anyone but me would be interested is watching that sort of hockey.
"We" lost on Friday, and the sold out crowd was none too pleased. They were screaming curses at the other team. Okay...Listen here, folks. The Chief's played horrifically. They tripped over their own feet, they passed the puck to thin air (who's not their best player, by the way) and the other team's goalie was phenomenal. So why the sour puss invectives? I understand swearing... as you've probably noted. It's a way to pull a sense of power out of an empty hat. When there's no way to convey the extent to which you feel this thing, or to right the wrong, we cuss. These words that we've empowered with taboos, we save for moments when we need them. We're cut off in traffic? String those expletives like popcorn on the damn Christmas tree. But loosing a game? You weren't even playing, you imbecile! You were sitting on your ass in the stands with a beer in each hand. Why the name calling? They won, and they deserved to.
Despite that loss the Chief's are off to the play-offs and thus ends our winter of uneasy spectatorship. Can't wait till next season!