Sunday, October 15, 2006

Drop the puck!

When you enter the arena, you feel the excitement in the hallways. The crowd inside is revving up. You climb the stairs and move towards your section. All along the way, the fans are getting louder and louder. The lights over the ice are dark as the starting line is announced. The student section is in a frenzy. You follow your friend as he leads you to his season ticket seats. Up a flight of stairs and you enter the field of play. Front row, Section 319, a nice view of the entire surface of the rink, at the red line at the opposing team's goal. You enter the darkness and go down the last set of stairs.

Just remember there is one last stair at the bottom. You miss it and you will stumble, possibly going over the rail and falling on the fans below. At the least, you may twist your ankle.

My ankle is fine.

When you say Wiiiiiiiiissconsin! You've said it all!

There is something exciting about college hockey. The crowd. The setting of plays. The band. The student section. There is electricity in the air. Half of the crowd is older, wanting to watch their team play. The other half is rowdy, determined to be the 7th man on the ice. The opposing team is going to hear them. The goalie is raw meat.

Sioux is a girls name! Sioux is a girls name!

Watching the student section is part of the show. The upper classmen have earned their right to be in the lower bowl. The lead the crowd from their area along side the band. Most have honed their craft, getting down all the moves to the songs the band plays. They know to clap and hop in circles; when to raise the hands to the right, then the left. Most are great. Some should be replaced. But as a group, the are loud and in charge.

In the two decks above them, the new students watch and learn. They hope to graduate to better seats and carry on the tradition. Until they can, they jockey to become the alpha males in their section, hoping they will be remembered when they get the call. suck! suck! suck! And we are going to kick the shit out of you! And you! And you! And you and you and you!

You never know what is going to come out of the student section. Some of the chants are traditional. Others are quite original and targeted at the opponent. Others are for the chumps who try to join them- wearing colors that are not red and white. Like the guy who walked down to the ice with a Minnesota Golden Gophers shirt and knit cap on. After booing the clown, they broke into a chant of "Holy Cross! Holy Cross!" Security asked him to move along, for his own safety. He wasn't bright enough to realize he was the butt of the joke.

Let's Go Red! Let's Go Red! Let's Go Red!

It wasn't the prettiest game by the NCAA Champion Wisconsin Badgers. Their puck handling was sloppy. They wasted valuable power play minutes just trying to get the puck in the zone. The defense wasn't sharp. Heck, at one point, a defenseman shot the puck right in front of the goalie as if he was shooting at the wrong net.

Sieve! Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!

But when you have an awesome goalie, that poor play can be covered up. It takes just one rush, one hit of pressure to get the puck into the net. One goal would win the game. And it wasn't Brian Elliot giving up the goal. Badgers win 1-0 after being dominated for 2 1/2 periods. With Elliot in goal, the Badger have a chance to repeat as champions. He will buy the team time to grow together and gel. To shake any rust off and learn how to get to the puck without turning it over behind the net.

Now we drink! Now we drink!

Those are the last words you will hear as the students file out after the victory. With a smile on your face, you realize they are right once again. Time to drink. Watching hockey for a couple hours in a dry arena bites. But it is a small sacrifice to make for the unique experience you have just enjoyed.

You amble out into the cold, passing the cow statues that surround the Kohl Center, watching students climb up on them for pictures. You head into one of the taverns to drink cheap beer. College bars are great. Anyone with a good paying job feels like a kind in these places. Leinie's Red for only $2 a pint? Let me buy the girls down there a drink! Not everyday you can buy a round for you 3 friends and get change for a ten.

As you drink your beer and mingle, you can also pick out the people that have been out drinking since the football game at 11. I noticed one table in particular that was still there from before we left for the game. Ah, to be in college again.

But I am not in college. While student can sleep in today, lay around, maybe study a bit after the football games. They can get up on Monday and head off to the 10 o'clock class. I have to get packed up for a week in Minneapolis. Plane leaves at 4:20. Hmm...sounds like a flight that two brothers in New York would enjoy.

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