Ice hockey, it’s just not cricket

I was in a canyon filled with people, pokies on one side, restaurants on the other, flowing toward the arena in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

“YOU SUCK! YOU SUCK! YOU SUCK!”

A man in a purple robe with a plastic crown leads the chant, directed at two vastly outnumbered people in Colorado Avalanche jerseys, bobbing along in a river of LA Kings fans.

The flow suddenly stops. “USA! USA! USA!” A new chant, surely relieving the seemingly apathetic Avalanche fans, starts up for a man wearing a Canada jersey. I start to laugh, the crowd is full of comedians and characters, and nobody is taking anything too seriously. Yet.

The river of LA Kings fans

A river of LA Kings fans flooded the MGM Grand

This is Frozen Fury, a tradition of 16 years, and the final game of the 2014/15 preseason for the LA Kings, the 2013/14 Stanley Cup Champions.

Much to the delight of my husband, as part of his mystery birthday weekend we were about to watch the Kings play live!

The last sporting match I attended remotely like this was a one day cricket match at the Adelaide Oval. It didn’t take long for me to discover ice hockey is just not cricket…

LA Kings Frozen Fury

LA Kings warm up in blue jerseys (photo by Dikko)

Ice hockey fans are far more excited to see their players
Rather than well mannered claps as the fielding team strolls onto the field, there’s flat out yelling, clapping, crying, shouting, hollering, and just all-round loud noise for players entering the rink.

Cricket fans are drunker, but only just…

The only cricket I’ve spectated live is played under a scorching Australian sun. Take a huge ball of exploding gas belting rays, add terrible yet cold beer, and regardless of who’s playing, it’s a combination set to send anyone straight to drunky land.

Ice hockey is indoors, it’s a winter inspired sport, and personally I’d rather watch it sipping a nice port. But it appeared beer was also the hockey fan’s beverage of choice. While there were some who found dancing legs half way through the first period, or those whose insults to the Avalanche became slurred, by getting dehydrated in belting sun and still drinking, cricket fans take the inebriated cake.

Our seats were pretty good for the action!

Our seats were pretty good for the action!

Ice hockey is fast, smooth, and did I mention fast?

I was not bored. Not for one second of the game. It’s constantly moving. You look anywhere but the rink and you miss something, usually exciting! The players move so quickly and it’s such a powerful and smooth flowing game I’d never seen anything quite like it. Even the bench is fast with players practically jumping off and back on to the ice.

Going to an ice hockey game, you dress like a player

We were dressed in casual clothing, nothing fancy, yet we stood out like sore thumbs. The crowd was predominantly black and white in their jerseys, names above big numbers like Kopitar 11, Doughty 8 and Quick 32 on the backs of tall people, short people, wide and thin people, men and women. I have to say the ice hockey jerseys sure look more comfortable, and cooler, than a cricket team shirt.

Goalies and wicket keepers are both slightly crazy

Yes, please have small objects hurtled toward me with the risk of losing eyes and teeth no matter how much padding or helmets I wear. Honestly the reflexes of both roles are impressive, however the hip flexibility in ice hockey goalies makes me feel like an 87 year old. I guess I’d work on my flexibility if I was paid a lazy $8.5m a year (top paid goalie salary this season).

You don’t see ice hockey players rubbing the puck

No shining, no handling, spitting, rubbing, throwing it around. A puck is tough, the only attention it gets is having the rubbery life beaten out of it across frozen water.

So who won?

The game itself was great to watch, I learned a lot and to be honest, nothing beats seeing sport live. In the final period (the NHL plays three, 20 minute periods) the score was 2 all. A five minute overtime was held, the game remained deadlocked. We certainly got our ticket’s worth as the match was decided in an awesome shootout, with Colorado winning.

Not to worry, there’s 82 games in the NHL season, and it hadn’t even started.

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