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Hockey Nights in America

I've been to six different hockey arenas this year.

1. Allstate Arena
Milwaukee Admirals vs. Chicago Wolves
Attendance: 9,755
Comments: The Wolves offer simple entertainment at a good price. Are you a fan of fireworks and two huge flamethrowers used pregame? How about a skating wolf called Skates? That's not enough? How about a Deal or No Deal rip-off called Skates or No Skates during the first intermission? Still not enough? How about we have Skates catapult shirts in the crowd while not one, but two Zambonis smooth the ice?

Then, a few weeks after the game, I received a phone call from the Wolves informing me that it was cheaper to buy my tickets through their 1-800-WOLVES line than through Ticketmaster. They even thanked me for attending. Are you kidding me? The flamethrowers were enough.

2. Joe Louis Arena
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings
Attendance: 20,066
Comments The JLA has many nice touches - Gates named after famous Red Wings players; $2.50 slices of pizza; $8 28-oz Molsons; playing Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" right before they drop the puck. Also, quite a few well-crafted mullets.

Plus, Red Wings fans remained engaged throughout the game. They booed the loudest whenever ex-Red Wing Sergei Fedorov handled the puck, and cheered the loudest when the Kiss Cam showed two guys in Blue Jackets jerseys. It just goes to show that mullets will go out of style at the same time as homophobia.

Unlike Chicago hockey fans, Detroit fans exit the arena in a friendly fashion, presumably because the Red Wings represent their storied franchise with affordable tickets, local viewing opportunities, affordable beer and parking, and a competitive team.

3. Mellon Arena
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Attendance: Sold out on a Saturday night
Comments: Rowdy, enthused crowd. We arrive a half-hour before the gates open, and roughly 2,000 other fans waiting to get in. Fans rode anybody not wearing black and gold. A friend wearing brown and white shirt misidentified as a "F'n Browns" fan. Three Islanders fans verbally abused all night. One of the Islander fans had a broken leg. During the third period, in a drunken stupor, I exclaimed "I hope you break the other leg!" Others agreed.

4. Xcel Energy Center
Florida Panthers vs. Minnesota Wild
Attendance: 18,000-plus on a Thursday night, 0 degrees outside
Comments: Great opening, with a Minnesota-hockey themed song and a youngster skating to mid-ice with a Wild flag draped on hockey stick. Youth slams stick on ice and pumps gloved fist in air as if saying "It's our house." This happens while opposing team skates nearby. Hockey game featuring seven-year-olds during 1st Intermission great entertainment. The PA announcer interviews one of the players after the game, asking "How does it feel playing in front of 18,000 fans?" Kid replies "It's no big deal."

5. The MARK
Chicago Hounds vs. Quad City Mallards
Attendance: 4,200 on a Thursday night
Comments: The clearest division in talent between UHL and NHL is in the National Anthem. I believe the singer made seven key changes. Mallards skated out of large inflatable duck's head at the opening. The Mallards even had two Zambonis. That's pretty damn good for the UHL. Though the crowd was thin for NHL standards, crowd cheered all the Mallards goals, hits, and saves.

6. United Center
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Attendance: Unannounced, but estimated at 5,000, not the 10,000 reported in the paper, a Thursday night
Comments: The UC holds 22,000, and there's no way it was anywhere near half- full; where we were sitting, there was NOBODY sitting in the 200-level within six sections in either direction. No crowd energy. Blackhawks give up first goal. Crowd makes sound of total indifference. Players and crowd sleep-walk through game, except when "Ice Girls" skated out for the first time. Scoreboard shows 12 different Ice Girls, yet two showed up for work. Crowd booed guy trying to hit puck through slot from center ice during 2nd Intermission. Crowd switched allegences when attractive woman tried next. Clearly crowd almost 100 percent male. Another sign crowd very thin - took only 5 minutes to get from parking lot to I-290.

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Posted on Sep 21, 2020