Apart from a brief airing during the Winter Olympics Ice hockey rarely enters our consciousness in Australia, but in Canada hockey (always just “hockey” here) is BIG!
The major competition is in lockout awaiting a pay dispute being sorted out between the players and owners but that hasn’t lessened the passion for the game at the local level. Hayley and Tyson’s local team is the Hamilton Bulldogs and they got us tickets for their home against Rochester Americans.
It wasn’t a great start for the local team, missing a lot of opportunities in the first period despite having a numerical advantage for most of the time. Fights broke out often and the Americans were regularly losing players to the penalty box. Even with a two player advantage for a couple of minutes the Bulldogs couldn’t hammer home an advantage.
The speed of the skating, the skills of the players and the accurate passing were all impressive enough but for an Australian spectator’s sheer amazement nothing beat the time-out and ice-clearing breaks, which occur every few minutes during the game. Among the diversions offered to the fans awaiting the next gloves-off fight were rib eating contests, lucky seat prizes, the bulldog’s mascot firing free T-shirts from something that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle and, of course, the ceremonial delivery of pizzas to the contest winners in the rink-side super-box… Amazing!
Period two saw the Americans blitz the hapless Bulldogs with two goals to nil. Things weren’t looking good for the local heroes! The only highlight was the Little League match during the break where cute little tackers spent a bit of time slapping at the puck and a lot of time falling over on the ice, all in slow motion compared to the pros, but having the time of their lives! Cute as!
With 20 minutes to play (which of course meant 30 minutes of sponsor devised distractions to advertise their products) the task seemed hopeless for the Bulldogs, when from out of nowhere they slid one through the previously impenetrable defence. Suddenly the dominant Americans were only one goal up and the bulldogs sensed the tide had turned… which it had in no uncertain terms. Four goals to Hamilton in 12 minutes (or about an hour and a half of fun and hi-jinx for the crowd) and the game was won… not even a late goal to Rochester could stop the avalanche! The Bulldogs had triumphed 4-3 and the home crowd were ecstatic (and madly craving ribs, pizza, popcorn, etc of course.)
Great fun! Loved it!