Before I get going, let me just preface this post by stating that everything I know about ice hockey I learned from The Mighty Ducks. Me and sport have never seen eye to eye, mostly because I end up feeling so sorry for the losing team that it takes all the fun out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll support Ireland in anything, especially if it’s rugby and there’s a pub involved, but in general I have no time for sport. Yes, I can appreciate the talent and skill that goes into a game of Gaelic football, but the amount of money professional athletes here and in the UK earn makes me want to hurl (in the non sporting sense).
Despite my apathy for sport and sporty people in general, I was very excited when Eoin’s aunt sent him a pair of ice hockey tickets as a birthday present. The game (or match, if you prefer) was on Friday night in the Rose Garden, where the Portland Winterhawks were playing the Everett Silvertips and I spent last week working myself up into a frenzy about it. I don’t get out much, remember? Being well-prepared, I had Milo nice and tired so he would sleep soundly in his crate while we were out and had even hired a nine-year-old girl to stand outside our door and listen for him (this is totally above board. More about her at a later date.) You can imagine how enraged I was then when we got to Portland and discovered that Eoin’s poxy work phone, which rings every eight seconds, was at home, charging away quietly. Back we went to get it, causing us to miss the start of the game, but only by a few minutes.
As far as I know, the Winterhawks share the Rose Garden with the Trailblazers, Portland’s basketball team. It’s a really cool and well-maintained stadium, I’m not sure of the capacity but I reckon it was three-quarters full for our game. And the best bit? Our seats were in the front row, practically on the ice, with only a sheet of plexiglass separating us from flying players and pucks. Below, I have used my feet to illustrate just how close to the action we were.
A little too close for comfort, don’t you think? To my left is where the teams were sitting. As I said, I don’t know much about the rules of ice hockey but I did learn that the game is broken up into three 20-minute periods and that every few minutes four players from each team did this thing I called Swapsies, wherein they sat down and four other lads got a chance to play. It was hard to keep up. Look at them there doing their Swapsies.
As you would expect, considering it’s played on ice, the game was fast and furious. For the first period most of the action was at the far end of the rink around the Silvertips’ goal, to wit I concluded they must be the less talented of the two teams. Also, I have never heard of Everett. But then, out of nowhere, the Silvertips scored. Naturally, I clapped. A goal is a goal, right? WRONG. You could have heard a pin drop in the stadium. Everett had no supporters in the house and it turns out that at American games the only time you cheer for the “other” team is when one of their players gets knocked out by one of your own. Well, you can imagine what started to happen in my head. I was picturing the Silvertips’ nanas at home watching the game on TV, possibly knitting green victory scarves for their little underdog grandsons. So even though they were winning, I felt the need to cheer for them because, well, no one else there could be arsed. Thankfully the whistle went so the torture could be paused while we went out to grab some burgers (delicious, in case you were wondering.)
The teams swapped places for the second period, which meant the Silvertips’ goal was right in front of us. The players were so close I could nearly smell their sweat and I’m sure, as the game progressed, they got the occasional whiff of my fear. Every time one of them was rammed up against the glass in front of me I almost jumped out of my skin, and after a particularly aggressive bash I saw myself on the big screen in the background – with my hands over my face. A few minutes later Portland scored and the whole Rose Garden erupted. It turns out that the crowd could actually make noise if they put their minds to it. Everyone did this kind of choreographed fist pump thing and stood up and generally went nuts. Of course I clapped along, but my heart wasn’t in it. I don’t think anyone noticed. I’m quite a good actress.
A couple of minutes later, three of the Hawks pounded one of my guys against the wall so hard he was almost knocked out. The crowd cheered so loudly I thought they’d scored. I’m telling you, ice hockey fans are barbaric. They love the fouls and the fights the players get into every 30 seconds. If you ask me, it’s all a bit theatrical. There were four umpires on the ice who spent most of their time separating the teams and making sure they didn’t kick the shit out of each other. Puh-lease, the players wear so much protective gear their outfits are practically bullet-proof. I doubt they’d be so brave if they weren’t covered in several inches of plastic and padding. The kids behind me chanting “Let them fight! Let them fight!” seemed to enjoy it though.
And then the whistle went, marking the end of the second period. We didn’t have anything pressing to attend to in this break so we stuck around to watch what happened in the ice. It was all go. First, the Kiss Cam popped up on the big screen, just like you see in movies. It was very cute when people spotted themselves up there and kissed; one elderly man even went so far as to hump his wife (my mind immediately turned to Milo and I wondered how he was getting on at home alone). Americans have no sense of embarrassment when it comes to the big screen, which I admire. I would have been mortified to see my face up there.
Next up, the Rose Buds made a dramatic entrance on to the ice. As a 28-year-old wannabe cheerleader, I was pretty disappointed with these girls. They did a little dance but showed no athleticism whatsoever, just lots of big white smiles, high kicks and announcements about their official tanning sponsor. Even Eoin was like, “I was expecting more pyramids from them.” After their routine, things took a turn for the weird when people started standing up and throwing rubber pucks on to the ice. Turns out it was for a raffle or something and, get this, the Rose Buds had to clean up afterwards. Scarleh for them. My dreams of being a cheerleader ended here, I can tell you.
And so, on to the third and final period. I was really starting to get into the game at this stage and was using all the tricks I know from The Secret to will the Silvertips to victory. Play was aggressive and the goals were coming thick and fast. Thankfully I’m not a nail biter because today I would have bloody stumps where my hands should be.
Coming up to the final whistle, the Hawks were leading by one goal but my brave little Silvertips just weren’t giving up. I feel like my support was really making a difference. Everyone is ordered to stand up for the final minute so tension was at fever pitch and I was definitely making some noise. But despite my valiant efforts, the Portland Winterhawks won with a final score of 4–3.
Of course they milked it, skating around soaking up all the applause and adoration, while my guys just skulked off quietly into oblivion. But that’s sport for you, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say I’ve been converted, and you’ll definitely never see me in any kind of jersey, but I would happily go to another game if the opportunity presented itself.
And if you’re wondering how Milo got on, he was mute from the moment we left at 5.45pm ’til I freed him at 10.45pm. So in the end, victory really was mine, when you think about it.