This morning I headed downtown to meet Heather B. and Courtney C. for a open practice at HSBC arena. This was the first time I had ever been anywhere near live hockey on any level. I have to say, the experience exceeded all expectations.
-It’s totally cold inside a hockey rink. (I’m thinking this has something to do with the ice.)
-The rink is a lot smaller than it looks on television.
-The skating is amazingly fast and often incredibly graceful. I was quite surprised at how entertained I was watching them skate in gentle circles.
-Hockey drills are weird. Most of it looked like incomprehensible swirling, but every few drills would be something sort of fun and competitive. Hank and Staffy played a particularly amusing round of “I’m going to knock you out of the circle/No, I’m going to knock YOU out of the circle.”
-A hockey scrimmage is hilarious. The teams were “Blue” and “Gold”, but everyone seemed to be calling the Gold team “Yellow”. The main trouble was we didn’t know who half the players were and lots of guys were wearing the wrong numbers. (For example there were two 23’s, and even worse, there was a non-Numminen 27. How rude.) It’s hard to choose a side when both teams are made up of Sabres, so our little crew decided that it would be best to cheer for a tie in hopes of seeing a scrimmage shoot-out. The tie was not to be, however, as I accidentally cheered too hard for the Yellow team and empowered Derek Roy to a late game burst of productivity. The Yellow Team won, 7-5.
-Andrew Peters has lots of squealing admirers. Wha-aa? Every time he came out on the ice he was accompanied by a round of totally earnest (and un-ironic) cheering. This didn’t surprise me when it happened to Ryan Miller, but Andrew Peters? All I can figure is he must be doing some extremely sexy work as the team’s NHLPA representative.
-Thomas Vanek displays no outward signs of his insane wealth. I think I half expected him to be sporting a ridiculous gold grill, or Mr. T. style neck chains, but no, he looked pretty normal. Seeing Vanek in person reminded me that I’m going to need to forgive him for his slutty summer before the season starts. I’m still pretty annoyed with him, and I found myself cheering against him in all of the little practice drills. He and I cannot continue in this passive aggressive relationship for too much longer. Something’s got to give.
– Jason Pominville is not very big. I thought he was one of the huge strapping guys, but in truth he is closer in size to Roy than to Goose.
Scrimmage tested jokes:
Meeting Heather and Courtney was a blast. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous meeting internet friends, but it was totally easy. Within a few minutes of meeting, things shifted from slightly awkward, to comfortable, to hilarious. In no time flat, we had an arsenal of jokes with which to work, ranging from the silly to the super-silly. We laughed at Pommerdoodle, we softly shouted hair care tips, and we alternately encouraged and discouraged their overly-feisty scrimmage behavior. We had all noted a particularly funny headline over at Sabre Rattling, “Free Teppo”, and the Free Teppo joke got quite a bit of mileage. Also, we spent a lot of time shouting into imaginary megaphones.
The Mysterious Stranger:
In a misguided attempt to save our seats with our programs (two photocopied pages, hilariously titled “The Training Camp News” by the way), we lost our rosters. This lead to trouble once the scrimmage began and we had no idea who a lot of the younger players were. I was quickly smitten with one guy who we referred to during the entire scrimmage as “Yellow 19”. I see big things in Yellow 19’s future, both as a player and as a heartthrob.
Yellow 19 (whoever he is) is one to watch.
This practice was great. Not only did I get a (nearly) front row seat to the action, but the overall vibe was quite relaxing. There were maybe a couple hundred people there, and the atmosphere in the crowd was quite subdued. I might even go back tomorrow with my ipod and a few Sudoku puzzles and just sit quietly, soaking in the experience.
Note to Sabres management: I realize that we had a rough weekend, what with the Teppo suspension and all, but I’m going to go ahead and make one more gentle suggestion. For the love of Lindy Ruff, get these guys off the side of our building before the season starts. Are you trying to make us cranky?