Preseason, Baby.

One of the reasons I’m so excited so far in advance of the Sabres first game is that the preseason is genuinely one of my favorite parts of the year.  I absolutely adore wandering downtown to catch a practice or a scrimmage.

I love the odd quietness of the arena, and how you can hear the sound of the skates swirling on the ice, and Lindy barking orders.  The stillness (compared to game nights) makes me feel like I’ve entered some sort of bizarre hockey-themed library.  It seems appropriate to speak in hushed tones, unless someone says something funny, then it’s satisfying to hear a solid laugh echo across the arena. The sounds of a hockey practice are mesmerizing.  I love trying to decipher the complicated drills, but my favorite thing is when they skate around the rink in giant circles, like it’s 1981 and they’re at the roller rink.  Preseason practices are incredibly relaxing.

I love how the players seem to project an air of boyish excitement during preseason practices.  I might be making this one up because it’s what I want to see, but it makes sense that young men being paid millions to play a game would experience a small giddy rush each year when they return to work.  It’s fun to see them joking around on the ice, happy and hopeful about the season to come.  It makes them seem more like us.  The preseason is a fun time.  Hopes are high, and nothing bad has happened yet.

I love how it’s all free.  Lord knows I’m willing to dole out the bucks when it comes to the Sabres, but it’s an indulgence that often makes me feel a little guilty.  The “come one, come all” atmosphere of mid-September practices helps them to feel somehow more innocent, and therefore more special.  I like preseason hockey practices because I think they’re something my (cheeeeap) father would have brought us to when we were kids.  He was an expert at finding inexpensive ways to keep us active and interested.  It makes me happy to think that parents who might otherwise might not get to bring their kids to the arena have the opportunity to sit their family right up against the glass.  It’s refreshing, and it’s nice.

I love how I see a lot of friends at preseason practices.  Blogging about the Sabres has put me in contact with a lot of awesome people, and I love how when I wander into the arena on a random Thursday morning, I’m likely to see someone I know.  Hell, the first time I met Heather (Heather B!  One of my BFFs!) was at a preseason practice.  We spent the entire practice pretending to shout orders at  the players through imaginary megaphones.  Last year I went to a scrimmage with my friend Laura and we spent the whole time watching her then one-and-a-half-year-old son toddle charmingly up and down the rows of empty seats.   These are arena memories that I cherish, I think in part because they are so far removed from the mania of a regular season game.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that I love preseason hockey.  And you know what?  It starts in eighteen days.  Which is practically tomorrow.


10 Responses to “Preseason, Baby.”

  1. 1 Sam August 31, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Beautiful post, Kate!

    I have never made it to a Sabres pre-season practice, but I know the innocence and excitement of which you speak. I actually really enjoy watching hockey practices in general. When I was in college, I would routinely skip my morning classes to go over to the rink and watch our minor league team practice. (It was way better than boring old PR anyway!)

    And I was happy during the season when the Sabres just happened to be practicing at the (former) Pepsi Center on days when I was taking my nephew ice skating. He really likes to watch the ‘learning hockey’ and I like teaching my own love for hockey.

    18 days til training camp? YAY! I have been missing hockey something FIERCE.

  2. 2 Katebits September 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Thank you, Sam! I’m not a parent, but hockey practices make me want to find a kid and bring him along. :D

  3. 3 Mark B September 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

    You’re spot on, Kate. You kind of referenced this, but my favorite part is after practice when a few of the guys stay on the ice and play “keep away” with the puck or just take slapshots at the net for FUN. It really reminds you that these guys love to play the game and sometimes it’s not all a business.

    I get chills thinking about it! I just love ducking out of work during my lunch hour and watching the practices/scrimmages. Seriously how cool is this? I can walk ten minutes down from my place of work and watch PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY PLAYERS UP CLOSE. AND THEY’RE MY TEAM!

    Okay, I’m calm now. Thanks for the awesome post.

  4. 4 Amy September 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Great post, Kate.

    Mark, I’m a fan of the “let’s intentionally try and shoot a puck through the camera hole” game.

  5. 5 kel September 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    fyi: The Portland Pirates are giving away Tyler Ennis bobbleheads on Jan 25th. I’m tempted to go. I might even be willing to try to get a spare and send it along in exchange for some sponge candy ^_~

  6. 6 kel September 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    and Nathan Gerbe is 3/8

  7. 7 Kate-O September 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    This post makes me wish I still lived in Buffalo and not Rochester and could make it to a practice on my lunch hour. It also has me kicking myself for not being a hockey fan sooner when I did live in Buffalo and could have skipped classes to watch some practices.

  8. 8 sallypants September 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    What times are the practices? They really just let you wander in for free? That sounds awesome.

  9. 9 Katebits September 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Ooooh, kel! I will TOTALLY ship some sponge candy to you if you snag an extra Ennis bobblehead!

    It’s a short drive, Kate-O! :D

    Sallypants, sometime in the next few weeks they’ll release a training camp schedule. And yeah, you can just wander in and out. It’s awesome!

  10. 10 Kate-O September 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

    It’s a long enough drive that I couldn’t pull it off on my lunch hour. If I can get a half day off, though, I’ll definitely try to catch a practice.

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