Friday, December 14, 2012

Hockey Sticks At Dawn! US sports I'm loving this season

Every time winter hits this exciting little East Tennessee city, I find myself scuffling through the far reaches of my wardrobe, dragging out long forgotten thermal wears and hoping to rediscover one very important piece of seasonal clothing... my orange Ice Bears sweater.

No it's not attractive, flattering or particularly practical but it is a staple when those fascinating, semi-violent ice hockey matches roll around. My first experience with a professional ice hockey game was unlike anything I had encountered before. The audience, rampantly chanting and sloshing their $6 beers left and right were muddled in a free-for-all of ground floor seating, daring me to squeeze myself into an arena side spot.

The players were fierce. Slamming into the perspex protector surrounding the rink with such gusto that it caused me to flinch, squeal and throw my own drink around in a way that definitely marked me out as fresh meat. Yes the others laughed at me. No I didn't mind too much. I was far too caught up in the arena's atmosphere; the screaming, the heckling and the random fights breaking out between the teams' players on the rink, to care what I looked like. It was fantastic.

You'd think that coming from the land of football hooligans and hardened Yorkshire lads and ladettes, that an ice hockey game wouldn't be anything to write home about but it was a whole different vibe to what I'd encountered before at professional UK sporting events. The crowd enjoyed losing it, chanting and cheering and jeering but I never felt unsafe or like I should slowly start edging backwards out of the arena before things really kicked off. That was nice.

I'm not entirely sure what difference helped me to feel more secure, maybe it was the fact that every time a large animated man bumped into me while throwing his arms high in the air, he would turn around and offer a most sincere apology before returning to his game with just slightly more controlled gusto than before.

Not your average sporting event clearly. Anyway, I can't wait to get in on this season, don the luminous orange sweater and scream my lungs out as hockey sticks collide. Fab.

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