Game called for lack of interest.
The Birmingham Bulls made just a little more sense to me than the Ice Gators of Lafayette, La.
When I spent part of each year in Henderson, near Lafayette, I could have gone to see a hockey game. The Ice Gators just sounded too oxymoronic, I guess, or else I was too busy swatting mosquitoes to hike to a rink for entertainment.
But I'm resolving to be broader-minded and tougher in 2012, so I agreed to go to a hockey game. Turns out, there's a lot of peripheral ritual that I enjoyed.
There I was at a German restaurant fueling up on potatoes and bratwurst to have stamina just to watch. Friends at Colorado College here are big hockey fans, and at their suggestion we all met to eat and listen to a few rounds of "Beer Barrel Polka" played by grown men in Pinocchio outfits. Something about the hearty food and jovial scene got me in the mood.
Colorado College is a great hockey school. Colorado College is to collegiate hockey what LSU is to football and Mississippi to Miss Americas.
Here hockey makes sense. Ponds freeze, and kids play hockey the way Southern children skinny-dip. Out here, you might say it's indigenous sport.
I expected hockey to be exciting, and it was. I expected it to be rough and tumble, possibly violent. I've read the usual descriptions that explain the fights. I had, in fact, just finished a long New York Times article called "Blood on the Ice" about the Canadian NHL player who died for his sport.
What I didn't expect was the beauty. The beauty blindsided me. The referees, especially, were performing ballet on ice. Unencumbered by all the crustacean-looking equipment the players must wear, referees glide about like Dorothy Hamill wearing stripes.
Before the game, I had gone to the computer and looked up "Basic Ice Hockey Positions." The only one that made sense to me was the goalie, "perhaps the toughest position in all of sports," the tutorial said.
Maybe so, but it seemed much tougher to me to get the puck down the ice and anywhere near the goal than to keep it out. Plus, the goalie wasn't exhausted by skating. He mostly stood there at the ready. And the night I watched, Colorado College's goalie didn't do much about keeping the Anchorage, Alaska, team's puck from piercing the net. Alaska won.
I loved the music. It was extremely loud and raucous, and I kept thinking about the time a newspaper sent me to a Memphis "gentleman's club" to see if pole dancers were obeying a city ordinance about how many feet they must stay from the customers. That kind of music.
There were no fights. The crowd had a few cheers I can't repeat in a family newspaper, but you hear that kind of thing at football games, too. As one fan said online in a hockey chat room, "If you can't take it, go watch badminton."
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.