My dad is a huge hockey fan. He was born and raised just outside of Chicago, and he’s been a Chicago Blackhawks fan since he was a kid. When the Blackhawks are on TV (pretty often nowadays), I can hear him shouting when they score. But the sport just has never appealed to me. When I was young, I wasn’t big into hockey at all. I took some skating lessons, and hundreds of falls later, I was convinced that hockey just wasn’t for me. Ever since, I’ve stuck to sports that have a surface you can run on without worrying about slipping and breaking your collarbone.
When I decided to come to Boston University, I knew that hockey was the most popular school sport. There are four sports that I absolutely love to watch and play: basketball, football, baseball and golf. Here at BU, there’s no football team, the basketball team isn’t very popular, there’s no varsity baseball team (although the club team is very good) and, let’s be honest, watching golf isn’t exactly the most thrilling activity to pass the time.
So, I knew that coming to BU would be a bit of an adjustment in terms of the school sports. I didn’t anticipate going to many hockey games, if at all. On television, hockey just isn’t exciting to me. The teams might score a combined four times in a 60-minute game, and the puck can be hard to follow on a screen. I had never been to a hockey game before, and I honestly was not too excited to go to one. But when a couple friends of mine invited me to go with them last Saturday night, I had no other plans. I figured I might as well go, (it’s free for students, after all), cheer on the Terriers, and find something better to do after the game. The game was an exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier University from Nova Scotia. Because it was a preseason game, I didn’t think there’d be much of a student presence, or a ton of intensity from the players. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into Agganis Arena was the fact that both major student sections (Section 108 and Section 118) were filled to capacity. That was a surprise in itself. Luckily, my friends and I found three seats on the edge of 108. Once the game got started, I was shocked — was this really an exhibition game? The chants from the student section just kept coming, and they were pretty imaginative, with some of them not being appropriate enough for print.
Every big hit was met with yells of approval from the crowd. Every missed opportunity elicited a mass groan, while a sudden breakaway for BU in the first period resulted in one of the loudest collective anticipatory shouts I’ve ever heard. To my utter disbelief, I found myself getting into the game. When freshman forward Nick Roberto scored the game’s (and season’s) first goal in the first period, I cheered as loud as anyone. And when fellow freshman forward Tommy Kelley scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, the entire student section went nuts. The game ended up as a 2-1 victory for the Terriers.
I’ve come to the conclusion that hockey is a sport that is infinitely better in the arena than it is on the television. The atmosphere was electric, especially for a pregame exhibition. I can’t even fathom how crazy Agganis Arena must get for games against Hockey East rivals like Boston College and the University of Maine.
I can’t believe it took me this long to realize the fact that attending a hockey game is an awesome experience. The players are just going right at each other for 60 minutes. More than any other sporting event I’ve watched live, the hockey game showed me how passionate the players are about the sport. This can be contrasted with the occasionally laconic nature of NBA games, where players like Lamar Odom can be seen loafing on the bench while being paid millions of dollars. There’s just no room for that in hockey. There were several occasions during the game in which it was clear that players wanted to drop the gloves and start pounding away at each other.
This goes hand-in-hand with another idea: it seems to me that hockey is a great sport to boast as a talent if you have the skill and persistence to improve as a player. I don’t mean just skating with your friends, although that’s a great time too. Imagine you’re a professional hockey player. You can literally glide around on ice at speeds unattainable by normal human limitations, and you can deliberately crash into people without getting into trouble. What’s not to love? If I could be great at a sport, I’d probably still pick basketball, because I’ve been playing it my whole life. But hockey would be a close second, and that’s something I never thought I would say.