02 February 2015

2015 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - Western Michigan Univ Slap Shots

Friends gave us tickets to Western Michigan University's collegiate ice hockey game on Saturday. We had fantastic seats--not bleachers, but comfortable and roomy individual seats. They were right next to the President's box, so we got to watch President Dunn ring his hands during this butt clencher game.

Years ago (before Mike) I dated a guy who had season tickets to the Detroit Red Wings. They played at raggedy but cozy old Olympia Stadium (now torn down). This is when Gordie Howe was THE big hockey star of the day.

Olympia was not situated in the greatest neighborhood of Detroit, but that didn't stop us. That is where I learned to love to watch the game of hockey. Plus it is the only sport where I actually understand the rules.

In those "good ol' days," the accompanying music was played on an old theater organ. It played the right thing at the right time because it was LIVE. It was amazing how peppy organ music could rally the crowd, even during losing moments. An aside: I just read that on special occasions organ music is coming back to hockey at Joe Lewis Arena. Yay!

Today during the game, current popular songs are played at top decibel levels. The student crowd sang the lyrics and had in sync body movements to coincide. That was pretty cool, too.

The WMU band was also in the house. They had matching uniform shirts and pants, but not the formal dress they wear on the football field. Some had individual hats and sweat bands, giving a more fun and free spirited feel to the group. You could tell they were having a great time. An aside: Loved that some of the trumpets were made of copper. Had not seen that before.

I most enjoy watching hockey in person. It's just not the same on TV. I love the swish of skates on ice and the slap of a hockey stick hitting the puck. For a sport, it seems elegant and rugged at the same time. And I guess I would rather my kid (if I had one) play hockey rather than football. It does not seem as brutal.

For the twenty years we lived in San Francisco, we never attended an ice hockey game. SF had no professional team, although San Jose did have the Sharks. But when we returned to Michigan, my brother and nephew took me to a Red Wings game. This time they played in huge Joe Louis Arena. It was fun all right, but we were in the nose bleed section. Maybe I'm being sentimental, but it didn't seem quite the same.

Back home in Kalamazoo we had a family outing to a Kalamazoo Wings game. It was St. Patrick's Day and they dyed the ice green for the occasion. I didn't enjoy this game so much because the crowd was pretty rough around the edges and spewed energetic cheering to motivate fights between the players.

Once the fights started it took the refs just too long to stop them. They seemed to linger on purpose. This prolonged the fights and they purposely became part of the entertainment. Was this choreographed like in wrestling to hype up the audience? Seemed more like poor sportsmanship and ref managing to me. 

But college hockey it a different story. They do not tolerate fights between players. Action can be rough, body check slams into the walls and such, but outright fights are certainly not encouraged.

Anyway, the Broncos (white uniforms) were playing the Miami-Ohio Redhawks. Miami has been ranked in the top ten in the nation in USCHO.com and USA Hockey Magazine polls. WMU is not even rated on these polls, so pretty big challenge here.
The teams traded scoring goals back and forth. At the end of the game the score was 3-3. Western tied it up in the last 33 seconds of the game. That moment was dang exciting!
So the game went into 5-minute overtime play. The score was still tied at 3-3 at the end. Next came the one-on-one shootout between player and goalie. Each team got three shots. Each team made one goal out of the three. Still tied.

What a cliff hanger! After that it was sudden death play. Whoever got the first one-on-one goal shot, would win. Doggone, Miami scored.

But all in all it was a great game and those Broncos did not let the crowd down. The goalie did an exceptional job defending the 42 Miami shots-on-goal (only giving up three points). WMU made their 25 shots-on-goal count, making their three points in many less shots.
The Broncos performed well and, in spite of the loss, they should be very proud that they held their own against a top rated team. 

A final aside: Now this probably sounds dumb, but I have a fascination with the Zamboni. That's with a long "o" (as in boney) and named for Frank Zamboni, its inventor. The word is just fascinating (although not good for Scrabble!).

It is the vehicle / machine that resurfaces the ice between periods. It does this by shaving a thin layer of ice off and then adding a thin layer of water. At WMU, Lawson Arena has two Zambonis that work in tandem to get the job done quickly. This gives plenty time for the ice to fully freeze up before the next play period. Very cool!

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