Hockey in the American South West


I’m working on another post about our trip, but this morning I’m going to do a brief rant about hockey, from a Canadian perspective.

We’ve made friends with a couple, Carol and John, here in the park who just arrived on Thursday night and they were kind enough to take us with them to their son’s hockey game on Friday night, knowing that we were going a little stir crazy.

Right from the beginning we noticed a different atmosphere than we are used to seeing at Canadian hockey games, or even at the ones we watched in Buffalo, NY. At the entrance they were handing out free Crispy Cream donuts: seating was reserved to that on our tickets we’d just purchased at the box office, but the seats were still the usual benches, this time aluminum. I wished we taken our blanket cushions with us.

The home team was The Rhinos; the guest team was The San Diego Sabers, for which our friends’ son was a goalie. When the game was about to start, a huge blow up rhino appeared at one end of the ice. From inside it, with much fanfare and spot lights, each member of the team was loudly introduced. The Sabers quietly moved into their bench and were never introduced. Even though several members of the Rhinos are Canadian, the American Anthem was played but not the Canadian.

From the moment the puck was dropped, it was obvious that these junior teams were not at all equally matched. We learned from Carol and John that the Sabers is an all-new team, and they had arrived by overnight bus from San Diego just a few hours earlier, so they were even more disadvantaged and didn’t expect to come out well in this three game series. But still they tried.  The goalies made some amazing saves, but most of the action was at their end, so it must have been very challenging.

So, we were shocked when, after each goal by the Rhinos, a chant was started by the announcer and the words, “Hey Goalie…” showed on the TV screens. The crowd finished it with “you suck!” They repeated it three times, each time. Throughout the game there seemed to us to be many incidents of Rhino players getting in the faces of Saber players and saying something that we can only guess. Other times Sabers players were tripped as they maneuvered the puck towards the net. Once, after a play had ended, a Rhino rushed toward a Saber who wasn’t even in the play and smashed him so hard into the boards that he went down and took some time to get back up. The Rhino gave a hand pump. No penalties or mention of that. The crowd cheered.

Often the game was stopped for a “Noise Meter” asking everyone to make noise. Breaks between periods lasted 15 minutes, with some sort of entertainment on the ice each time after the Zamboni had finished. Then there was the kiss cam, and the dance cam (Jim and I actually won one of those! LOL).

After 8 goals by the Rhinos spectators were offered hot dogs for a dollar. Sadly, the Rhinos scored 12 goals; the Sabers couldn’t get one.

Carol was as annoyed and frustrated with the whole thing as we were, but John assured us that that is the norm for hockey in the American South West, and that their son actually enjoyed the razing. It makes him strive to play better.

To us it seemed like the goal of the Rhinos was not just to win, but to bully and humiliate their opponents. We were there for three hours. It was not an exciting game to watch. We did appreciate the night out though!