In a brick building with low ceilings where the temperature sits perhaps just below freezing, fans sit in the stands bundled in winter gear, while others gather standing around the boards with their favorite brew of choice. They are all at different levels of inebriation, but nonetheless are all banging hard on the glass each time a player gets chucked hard into boards. Music blares so loudly during the timeouts that it can be tough to hear yourself think. You may think I just described a scene somewhere from the frozen tundra of Minnesota or from our friendly Canadian neighbors to the north. This however, is an Arizona State hockey game.
The “brick building” is Oceanside Arena on McClintock Road. ASU hockey is ranked number one in the American College Hockey Association (ACHA) poll and has been for a majority of the season. Not only is it quality hockey, it’s also incredibly exciting. In fact, just last weekend the Sun Devils beat Minot State once and Stony Brook twice, including a thrilling nine round shootout win
With the return of the Coyotes this weekend, how will this affect ASU hockey attendance? “I don’t know if [the end of the NHL lockout] will affect our attendance. We’ll find out when they start,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers. “I’m glad it’s over, everybody’s glad it’s over. It’s good for the game, so I’m glad that it’s back.”
ASU hockey has been playing games all season long. The team even went to Canada for a tilt. There is something to be said about the experience of amateur sports. These players are not on scholarship and in fact pay around $3,000 dollars a year just to play on the team. There are no contract disputes, no negotiating sessions that go on for hours and hours only to end in a frustrating stalemate. These kids truly play for the love of the game.
But I’m not saying don’t watch a Coyotes game. After all the NHL worked hard enough to get a deal done. They are back on the ice after an impressive playoff run last season, winning their first division title and giving fans two heart-pounding playoff series wins over the Blackhawks and the Predators before falling to the Los Angeles Kings.
The question becomes after two lockouts in the past eight years, how much is about money, and how much is about fan experience? Does the NHL deserve its fans back? Coyotes media relations director Rick Nairn thinks so.
“We understand that our fans are upset that games were cancelled and we apologize for that. We promise to work hard to earn their trust and support,” Nairn said.
Go to Jobbing.com and howl for the Coyotes; they clearly want their fans back and are profusely sorry. All I’m saying is, don’t forget about the atmosphere and the little guys back in Oceanside who are pretty darn good themselves.
ASU plays Central Oklahoma tonight in Oceanside Arena at 8 p.m. and tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, the Coyotes open up play against the Stars in Dallas Saturday night before the home opener on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about or cover this semester, have a comment about a recent post or simply want to talk sports, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @npkrueger