Men's Hockey, Column

College Hockey For Dummies: An Texan’s Journey Inside The Rink

One Austin, Texas girl finds herself trying to achieve one last goal of assimilating to New England culture: mastering the art of hockey

Daring to venture from my sheltered Texan life, I traveled via the infamously slow T, participated in many snow ball fights, joined the notorious email list LAUSTIN, and ate a cannoli like a true Northeaster over the past semester. One experience I had yet to try was being a Hockey Superfan, which sounded like joining a cult. Determined to not be one of the girls who has no idea what’s going on in campus sports, I decided to take a trip to the Kelley Rink for the men’s hockey game between Boston College and the University of Vermont and see for myself whether hockey lived up to the hype and to my expectations.

I talked to the head sports editor for The Heights, Michael Sullivan (AKA “Sully”), and he offered to accompany me to my first hockey game. Meeting me at the red-carpet-like entrance by Alumni Stadium Gate A, Sully gave me a press badge and my golden ticket to the game. I was ushered behind the scenes through the twists and turns of Conte Forum to the media room, where we met Arthur, Heights’ photographer. In a room filled with what looked like people who actually knew something about hockey plus some actual athletes, I stood out as one of the few people who knew little about the upcoming game. While eating my fair share of popcorn, I listened to the boys chit-chat in what could have been a foreign language, but it was just sports talk.

As 7:30 rolled around, Sully and I headed up to the press box. With the help of my more knowledgeable counterpart, I started preparing notes for my own version of College Hockey for Dummies.

“Chapter 1: Things to Avoid Saying”

Never call the puck “a ball” unless you’re looking for infinite shame, a moment that you will never live down, and the possibility of several dozen beverages being thrown at you by angry fans and their grandparents.

Apparently “controlling the ball” (even though you’re not supposed to call it a “ball”) is a more correct term than dribbling.
If you were wondering, the court is actually called the ice.

BC’s lineup looked strong (I think) with Zach Sanford, Adam Gilmour, and Alex Tuch starting as forwards, Ian McCoshen and Noah Hanifin on defense, and Thatcher Demko in goal. Only two minutes in, I witnessed my first penalty, which I would soon come to realize encompassed a range of body slams into the walls, belly flops onto the ice, and devised tackling, looking somewhat similar to the violent sport we call “football.” Scott Savage, whose name I did not just make up, was called off to the box for two minutes after tripping someone. Before I lose you with my new terminology, I’ll key you in on a couple of points.

“Chapter 2: Hockey Slang”

Power Play: after a penalty when the penalized team loses a player for 2 minutes.

Faceoff: the resulting method to start the game again any time that the ball goes out of bounds, which sums up to a one-on-one battle for ball—I mean puck, control.

Hand Pass: using your hand to catch a flying puck and place it back on the ground. For those of you who are wondering, yes, hands are allowed, but hugs are not.

Icing: similar to offsides, but when a player hits the puck across the mid-court line and past the goal without being touched by a player from the other team. This is resolved by a faceoff.

Shortly after, Vermont player Brady Shaw scored the first goal of the game. BC countered by playing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”—encouraging advice from one of my favorite singers in light of the disappointed sighs by avid Superfans. The game continued with the refs constantly being in the way, adding to the commotion on the ice like blockades, but more obstructive. BC soon caught up with Vermont, tying the game 1-1. I was caught off guard by the aggressive Sieve Chant, a chant directed at whoever has the misfortune of being the opposing team’s goalie: “You suck. At life. And goaltending. It’s all your fault. It’s all your fault. It’s all your fault. It’s all your fault.”

Still not sure whether to call the breaks between the three periods “halftimes” or “intermissions” (like in a play, I guess), but these games were surely entertaining, especially watching the starving college students forced to live with our dysfunctional meal plan (a disgrace to the word plan) fight for free food coupons. You can definitely tell you’re watching college hockey when the amount of cheers for free pizza exceeds the amount of cheers for your own team. With four minutes left to the third period, “Devil Goes Down to Georgia” played, giving the Fiddle Boy his chance to shine. Having never missed a hockey game this season, Fiddle Boy might have earned a place in the Superfan Hall of Fame.

BC entered the third period down 2–1, causing a lull in the arena. I didn’t hear any more of the catchy, but racy chants due to the lack of scoring. The puck/ball moved back and forth between BC’s side and Vermont’s, with no real advancement in the game. As the last thirty seconds on the clock ran down, the end of the game seemed predetermined. People started to trickle out of Conte, attempting to beat the parking lot rush, when Tuch scored with 9.6 seconds left. There was momentary excitement that had been missing from the game going into overtime, which quickly dissipated once Vermont scored the golden goal and ended the game 3–2.

“Chapter 3: Conclusion”

While my first game ended in a loss, one thing is for sure: if watching hockey isn’t worth the trip, listening to the club-like pump-up music is. Even though I got tired of recapping because it’s hockey, I would still call the night an overall success. If I had to give one suggestion, it would be to figure out how to tailgate before hockey games. Be on the lookout for my next book, College Swimming for Dummies.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

February 16, 2015