People in blue thronged the pavement a few blocks from the Scottrade Center. St. Louis lay in darkness except for the beacon of flashing light that is the stadium. The bus slid into the dropoff zone and the visitors and Principia College students disembarked for an exhibition of great speed and assertiveness.
Welcome to the St. Louis Blues versus Carolina Hurricanes hockey game. The game, the players, the music and the food all create a sense of camaraderie and a great night out.
Entering the stadium, the Principia students merged with the crowd of Blues fans. Leaving security, one is assailed with nachos, roasted peanuts and fried hot dogs. Calls for “don’t stand in line, buy mine” erupted from drink vendors along the passageways. Keeping an eye out for the students’ designated section, they glided through the flowing crowd.
A hockey stadium is different from any other stadium that I have experienced. The stadium is indoors and the seating is elevated and steep, giving the audience a better vantage point. Steep seating also allows more people to fit in the 12-story glass building; the arena can seat 19,150 hockey fans. The capacity rises to 22,000 for basketball and concerts.
Sitting down, the group was assailed by the flashing lights as the commentators prepped for the game. Highlights from previous Blues and Hurricanes games flashed across the screens hanging like an electric chandelier in the stadium. Clips of hockey players checking each other into the boards to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” boomed throughout the stadium. Soon the players met on the ice. Five players from each team zoomed across the ice and began warming up. The referee called the two centers to the middle to face off for the puck. The screens in the center, along with the walls of the stadium, flashed yellow as the countdown to the game commenced.
Five! Four! Three! Two! One! The puck is dropped between the two centers that begin battling for control. It swishes between the two until the Blues get possession. Soon a race ensues as the players begin skating towards the player with the puck. Skates slice the ice as players bang into one another using padding and strength to get possession. Thirty seconds into the game, the four players on the ice are substituted by their teammates. Wearing hockey padding can weigh, on average, 17 pounds. Plus, hockey players need to be continually moving in order to stay upright. It’s critical that the skaters get some time off the ice.
Players do not just get time off the ice to rest; sometimes the players are sent to the penalty box. Penalties in hockey can range from two minutes to ten minutes, depending on the severity of the infraction committed in the game. The Blues-Hurricanes game played on Nov. 16 had only one penalty, and it was given to a Hurricanes player in the last two minutes of the game.
Hockey games consist of three 20-minute periods with two 30-minute intermissions. During the intermissions, the fans left the stands in order to get a drink, buy a souvenir or grab a snack. Walking around the passageways, many of the Principia students indulged in some buttered popcorn, fried Oreos and funnel cake. The fried and iced goodness filled many hungry and excited souls as people left the concession stands and retraced their way to their seats.
Once the game recommenced, songs were prompted by the screens. People pumped their arms in the air – enacting the power play – and when there was not gesturing there was singing. Hockey songs from earlier times prompted the audience to sing along during play stoppages. When players were moving on or off the ice, the cameras following the game would start to follow the audience – pinpointing people having fun, and embracing couples. The game was not just about the Blues playing in St. Louis, it was also about the camaraderie which sports games facilitate.
The last 10 minutes of the game saw the Blues leading three points to the Hurricanes’ two. The skaters moved swiftly over the ice until, with the combined effort, two Blues players hit the puck into the net. The audience exploded – jumping to its feet. Clapping and stomping, the fans roared with joy as the Blues earned a victory on their home ice.