Last Friday I got to do something that I haven’t gotten to do in a long time – go to a hockey game just for fun. Not for work, not for practice, not for anything else other than personal enjoyment and outright fun.
Whew. It felt good.
Everyone needs a break now and then and after having a tough work week I decided to remove the aspiring journalist cap that’s been on my head since the start of the hockey season and replace it with my “I love hockey” helmet and foam dome. I picked a good night to do it too.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who entered the game tied for the outright lead league, has the potential to make a championship run this spring. They’ve put together a consistently strong campaign after being completely rebuilt following the 2011 disaster. They came into this match riding a 9-game win streak.
I went in expecting to see the Lions get fed something fierce, but the script was flipped. Perhaps Lokomotiv were worn out after back-to-back battles against division rival CSKA Moscow, perhaps they took an underperforming Prague squad too lightly, or maybe it was a combination of the two. Either way, the home team gave their fans something to celebrate and simply ran over a powerful Yaroslavl club en route to a convincing 7-3 victory. It was the first time Prague had won two games in a row since September (ouch), but at least they did it in style.
It couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday. Beer in hand(s) the entire game and a goal for the home team every couple of minutes. It was like old eighties hockey at times – there were six goals scored in the second period, including four for Prague.
Best of all, I finally had good seats. No longer in the rafters, I could see the sweat on Chara’s beard!
It was also the first time I’d been to a game in the old Tipsport arena in some time. Older, cruddier, and stankier than its more modern cross-town sister O2 Arena, Tipsport can certainly boast that it has a certain charm. Though I’m still not completely sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
On the one hand, it offers something much more unique to the experience. O2 Arena is like any other rink in Canada, whereas Tipsport is an event that’s all together Czech.
There is no logical orientation plan, it’s not uncommon to see someone smoking in the bathroom (or in the stands … seriously) and homemade schnapps is frequently snuck inside. There is a beer tap every thirty feet, a pint is cheaper than a Coke, and everything smells like sweat and klobasa. It’s an arena that isn’t built for large crowds, which is like constructing a highway not meant for traffic. It’s common to see folks drinking more than one beer at a time, and during this game I noticed one dexterous fellow carrying five plastic pints at once, including one in his teeth. The crowd opened up, let him through, and I’ve never seen that many thumbs go up at one time. I thought a slow clap was going to break out.
The biggest complaint I have about going to a game at Tipsport is the bottleneck entrance system they have set up, which forces 9000 fans through just four doors, ensuring nearly everyone will be late for the opening faceoff.
We were a part of those who got in late, in spite of actually arriving early, and missed the opening goal. A solid crowd of thirty fans or so were all waiting at the section entrance to get to their seats. All of us were forced to sip our beers and make sarcastic comments in several languages about how wide-open this game must be, since there aren’t any goddamned whistles! That and yell at the morons who tried to force their way through, unaware of the unwritten rule which states that you don’t go to your seat until a stoppage in play: Hey, jackass, you think we’re standing here because we like it? Wait your turn like the rest of us!
Anyhow, no whistles were forthcoming and I missed seeing Roman Červenka score his first as a Lion. Heard the reaction to it though.
As I said, the scoring floodgates opened in the second period and Prague took the game 7-3. The second line of Bartečko, Vrana and Klepiš had a productive night, Martin Škoula picked up a second straight multiple point game, and the big names – Zdeno Chara and Jakub Voráček – looked good on their respective ends of the ice.
It gives some hope to a Prague fan – maybe this team can get it together before the spring and hold onto a playoff spot. They looked a lot more dynamic and on the same page than they have in a long time. The lines played well together, the special teams were sharp, and they completely dominated a strong opponent. It may not be lasting, but I was starting to get worried that the season would end and I’d go without seeing a single Prague victory in person.
I picked a good night to just relax with this one, unwind, and remind myself why I love the experience of going to the game so much.