Sunday, February 20, 2011
Take me out to the Hockey Game, Please
At the game: (Left to right) Joanne Hurst, Rhonda Ulrich, Doug Ulrich
Forty years ago, I climbed a tower to the top of Big Walker Mountain. They said that you could see five states from that viewpoint. Since then, they have pared that number down to three. Thus I was able to see North Carolina, and West Virginia, and I was standing in the state of Virginia.
Lynchburg, Virginia, lies just off Interstate # 81 in the eastern confines of the state. A wonderful, friendly place with streets lined with honeysuckle. On any Saturday afternoon, from April to October, you will have to get in line for great ice cream at “Mister Goodies”. You will be met by Rhonda or Doug Ulrich, and they will take good care of you. Up until last Friday night, neither had ever been to a hockey game. And thus began their excellent adventure.
The Florida Everblades of the East Coast League stood eight points ahead of the Gwinnett Gladiators (from Georgia) who were coming to the Germain Arena for a double header on Friday and Saturday nights. Both teams are in the same division of the eastern conference; therefore, these games would be considered to be “four pointers”.
As an aside, may I point out the enormity of the league. There is a Western Conference in the East Coast League. (Somewhat like having the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Eastern Conference of the CFL!) A few of the teams in the west are: Alaska, Victoria, Bakersfield, and Las Vegas.
The arena holds almost 8, 000 fans, and there was a decent crowd on hand. We rose for the anthem played by a local elementary school band, in fine stirring American fashion. The Ulriches were ready for hockey. Naturally, they had a few questions about the game. But after an explanation or two about offsides, and icing calls, they became immersed in the game.
I think we did a decent job selling the product. They shared the experience with everyone at poolside the next day.
Unfortunately, it was not such a great experience for Edward Pasquale, former Wellington Duke. As I am sure you will recall, Edward tended the twine for the Dukes before he got the call to play for the Belleville Bulls. He was later traded to the Saginaw Spirit, where he finished his OHL career. He began this season with the Chicago Wolves, and recently joined the Gladiators to get more time in game situations.
I spoke with Edward after the game, in the company of his parents Jane and Richard. They made me swear that I would pass on their best to all of the Van Vlacks. They were well aware that most of the family now lived on the same street. What they did not know was that Coach Abrams and his family also resided there, just to keep everyone onside, in a hockey sense. He is there to settle road hockey disputes. Edward rolled his eyes at that piece of information.
Another player stopped me in the dressing room and stated, quite firmly: “I also played for the Dukes!” It was Sam Roberts, captain of the Galdiators. I asked him where he had stayed in Welly. He asked me if I knew “Ma” Lloyd. Roberts attended university in the maritimes before continuing his hockey career.
The Everblades prevailed in both of the weekend games. There was a lot of hooting and shouting with each goal, as the fans won chicken wings, or pizza, or something or other with each Blades counter. No mistake about it, the fans are supportive. They chant the chants, they wear the team sweaters, they boo the officials when necessary. They are hockey fans, even though they leave the rink in shorts and sandals.
I presented Rhonda with a puck at the end of the game. No one dropped the gloves the entire game, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Rhonda was looking for a little rough stuff, and she enjoyed the play of # 47 from the Gladiators. Danick Paquette is from Montreal, and played for Quebec in the CHL last year. He has a rambunctious style, and leads his team with 147 minutes in penalties.
Rhonda had thoroughly enjoyed her first hockey experience, an adventure she recommends to anyone.
February 20, 2011