It started during the Stanley Cup playoffs of last year. Las Vegas has a team called the Vegas Golden Knights, who have generally done very well since becoming a team five years ago. My friend Lucas, who recently moved to Vegas, asked if I wanted to go to one of the playoff games. I said sure, and then backpedaled once I found out that bad tickets were $250 each.
He got tickets for him and his girlfriend instead, but when she backed out last minute he offered me her ticket.
The game was incredible! I have a vague recollection of going to a hockey game or two as a kid, and I think I maybe even went to hockey class or something, but watching it was much more fun than I could have expected.
For the first time ever, I cared if a sports team won. At every logical level I can think of, it is totally idiotic to care. None of the players are actually from Vegas, and only one is even from the United States. Whether or not they win will have no bearing whatsoever in my life, and none of the players could care less about anything I do. And yet… I was leaping to my feet every time they scored a goal.
His girlfriend bailed on the next game. And the one after that, too. I went to three playoff games in a row and was totally hooked. I thanked her for being so flaky and she said, “Oh, he told you I was going to go? I said no.”
To pay him back, I bought tickets for the next game. But his home team, the Canadiens, were playing and the previous beating they took was depressing for him, so he declined. Left with a couple hours before the game and an extra ticket, I asked my wife if she wanted to go.
She would normally be the absolute last person I’d invite to a sports game of any sort because she has never shown any interest in any sport, but I had no other good choices. I told her how surprised I was at how much fun hockey was, and so she reluctantly said yes. I think she mostly went because she likes going out on dates.
During the game I could see that she was getting into it and was surprised. Afterwards I asked her how much she’d pay to go to another game. It’s worth mentioning that I’m pretty frugal, but she is much more frugal. She drives to Chipotle to pick up my orders sometimes because she doesn’t want me to waste money on the delivery fee.
She said she’d pay $200 per ticket. I was shocked. I don’t think she’d ever paid that much to go to any event ever.
We went to all of the rest of the playoff games that year. Then when the next season started we went to every preseason and regular season game that we were both in town for. If I’m in Vegas alone, I go to the game by myself. Once I bought only one ticket because she wasn’t going to be in town, but she managed to make it back last minute. She bought her own ticket on the other side of the arena so that she could go too.
I say all this to emphasize just how much fun it is to go to hockey games, even if you don’t care at all about hockey. I’ve gotten a bunch of other friends to go, and in every case they’ve gone to every subsequent game they were able to make it to. It is an absolute blast. I even wear a gold sequinned jacket to match the team colors.
When we went to the playoffs, we consistently sat in the highest seats. I actually think they’re some of the best seats for watching the action, but they’re not considered great seats. A few weeks later we got the opportunity to go to an NBA playoff game in a luxury box with actual NBA players. It was an incredible experience, but the game itself was a lot less fun than a preseason NHL game from the nosebleeds.
One of the things that’s great about hockey is that the game is very easy to understand. Just get the puck into the other net. There are two other things you need to know:
First, you can’t just dump the puck way into the other end to get it out of your zone. That’s called icing. If someone does that, the puck comes back near their net for a face-off. You also can’t cross the blue line into the opposing team’s side if any members of your team are already over there. If you do, it’s called offsides. As long as you know those two things, pretty much everything will make sense.
Part of what makes hockey so amazing is that teams can basically do whatever they want. Is the game almost over and you’re down a goal and need more offense? You can get rid of your goalie and replace him with some other random player. Want to fight someone on the other team? Just start swinging and all of a sudden the TV commentators turn into boxing analysts. You’ll get a penalty, but so will the other guy and they won’t actually reduce the number of players on the ice, so it doesn’t matter.
Know what you can’t do? You can’t fall and pretend you were hurt like they do in soccer or basketball. If you do that it’s called embellishing, and YOU get sent to the penalty box. Brutal.
The game is also very beautiful. The players skate gracefully like birds in formation. Each point matters, so the game is always interesting. A 3-1 game is MUCH different than a 3-2 game, so getting that goal is really exciting. Goalies are incredible freaks of nature who can snap pucks out of the air even with five people blocking their view. Even without understanding the intricacies of the game, the performance is impressive.
If you live in a city that has hockey, go to a game! All arenas are different, but my favorite place to sit is anywhere between the blue lines as far forward on the upper level as possible. I have also sat 10 rows back from the ice dead center and front row near an end, but sitting high and center makes it really easy and fun to follow the game. I usually go have dinner somewhere near the arena and buy a ticket while I’m eating dinner since prices drop right before the game starts.
Even if you’ve been to hockey games and somehow don’t enjoy them, a big takeaway I got from this experience is that the EV of trying new things is extremely high. If I didn’t enjoy my first hockey game, life could have gone on as normal, but now my friends and I go to every game we can, I plan my travel around home games, and my wife and I have a new hobby together. I’ve even started ice skating as much as I can.
Photo is probably the “best” seats I’ve had at a hockey game, but honestly sitting higher up is a better experience.
Not many posts recently! Sorry! I will do another Tea Time with Tynan soon. If you want to make sure to catch it, subscribe to my YouTube channel and enable notifications.
Tynan – long time reader and I’ve played hockey for the past 48 years. You’re right, hockey is by far the best sport to see live – I’ve got Anaheim Ducks season tickets and everyone I take to a game agrees.
One small correction to your description of offsides – better to say “You also can’t cross the blue line into the opposing team’s side until the puck does. If you do, it’s called offsides.” I’m guessing you knew that, but it just wasn’t written that way.
Glad to see you writing about this! Once you’re comfortable skating, don’t hesitate to take an adult rookie hockey clinic at a local rink.
Every real sport has offside.
Hockey is an exhilarating sport to watch. I love the intensity, the never-say-die attitude to every shift and the emotional investments the players put into every game. I agree — hockey is best experienced inside a barn whether its under the gaudy Vegas lights or old school rink.
I met some of these guys in real life, mostly Boston Bruins players. Chara, Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tuuka Rask, etc. All salt of the earth people.
I also highly recommend college hockey. The last minute of the Frozen Four Championship Game is the most exciting in all of sports. Like the NHL, there’s a lot of tradition and pride behind the college version. It’s top-heavy with the same schools in the tournament every year but the momentum is cyclical. Last year, Hockey East won out. This year it’s between Big10 and CCHA.
But hopefully, my Bruins will try to find consistency and make a run. Takes a few things to happen to win the cup: goalie to stand on his head at critical moments, timely sniper shots and lucky bounces.
Thanks for sharing your take on Hockey! I have lived in Canada the past 6 years (originally from Australia) and I already followed Rugby, NFL, and the NBA and have felt I don’t have enough time to follow anything else haha.
I watch almost no sport on tv and just follow, so I might consider tuning in to a Calgary Flame game since I live nearby in Banff.