Blizzards & Hockey — Perfect Together
By Tim Butterfield '12, Staff Writer
“One more goal, just one more goal!” Tony shouts in my ear as the clock runs down. There are only 50 seconds left in the third period, and our St. Louis Blues are beating the Minnesota Wild 4-3.

I know just as well as Tony the importance of the Blues scoring a fifth goal. Not only would one more point essentially secure a victory for our hometown team, but it would also earn a free Dairy Queen Blizzard for every fan in attendance.

With a desperate need to tie the game but only having less than a minute of game time left, the Wild pulls their goalie out. With six skaters on the offensive, the white and green-clad Minnesota team assaults the Blues’s net, furiously firing shots at goalie Chris Mason. The 200-pounder, looking twice as big in his goalie pads, deflects a slapshot to his right. Blues left wing Andy McDonald sweeps around the goal and gathers in the puck.

I’d been to one hockey game before, a Devils-Bruins matchup in New Jersey. I remember watching the players zoom around the rink with something I didn’t knew existed — graceful aggression. They sprinted after the puck, faked shots at the goal, body-checked each other, and could stop on a dime.

Of course, I was ten years old and clueless about the rules of the game at that time, so the fight that broke out just after halftime was what meant the most to me. One Devil in red had slammed one of the Bruins into the boards. The Bostonian wasn’t too pleased about that, and he’d grabbed onto the Devil’s jersey to pull him back. Gradually, every other player on the ice joined the fray, throwing down their gloves and sticks and high-tailing it to the action. The referee skated in circles around the brawl, probably shouting for everyone to settle down but unable to do anything to really halt the whole mess.

I guess tempers just simmered down at some point because, before I knew it, the game had resumed and all was normal.

One decade later, I find myself at my second professional hockey game. Tony has acquired some extra tickets and brought me and a few pals along. I’m a college kid now, but the rules of the game are still pretty far beyond me. For better or for worse, I’m just hoping for another epic fight, but I’m also far more attentive to the atmosphere of the game this time.

St. Louis loves its sports teams, and this is rather apparent as I watch thousands of men, women, and children take their seats in the arena, dressed in their customized jerseys and blue jeans. The beer and hotdog smells remind me of a baseball game, which certainly doesn’t curb my enthusiasm for the event.

It’s “Free Dinner Night” at the arena, so I pick up some rubbery chicken tenders and a bottle of water, then grab my seat. It’s a hockey arena, so every seat is way up high and therefore epic. I’ve only been in the Scottrade Center once before — for a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in high school — but that was nothing like the pre-game atmosphere of this late-season hockey game. The game will be starting in a few minutes and the players are warming up on the ice as Daft Punk destroys everyone’s eardrums. So I guess this is kind of like my last experience here.

David Backes puts the Blues on the board first, scoring after just five minutes of play. Although Minnesota avoids a potential shutout with a goal in the second period, St. Louis responds with three fast goals. As both teams take the ice for the final period, the home team is leading 4-1. There are 20 minutes left for the Blues to score their fifth goal and win Blizzards for 20-thousand happy fans.

BOOM. Minnesota scores a quick goal. BOOM — another one, and, all of a sudden, the crowd is caring a bit more about actually maintaining the lead than about receiving a tasty ice cream treat.

Nineteen minutes fly by and neither team has scored. The Blues are still clinging to a one-point lead when Minnesota pulls its goalie out of the game, exposing the net completely.

I know exactly what’s going on because I’ve seen Miracle, and I’m pumped. The Wild, all too aware that they need to score another goal in order to force overtime, are putting their entire manpower into the pursuit of that goal. Yes, that means that the Blues have to defend against one more burly man, but, if the St. Louisans can manage to push the puck towards that empty net, they’ll most likely score a Blizzard — er, goal.

McDonald has the puck by the boards, a few yards to the side of his own goal. He only has a few seconds to work with. As he shovels a pass to center Brad Boyes, the crowd rises to its feet. Boyes has the puck at center ice, and no one is near the goal. The only nearby opponent charges at Boyes, ready to check the man in blue, or dive in front of the puck, or do anything to prevent Boyes from taking the shot.

Boyes flicks a shot at the empty net just before the defender reaches him. The puck has a long way to travel, but nothing is in its path. It glides across the ice and goes right into the net, like a basketball swishing into the hoop.

The goal horn sounds and the crowd goes wild. I’m high-fiving everyone — Tony, our friends, and the drunk guys behind us. We’re all united in that one moment of pure adrenaline and celebration. The home team has scored, and it’s time to celebrate.

Needless to say, the Blues held onto their lead and won the game. I picked up my Blizzard coupon and redeemed it with my buddies that very night. The whole experience was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable I’ve ever had at a sporting event.

Professional sports games are costly and require a fair amount of pregame planning, but these elite athletes aren’t the only ones we follow. As Amherst students, we’re privileged to have direct ties to two of the best hockey teams in the country. And, in case you didn’t already know, the Olympics are underway. I encourage you to check out all the events, including hockey, this week. There might be a miracle, there might be an undefended goal, and you can always celebrate a gold medal with a Blizzard at Dairy Queen.

Issue 15, Submitted 2010-02-24 15:26:38