Last Saturday night we loaded our unsuspecting kids into the car and headed off to the Credit Union Centre for its 25th Anniversary celebration. The Saskatoon Blades were playing the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and were on a winning streak. The tickets were only $2.50 each for the children, with a hot dog and “pop” only costing another $2.50. There were lots of prizes promised, a 50/50 draw, and a chance for one fan to try to win $250,000 during the interval by scoring on goal.
We arrived to queues of cars and lots of parking attendants. The kids had realised what was going on, and were dying to get inside. We piled in, met June and followed her to our seats. We bumped into a couple of people we knew on the way, and it was the most bizarre feeling. “We’re at a hockey game in Canada, and people are waving hello at us”, I said to Michael as we wound our way through the crowds. It’s a small city, but still, what are the chances?
We found our seats, settled them in, and I headed out with Isabel to get the hot dogs and pop. We were aiming for total Canadian immersion. The queues were long, but moving fairly rapidly, so we got our tray of dogs, our tray of pop and headed to the condiments section, which had all the pickles, onions, mustard and ketchup. It took ages to unwrap them all, ketchup them, re-wrap them, re-stack them and balance our way back through the crowds to our seats.
The evening kicked off with the local dignitaries, club officials, Mayor etc. all lining out for short speeches and then we all stood for the national anthem. I looked down the line at the children, Michael, June and Eddie, all standing with the crowd while a young woman sang “O Canada” and, oddly, felt quite emotional. The children sang along, as they do every morning in school, and the crowd stood together, from the very young to the very old, and chimed in at the end. The Canadian flag waved on the big screen, and then, to wild applause, the teams glided out onto the ice.
I shall confess from the start that I had absolutely no idea what was going on for the next couple of hours. They skated, hit the puck, hit each other and hopped incessantly in and out of the team bench. I eyed the solitary Canadian man sitting on my left, and decided he looked ripe for interrogation. I nudged him. He turned to me with a deer-in-headlights expression on his face. I smiled reassuringly, and whispered “why are all the players going back out onto the bench all the time?”. “They change over”, he said. “Like, every couple of minutes?” I asked, doubtfully. Apparently so. In and out they went, until my head was spinning and I couldn’t even work out how many players were supposed to be on the ice at any one time. According to my new friend, it’s five.
Every so often, the play would stop, and loud music would pound through the arena, with the crowd stamping the feet or clapping. A man travelled around the stands, getting each section to dance, and then throwing t-shirts at them. The Blades scored, and the roof nearly came off; Rebecca was disgusted, and stood there with her hands over her ears, yelling “I want to be OUT OF HERE!” over and over. I removed her from the scene, with my needing-to-pee Nicholas, and we went to the toilets and then for a wander around the stadium. This is who we met:
The second period of the game saw boredom setting in for the two littlest ones. I was trying to keep them amused and keep an eye on the game, so I didn’t know what was going on when I glanced up to see gloves sailing across the ice. “What are those things?”, I thought, just as two of the players started to circle each other with their fists up. The noise of the crowd was swelling, and the referees were warily skating around the pair of them. They started taking swings at each other, and eventually the Blades player connected well with the other lad, and in rushed the referees to break it up. I have no idea why they waited till the punch connected, but I’ve no doubt it’s in the rules somewhere. The kids thought this was the best thing ever, of course, and the crowd seemed to think the same thing, judging by the cheers.
Another interval, and the third period started, with some seriously antsy kids. It finished up with the Blades winning 5 – 2, so everyone was happy. We sat there until most of the crowd had dispersed, and then headed for the exits, with Michael hauling an extremely disgruntled Rebecca in his arms. So then we bumped into this guy again:
The kids were delighted. Next time though, I think I’ll send Michael with Christopher and Benjamin, and keep the girls and Nicholas home with me. It was worth it for the atmosphere, the music, the Mexican Waves and the excitement of the goals, but it was too long for the littlest ones, and Isabel was fairly underwhelmed by the game itself. The older pair saw themselves playing on that ice in the next few years; I don’t know what they’re going to do with themselves when Spring comes and the rinks melt, as they spend every spare minute they have out there. We didn’t win on our 50/50 ticket, unfortunately, so no unexpected riches yet. The pot was over $120,00; half for the ticket-holder, and half for the chosen charity. The fan didn’t win the $250,000 either.
Spring is coming, by the way. I’m steadfastly ignoring all those Saskatonians who tell me that it won’t be here till April. The first of March is my deadline for it, and it better comply. Or else. Here’s the highlights of the game: