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Chris Ruiz | TRIUMF | Canada

View Blog | Read Bio

Canucks and Pucks

Before I continue with my physics posts on how we measure stellar fusions reactions in the laboratory, I’d like to make a small detour into another area of Canadian cultural territory based on my experiences this Easter weekend: Ice Hockey!

Yes, this weekend marked my first ever experience of a live game of Canada’s national pastime (note: officially lacrosse is apparently the national sport but hockey is the heart and soul of Canadians they will tell you) at a stadium here in Vancouver. The game was not an NHL game, but a ‘West Coast Conference’ game consisting of the Vancouver Giants and The Spokane (Washington) Chiefs. I knew hockey games were spectacular, and so as I entered the stadium I was not surprised by the melee of smiled-up fans, families, small kids, adults, septuagenarians, hot dog stands, t-shirt shops, beer kiosks, pizza places, drummers, police, people carrying lots of beer and lots of rock music.

Vancouver Giants vs Spokane Chiefs, Pacific Coliseum

Vancouver Giants vs Spokane Chiefs, Pacific Coliseum

As I took my seat, I even wasn’t surprised by the electric but jovial atmosphere in the Pacific Coliseum, the stadium where the Vancouver ‘Canucks’ used to play before they moved the the larger ‘GM Place’ stadium where all the biggest music acts come to play. I have been to football (soccer for all you Americans 😉 ) matches before and know what 10,000 hyped-up fans sound like. I was not however, ready for several things I was about to witness during this hockey game. 

First off, the players were all aged at between 17-20 in this particular league, and my Canadian chums informed me that this was ‘real hockey’, where the stakes were higher (these kids are all jostling for a rare spot in the big-time, big-money NHL) and it was a dog-eat-dog attitude. Thus the testosterone levels were off the scale and the passion and voracity with which these kids played resulted in some spectacular collisions, fouls, smashes, trips, slides and very near fights! The sounds in the arena: the scraping of the ice, the slap of the puck, the smack of the barriers when two hotheads race each other full speed in a do-or-die battle for the puck, are incredibly exciting at a live game and something I did not appreciate watching the game on TV.

Also, there is a lot of rock music played. In fact, every time the whistle blows a rock song fades in until the moment play starts again. There’s Queen (we will rock you), which is the one I remember for sure, plus a host of other instantly recognizable classics, giving a rock concert feel to the whole occasion.

Next surprise was at the end of the first period. I knew something called a ‘Zamboni’ was about to come out and clean the ice, and I was ready to take a picture of this icon to send back to my friends in the UK. However, before that happened suddenly the ice became a hive of activity as assistants wheeled out equipment, music played and a bunch of little kids, must have been about 8 or so, sped out onto the ice in full hockey gear for a mini hockey match, cheerleaders danced onto the ice, and two giant remote-controlled airships rose above the rink in a destinationless and erratic advertising dance! This was a spectacle for sure. But it wasn’t over. The ice cleared, and suddenly a 4×4 shot out onto the ice driven by a guy in a business suit, and with a hot scantily-clad lady standing in the back with a kind of ‘foam bullet assault cannon’, starts firing big foam pellets into the crowd and at the airships!! I think the foam pellets must have had some merchandise or something inside them as I witnessed the crowd catching and opening them. After all that, the snail-like Zamboni seemed like an anticlimax!

mini-hockey, blimps and cheerleaders

mini-hockey, blimps and cheerleaders

The end of the second period did not disappoint either. This time instead of mini-hockey we were treated to a game of human skittles, where five 6-foot skittles (pins) were set up on the ice, and volunteers from the audience (or competition winners?) sat on a small tray and were propelled into the skittles by a giant catapult that spanned the entire width of the rink!! When all pins were not knocked down, the team mascots ( a giant ‘sailor’ and a beaver ) would propel themselves haphazardly into the remaining pins to help. I was almost in tears of laughter at the whole…spectacle…of the thing.

The next surprise was that the teams drew 2-2, and the game went into extra time. Now, apparently they had an extra full three 20-minute periods before someone scored the ‘golden goal’ and one (the away team unfortunately) team snatched victory, but I didn’t know because by this time, my friends and I, hungry and full of too much beer, had gone to find any place open at almost midnight to try and get a meal.

human skittles

human skittles

 

 

Overall, the game was an amazing experience and one that was long overdue for me since I’ve lived here for 5 years already. I would recommend one of these junior league games to anyone. Great fun for all the family.

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