A frigid chill raced down my neck and pinched my face as I stepped through the entrance of the Arrowhead Pond’s arena. The massive oval rink was scattered with fans sporting purple, black and green, and echoed with the chirping of duck calls resonating through the cold haze rising from the ice floor.
As my boyfriend and I climbed the steep steps of the 400-level section, he attempted to slowly break down the game of hockey.
Even though this was my first professional hockey game, I figured it would be similar to the Mighty Ducks movies from Disney. Sitting down in our seats I imagined the flying ‘V’, players quacking in the huddle and a comical heavy set goalie taking the ice. While these images glided back and forth through my head, my boyfriend warned me of the typical sights of a hockey game: a fist fight, breaking glass and crazy fans. I didn’t take him seriously, after all how bad could it be? Charlie from the movie never got taken out or anything. However, as the game began, my peewee hockey expectations were quickly shattered.
The players were slightly bigger than action figures but even from what felt like miles up, I could see the rapid, violent game unfold. Their toothpick hockey sticks jabbed at the ice demanding control of the coveted puck. Players slammed their padded bodies into near by opponents blocking their path. The referees dodged for their lives as players sliced passed their dainty presence. Players’ skates cut through the ice like merciless blades. When a Mighty Duck defenseman guarded an opposing player with the puck, the crowd screamed in anticipation, “Hit him!” Sure enough, the Mighty Duck’s defenseman smashed the opposing player into the glass walls echoing a pounding thud. The audience winced, released a long “Oh” and cheered in approval. I, on the other hand, whispered to my boyfriend, who was on his feet screaming with the crowds, “Is he going to be okay?”
Before he can answer my question, the crowd erupts in cheers and grunts of hostility. An actual fist fight had exploded on the rink between two players. Their teammates created a circle around the fight and referees helplessly stood back avoiding the swings. The players took off their masks and began annihilating punches to the face. The crowd went crazy with this shocking display of violence.
I half expected one of the players to pull an Adam Sandler “Happy Gilmore” moment and stab his opponent with his razor sharp skate. The fight went on for more than five minutes without any referee interference.
Finally, when the crowd had their fill, the tiff magically resolved and each player was placed in the penalty box.
My wide fearful eyes must have indicted an immediate need for explanation as my boyfriend began explaining why the fight carried on for so long. His explanation was simple: it keeps a fan base.
The remainder of the game played out in the same brutal manner. A few other events, such as the breaking of glass and some pretty nasty checks to the wall, made me wince before the Mighty Ducks were declared the winners.
I was amazed to find such violence encouraged at a professional game. At times, it felt I had paid to see a boxing match or simply a rumble in a schoolyard. After my boyfriend informed me the violence-centered game had transformed over the years for the fans, the fact that our society is driven and excited by violence sunk in. It seems violence has crept into every form of entertainment: newscasts, television, movies and sports.
Now, I’m not completely naïve, I knew hockey was a contact sport, but I didn’t expect the encouragement and lack of interference. It surprised me that violence had come to support the game, and not the sport of the game itself. Even though its common sense these days, it still surprises me how our society serves money over decency. Of course, this article will not impact professional hockey, the fans attending or myself for that matter; I even plan to attend another game. It just amazes me how violence has become an expected norm in our culture and entertainment; and another societal truth breaking down my innocence and carrying me along with the crowd.
Nicole Knight, a junior jouranlism major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.