I wrote this short, nonfiction piece last semester for a writing class. I've been editing it over the summer and wanted to share. It's about my first hockey game and the Hurricanes' first game at the ESA. This game turned my relationship with my father around and turned me into a Caniac.
I know I'm not the best writer. I'm not looking for an analytical critique; I'm just hoping you can enjoy the story. Maybe satisfy a portion of your hockey cravings.
The only facts that I'm not sure about are parking price and the pin I received at the gate might have been bought later.
Here we are, just my dad and me, in a car, listening to the radio, not saying a word. I silently read my book, occasionally gazing out the window to stare at passing trees.
My dad’s company bought season tickets to the new hockey team in town, the Carolina Hurricanes. My dad said we should go to the home opener at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh. I don’t think it’s going to be my thing so I bring a book, just in case. My dad and I are going through a rough spot in our relationship. We don’t talk to each other or do things together. My dad knows next to nothing about a 12-year-old girls' dreams, desires, hobbies, and hopes. He thinks we need alone time. I think we need therapy.
“Maybe I should tell you a little bit about the rules,” my dad says nervously.
“Maybe,” I turn down the music, ready to listen. Silence. I stare at him and he stares out the window, focused on the road ahead. His sideburns are graying, flecks of white stand out on his mostly dark hair. My dad’s glasses have been taped together at the joint. These small details make my dad seem like sad, old man. I roll my eyes, about to turn up the radio when he finally speaks.
“First, there are six players on the ice for your team. You have a goaltender, three forwards and two defensemen.”
My dad keeps talking and I try to keep up with the power plays, and icing, and overtime rules, but I can’t. I give up listening and just smile and nod whenever he looks down at me. As I watch him I notice that talking about hockey makes the wrinkles around his eyes disappear; his tired, slow voice turns fast and excited when he talks about the history of the Hurricanes franchise. I almost smile for real.
When we get to the ESA, it’s $6.00 for parking. Our walk to the arena is quiet and confusing. By the time we make it to the entrance, I have no idea where we parked. After waiting in a long line, ahe lady at the gate gives me a pin featuring the Entertainment and Sports Arena. It’s pretty lame but I pin the pin to my shirt anyways. Free is free.
My dad and I walk the whole way around the arena to get a feel for the place. Walking around a giant oval with the same food stands and small clothing stores every ten feet isn’t as fun as it might sound. The colors red, black and white represent the Carolina Hurricanes and they’re not shy about showing them off. Fans wear red and white jerseys, crazy face make-up and I even see a few black and red afro wigs. Before we take our seats my dad buys us a large Cherry Pepsi and a bag of peanuts from one of the food stands.
We find section 121 and make our way down steep, stone steps. If I fall there’s nothing to stop me, but the glass at the bottom. I walk slowly. Our seats are in the third row, in front of a short white wall, separating the first three rows from the rest. I have to say I am pretty amazed at the size of the ice rink. I am not, however, impressed by the constant temperature drop. After sitting down and situating drink and peanuts, my arms creep inside my t-shirt. I sit balled up, resentful of having to come out to this stupid thing. My book lays on my lap, ready to free me from a potentially horrible hockey game.
The lights go out and the crowd watches a pregame video on the jumbotron. The video gets the crowd pumped up. I begin to feel the anticipation, energy and excitement of the crowd all building up to something, but I’m not sure what. Butterflies flutter in my stomach as I watch the happy and excited faces of the other fans all around me. Why am I nervous?
I jump as an announcer calls out for all to hear, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the ice your Carolina Hurricanes!” Everyone jumps up out of their seats and begins clapping and wooing and shouting and the noises are complete chaos to my ears. I struggle to my feet, free my arms and start clapping as men in white jerseys take to the ice through a door on the opposite side of the rink. I’m not sure what to do, but something is bubbling inside of me, near the bottom of my stomach. It travels to my chest, which tightens, I feel a type of energy rushing up my throat and I can’t stop it. Unexpectedly, I hear myself scream, “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” I scream as loud as I possibly can. It’s the most amazing shout I never heard. My voice blends in with the crowd. I doubt even my dad heard me screaming. I shout again and again. I start clapping louder and louder, wanting the players to know that I am theirs.
I glance up at my dad and he smiles. I can’t help smiling too. Maybe this won’t be so painful. I’ve never seen my dad so lively; he’s actually talking to the strangers around us and laughing. My gaze is torn away by men in red jerseys coming out of a door just to our left. They start skating in circles around their net.
“Who are they?”
“The New Jersey Devils. They’re good. Their goaltender is one of the best.” My dad boos and so do I, cupping my mouth to direct my disapproving shouts at the opposing team.
Someone sings the national anthem and the crowd cheers as the teams get ready for the opening faceoff. My dad and I take our seats. The puck drops and I am in complete awe. This game is fast, too fast for me, but I can’t look away. I don’t understand what’s going on, but I make use of my time by memorizing players and their numbers.
For whatever reason there is a face off right in front of me in the circle next to the goalie. Player number 92 skates around in a circle, briefly looking over the crowd. His eyes meet mine. He smiles and waves. I feel my insides turn to mush and I enthusiastically wave back at him. He turns away and I see that his name is O’Neill. I decide that number 92 is my favorite player.
I boo, chant, yell, and woo when the rest of the crowd does, but I don’t understand why. I just go with the flow. The fans become one as we chant and clap in unison, “Let’s Go Hurricanes!”, “Let’s Go Canes!”, “Ref, You Suck!” and the infamous goalie taunt, “Bro-deur Bro-deur Bro-deur, You Suck!” I chant along with them, enjoying being able to yell and scream with no consequences. This is quickly turning into the best night of my life.
The game settles and my dad teaches me more about the game. I’m willing to listen this time. I never realized how much my dad loves hockey. He seems to know the answer to every question I throw at him. As the game goes on my dad transforms into a fun, care-free man. If only he were always like this.
The Hurricanes score a goal and the crowd goes ballistic. The chaotic noise begins anew. I think I feel the building shake. I laugh and join in the celebration. I high-five a stranger sitting in front of me and a bond is formed. I’ve never had so much fun. The Devils score and a chorus of boos takes over; I still laugh. The puck goes just wide of the net and I hear the crowd, “uuhh!” at the same time, sounding like an old man barfing and I laugh again. The 18,000 people in attendance react like a single entity, wanting nothing but awesomeness from their team.
The Hurricanes lose the game 4-2, but I don’t care. The atmosphere of the ESA keeps me talkative; there’s not a minute of silence between my father and me on the way home. We listen to reactions of the game on the radio. I keep asking questions, dying to know more about my new favorite sport. Hockey games become father-daughter dates that we go on every week. Even at home we watch the hockey games with Cherry Pepsi and peanuts.