The name of the team is the "Nanooks," or, when the fans are feeling romantic, the 'Nooks. (For those of you who don't know, nanook means polar bear.) There were approximately 3700 fans there last night, which might sound small, but the population of Fairbanks is 32,000. And, it was nearly twenty below, Fahrenheit, not communist metric units. The fans were wonderful folks, except the two fans of the Lake Superior State team two rows in front of us (and here is an inventive mascot name . . . the "Lakers" - I wonder if the guy who came up with that one named his dog "Dog").
The score was 1-1. I know that sounds like it might be as exciting as watching various sissy Europeans bounce a ball back and forth across a lawn, but in the case of hockey, when a score can happen at any time, that increases the tension. Of course the game ended in a tie, so that tension was only relieved when it froze off of my body and fell to the packed snow/ice parking lot on hitting the air.
My boy was about as interested in the game as a four year old can be. He watched a bit, but was most concerned with attempting to kick the somewhat balding man sitting in front of him. So, in other words, he was a completely normal four year old. He did, however point out that he thought that some of the one-timers that the Nanooks were attempting from near the blue line would have been better converted into scoring chances if they crashed the net, but after that exchange I started kicking the balding man in front of me. I digress.
I was thinking that hockey was like church for some of these folks. But, then I came to the conclusion that many of the folks at the arena (most of them non-students, I'm assuming that the students were engaged in difficult study at the library at 8pm on a Saturday night) hockey wasn't like a religion, it is a religion.
- Look, the folks that showed up paid to get in, kinda like a weekly hockey tithe.
- They prayed during the game.
- They looked for the hockey gods to help the puck find the net.
- There was goodness (the Nanooks), evil (the Lakers), and demonic influences (the referees).
- At the end of the game, some sort of theological balance was struck, resulting in the tie.
- You never hear a fan say "hockeydammit."
- You never hear a fan say "Waaaaaaayne Gretzky" when he or she smacks a thumb with a hammer.
As it is, I'm quite sure that the sins are easier to figure out than most hockey rules. There are lots of lines on the ice, but their function seems to be to be ignored in most cases. The goalie has a blue spot in front of the net (called a 'crease,' but I saw no trousers) that seemed to fill no purpose whatsoever. As for the Pizza Hut logo, I could not for the life of me figure out how that impacted gameplay whatsoever.
Like other sports, the referees wear black and white. Which (going back to religion) makes them a perfect combination of good and evil. The Nanook fans felt that the demonic influence was greater this night. When the (chief, head, king?) referee was hit by a puck traveling near the speed of sound in his upper calf, the fans cheered. So, this night at least in the First Fairbanks Church of Hockey, he was an agent of that darkest pit of the abyss, the Lakers. (As an aside, when he sent Lakers to serve penance in the penalty box, he got a cheer, or at least an "about time" from the fans.)
End result, a good game, no frostbite, and I went home and cleaned up dog poop. A tie is better than cleaning up dog poop.
From the North-