Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Outdoor Games (RW77)

Feb 9 Battle on Ice Opener - Omaha Lancers won. (Photo: Dan Levitt)
I'd like to say "EPIC FAIL" when it comes to them but, alas...... the games were played and around 13,000 tickets were sold.  I was told by a stadium official that the "break even" point was about 15,000 (the stadium holds 24,000), but I'm not certain.  In any case, the weather started out to be a great day at the ballpark.  The temps were such that, dressed warmly, it wasn't uncomfortable at all.  There wasn't a lot of people at the opener, many preferring to use their Saturday for other things.  Nevertheless, there were plenty of police in the area as they were expecting a lot of traffic (there was a major Home and Garden Show at the Convention Center and a Creighton basketball game later that evening at the CenturyLink so it was a busy afternoon and evening Downtown).

The fans that did show up were very nice and seemed to try to carve out a little unique flavor to the environment.  I noticed people standing around or sitting around talking between games, tailgating, playing games in the parking lots, and just going up to random folks and chatting.  There was never any animosity shown before, during, or after the UND game but there was a Lincoln Stars fan who was dragged from the stands by security shortly after the USHL game concluded.  I'm not certain what happened.

In any case the most prominent things I noticed in an outdoor game were also the lessons to be learned from attending a gimmick game such as this:

Lesson #1:  The more pricey ticket isn't always the best in the house.  I paid over $80 for my lower bowl seat and the folks who spent $30 or so in the upper deck had better seats.  Farther away, yes, but they could see the ice.  If you look at my photo above closely, you can notice that almost 60% of the ice surface is hidden from my view.

Lesson #2:  Outdoor hockey games are garbage hockey thanks to the problems of putting ice where ice isn't normally meant to be placed.  We aren't talking pond hockey here folks.  Water on lakes and ponds freezes in the winter and, thus, ice can be expected.  NOT on a baseball diamond.  NOT on a football field.  Those of us who want the nuances and strategy of the game to be the prime factors above talent and individual performances in a game's outcome will obviously NOT like these games.  I am one of those people.  All game long (especially in the USHL game) players were falling down with no one within 20 feet of them.  There was one point (right on the blue line adjacent to the HOME team's bench) that was a problem all game long.  Many times, distance from the location and camera angles cannot accurately display the issue.  They showed the area on the jumbotron and it was PLAINLY OBVIOUS.  THAT's how bad the ice was.  The coolant leak in the UNO game was impressive.  A hole, as an official showed Anderson, looked to be about 2 inches in diameter.  So, I can use EPIC FAIL to describe the ice.

I can also use EPIC FAIL to describe the delays.  No one knows how awful life is when the USHL game is over at 3:30 and you have to wait 3 hours instead of 1.5 hours to see the whole reason why you came.  I do not blame the Omaha Sports Commission, UNO, TD Ameritrade Park officials, etc. for this, but this is something that very well could have been predicted WELL before it happened.  It was like "What?  You mean, the sun has an effect on the ice?"  Really, people.

I also can use EPIC FAIL to describe the food.  It was traditionally overpriced, but that's not why.  I sunk my teeth into quite possibly the worst hamburger I've ever had in my life.  I couldn't hide the awful taste.  It made McDonald's Big Macs look like Steakhouse quality steakburgers.  I choked down half of it before giving up.  I woke up this morning surprised I wasn't sick.


Zane Gothberg leading UND out of the "chute"
Once the game finally started, I noticed as the night went on something rather, well, sad if you live in Omaha:  UND fans showed up in force and stayed.  As the night wore on, less and less UNO fans were in attendance to the point where the third period started and I could count easily how much red I saw in the four sections including my own (right around 20).  UND fans turned this into a UND Home game and, quite honestly, I'm proud of it.  However, it became readily apparent to me just how ignorant Omaha is to what they've got.  If it isn't the Huskers football team and perhaps the Creighton basketball team (only when they are ranked apparently), no one seems to care.  That's the definition of SAD.

I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at how well UND played.  Sure, I knew they were capable of such things but 3 goals in 5 shots to start the first 10 minutes of play was quite impressive.  Sitting next to (one of the only) a UNO fan was quite enlightening.  This UNO fan, to rave a bit, was one of the most impressive fans I met at the game.  EXTREMELY knowledgeable.  VERY respectful.  Had some interesting views on WCHA teams' fanbases (we both weren't impressed with DU and UMN fans, bemoan the corporate atmosphere at Mariucci, and respect traditional history of college hockey.  However, what surprised me is that he said of all of the WCHA teams fans he's met, the fans that treated him the worst were Bemidji fans.  All of the BSU fans I've met were extremely nice and respectful.  Quite interesting).  In any case, he said he loved what Blais brought to UNO and the team but he said, and I quote, "UND will win tonight.  UNO is starting [John] Faulkner.  He's not very good.  Cannot track the puck.  Huge five hole and no peripheral vision.  They should start Belfour instead."
Dayn Belfour in action

Well, he got his wish partially as Mitch MacMillan, Nick Mattson, and Jordan Schmaltz chased Faulkner and Belfour came in and, in my opinion, played pretty well.  I will not comment much on UND players that stood out because I didn't get much of a view of any player with my seats being where they were.  It appeared as though Gothberg and Kristo had great games though.

In the end, the lessons I learned above and the sight lines I "enjoyed" made me issue the following statement:

I will never regret going to see UND play, as I am a UND fan.  However, this is the first and last outdoor hockey game I will spend money to see.  It truly is a ONCE in a lifetime experience.

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