SUNY Potsdam is a great place to watch hockey. Everyone’s cold and pissed off, so all the hatred and bitterness that comes with going to school in the arctic comes out during the games.
There were some great lines too, from continuing the music school rivalry between Fredonia and Potsdam with students shouting, “Our music school is better than your music school!”, contempt for the officials, “Kill the Ref! Skate on his neck!”, to reminding the other team’s goalie, “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” when they gave up a goal.
Sadly, I didn’t realize people grow up after college and stop shouting inappropriate things at hockey games. Instead, they bring their kids and expect other attendees to behave like they’re attending Sunday Mass.
Amanda and I went to the Adirondack Glens Falls Phantom’s first (preseason) game at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The team is on loan until their new arena is finished in Allentown, PA.
Because the team is on loan, I have a problem with The Phantoms using the Adirondack name.
They don’t have any intention of staying and that’s fine, but the name of a storied franchise (Adirondack Redwings) being used for one that’s here temporarily is like ditching your wife for some girl you met on Facebook with the same first name.
Of the 2,039 fans in attendance to see the Adirondack Glens Falls Phantoms play the hated Albany River Rats, Amanda and I had the best seats in the house: Everywhere.
By the time we got to the Civic Center, a few idiots were already in our seats, so we decided to sit in what was heretofore referred to as Section G, but is now called “The Phantom Zone.”
Sadly, General Zod was not there, but I have the chest hair to pull off wearing the Zod costume for the next game we attend. C’mon, you know you’d laugh to if some dude dressed like Zod stood up after the Phantoms scored and shouted, “Kneel before Zod!”
Of course, the fans were having none of that tonight. They clapped, and there was even a pitiful ”Let’s Go Phantoms” that was so timid, it was embarrassing. The chant was almost like saying “Go team” with an upward inflexion as if to ask a question.
Section G, The Phantom Zone, is far superior than Section B, which is where our our original seats were and where most of the fans were sitting. For starters, the scratched/injured players were sitting with us, but more importantly, you can see the entire rink from The Phantom Zone. Sure, there’s a giant net, but it doesn’t obstruct your view, and it can save your life when a puck, cruising at the comfortable speed of a bullet, flies your way.
The Phantom Zone also doesn’t have an annoying bar running across it, like the front row of Section B, and there are far less blood-thirsty children.
The fans may be timid, but their kids are animals.
During the second period we did move to our original seats because we thought it would give us the best chance to win Chuck A Puck . It didn’t. I throw like a girl, but Amanda, who throws like an MVP softball pitcher, did way better, landing right on the Phantoms logo.
We lost, but won when we realized how terrible Section B seats are, and that the rabid kid behind us might satiate his blood lust by killing us if he didn't get his way.
You see, Damian was convinced the players were engaged in an elaborate conspiracy where the fights, much like pro-wrestling, were planned.
He kept asking when the next fight was going to be and why the players did what they did. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was this annoying at the New Jersey Devil’s game my Dad once took me to. Then I remembered that if I had been, my Dad would have told me to shut up, drink my soda, and watch the game. Too bad Damian's dad didn't do the same.
During the third period, back in the far more comfortable Phantom Zone, but away from the players in the event they were on the River Rats team, Amanda and I broke out the vocal fireworks.
We’re not entirely ready to grow up like everyone else at the Civic Center.
When a Phantom would skate out of the River Rat’s zone, we would yell, “Where are you going?”
When the Rats had a faceoff in the Phantom Zone, I would yell “We have a RAT problem.”
Amanda and I would then shout, “We’re going to exterminate you!” and followed up by shaking our hands like canisters and make a hissing sound, much like a can of Raid would make, whenever the Rat’s possessed the puck in The Phantom Zone.
And just so you think we weren’t all negative, I shouted “I love my temporary team!” and “We salute you, Mr. Backlund” every time Johan Backlund, the Phantoms goalie, made a great save.
He’s a future NHL player for sure, which brings me to another problem I have with the Phantoms: They’re associated with the Philadelphia Flyers.
I hate the Flyers. They’ve always represented the scumbag bullies from high school in the way they play, and as an Islanders fan, there are few things I like more than to see the Flyers finish dead last in the Atlantic division.
I know, it doesn’t happen often, but now I’m torn. This team may be here temporarily, but I’m investing two years of my life into watching these players grow and develop and then play for a dick organization.
I guess one can hope they’re traded to better teams, you know, like the mediocre Islanders.
I also broke out my personal favorite jeer toward the end of the game, one Flyers fans would even be proud of. It’s something I created back in Potsdam and only did once before being told by the Athletics Department never to do it again.
I created a cardboard sign and wrote in black marker, “I hate you!” on it. At that Bears game, we were stationed up front on the bench and I was able to press the sign to the glass when the opposing players came by. Whenever they did, I would put the sign on the glass, point to them, and shout, “I hate you!”
The “I Hate You!” shout made its Civic Center debut during the third period and shootout. Whenever a River Rat went for a shot, I would shout, "I hate you!" I found this particularly useful during the shootout.
What’s cool about the Civic Center is that it’s so old, it predates the modern “Let’s get the fans as far away from the ice as we can” motif that many arenas have today.
Here you’re on top of the ice, and the players can see you as well as you can see them, meaning they can hear you just as well. I doubt our constant hissing got on the River Rats nerves, but maybe it did? Every time we did it, the Rats blew their chance to score, and I thought that was a small victory.
Even Mr. Backlund looked up at one point and saw Amanda and I, cheering with Phantoms shirts propped up on our knees and, we think, he smiled.
It’s hard to tell with that hockey mask, although it’s less frightening than the old school Jason Voorhees one, you still can’t tell if the goalie is shooting eye daggers at you or not.
I did always like Ron Hextall, despite his handicap of being a Flyer, so I wonder if Mr. Backlund will find himself as a future Ron Hextall in my book?
The Glens Falls Phantoms won the shootout, and as we left I couldn’t help but notice how many kids there were. I thought about the atmosphere leaving a SUNY Potsdam game, how it was more like a bar crawl than this funeral march, and hoped the actual season would be different.
There’s not too many places you can go today where it’s ok to shout inappropriate things, but a hockey game is one of them. It’s a naturally violent sport, and if you’re worried about swearing around kids, there’s plenty of other creative things you can add to the mix of fighting and checking during a game.
I hope that, when the actual season starts, there will be more slightly older, but less mature fans like us. Ones who would enjoy our antics, and more importantly, join us in spitting in the face of maturity.
If you’re looking for more high class behavior, you’re better off at the symphony.
Personally, I’m hoping to see more “I Hate You Signs” at future Phantoms and other AHL games. Because really, what screams "I don't want to grow up!" more than telling a professional athlete and complete stranger that you hate their guts?