Hockey arena reflections: valuable lessons learned

 

The notion is simple. Through good times and bad, two things will always be there to provide you love, comfort, and joy.

Family and sports.

Hockey never leaves a loyal fan astray, no matter how high the mountain of adversity towers over a situation.

For better or for worse

One thing that has really changed, perhaps for the better, is the ability to see multiple perspectives. This serves as a valuable lesson to reflect on little things that had more of an impact on us at the time than we initially believed.

Photo: Andy Devlin

Hockey was a luxury for many and we all got quite comfortable and complacent with how things were originally and how readily available it was every year for a long time.

When this pandemic eventually subsides and the arenas open up to full capacity again, you can absolutely bet that going to an Edmonton Oilers game will not be any cheaper.

Be it as it may, the reality is the bills have to be paid somehow.

Nothing is free.

How that will affect the average-paying fan financially in the future when games can have in-person attendance is a discussion for another time. In a perfect world, you wish it to be affordable for all.

The good old days

Let’s shift the tide to the positives. Think of the last time you were at a hockey game in an arena before everything happened.

You could be walking through downtown Edmonton in the bitter cold of winter at 5:30 PM in the primetime of rush hour, perfectly timing it right to catch the LRT, and getting dropped off at Bay/Enterprise Square Station to make the trek just in time to see your team indulge in warmups.

That’s the beauty of living in Edmonton. There is no shortage of hockey to watch with having both the Oilers and Oil Kings in the same building.

As you enter the Ice District and get a pleasant view of the iconic crown jewel of Edmonton, Rogers Place, the butterflies in your stomach flutter uncontrollably.

The anticipation of entering Rogers Place through the main entrance and ascending up its perfectly slow escalator can make you go crazy. Like holding back a dog who spotted a treat on the floor. It’s like the engineers of the arena timed the slow-moving escalator speed deliberately just to tease you long enough before FINALLY entering the beautiful facility of your favourite team.

Then, when you get through the gate, purchase your 50/50 tickets, the atmosphere hits you hard in the heart. There is something special about being at an arena that feeds the soul of any fan. The glorious blended smell of popcorn, chilled arena ice, and multiple streams of cologne and perfume flood your senses as you make your way through the concourse.

Colton Kehler. Photo by Andy Devlin, Edmonton Oil Kings.

This is the key moment to reflect on and hopefully see a rejuvenated perspective on simple, little things in life that make any experience worth every second and every penny.

You are surrounded by other fans. People.

Many of us don’t particularly get excited to deal with large, crowded areas, or even the idea of it. Especially now with COVID-19 fears. But when you reflect on days at the arena, in another dimension of time it seems, when you were literally shoulder-to-shoulder with people for miles, standing next to each other, there really was a sense of normalcy, connection, and comfort hidden between our natural reactions of annoyance and feeling confined.

The distant memory of a person who butted in line or cut you off as you made your way through the crowd can be remembered now as an old friend of the norm. A recipe for a quick golden smile to form on your face in the present.

Eating an overpriced burger or hot dog you could have easily made better at home causes your mouth to water now as you reflect on the last game you went to before the pandemic.

The bottom line

And finally, the most important memory. Looking at ice-level from your seat, wherever it may be, watching the Oilers or Oil Kings grind out a solid home victory. The sound of the best goal horn on earth (many might disagree) rings through your ears as fans jump out of their seats to a Connor McDavid goal or a Dylan Guenther game-winner.

(Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

The good old days. Golden years. While we have some of the thrills of watching a game restored on television, the gaping hole in our hearts, which houses the feelings and raw experiences of watching hockey games live at the arena is still aching with pain and a sense of longing.

In due time, hopefully, normalcy is fully restored so that every fan, especially the next generation of youth, can take in the truly heavenly experience of being present at a hockey game.

And of course, we can’t forget the rewarding act of comradery and unity that comes with fist-bumping a complete stranger sitting in the seat next to you, like you’ve known him for years, after a big goal by your home team.

These are just some of the memories and nostalgic feelings that we look forward to experiencing again in 2021.

DUBNetwork Forums Hockey arena reflections: valuable lessons learned

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