Cutting through all the preliminaries: Spending about seven consecutive hours in Pepsi Center to watch live championship college hockey — Priceless.
Granted, the seven hours includes getting there 30 or so minutes early to watch warm ups, a 50 minute break between the semifinal games and a total of five intermissions. But even from our vantage point in the third tier, seeing 16 goals as well as an overtime game is great fun, particularly when you don’t really have a dog in the fight. A few random observations and thoughts:
- At least for a few days, Denver is Hockeytown. There’s a ton of fans here from all over the country and they are all invariably fun to visit with. If the variety of jerseys is any indication, a love of hockey is as big a motivator as being a fan of one of the participating teams. I saw a significant number of Nebraska-Omaha and Wisconsin jerseys, as well as the Gophers, Maine, New Hampshire, St. Cloud State, Bemidji and Minnesota-Mankato, to name a few.
- The official NCAA Frozen Four t-shirt for UND was half price even before the Sioux lost to Boston College. Seems that spelling the state as “North Dakoka” reduces the value.
- One of the things I most enjoy other other than simply watching the games is what got me started as a college hockey fan. That’s the number of USHL alumni you get to see play. For example, both UND and Notre Dame have three former Stampede players. Notre Dame’s Stampede alum were on the ice for four of the five goals it scored in its overtime upset of Michigan and two of the players scored or assisted on those four goals). But it’s even fun to watch players you’ve seen play in the past compete at this level, even when they’re alumni of rival USHL teams.
- Another thing I like about the Frozen Four is they don’t sell alcohol at the games. I’m not a teetotaler or anything but I can easily do without people spilling their beer and that percentage of fans who seem intent on spending the evening getting obnoxious.
- The lack of alcohol sales doesn’t mean the place is inebriate free. There were four UND fans standing outside the brew pub kitty corner from our hotel a little after 10 a.m. yesterday disappointed the place wasn’t open. They got on the 16th Street Mall shuttle with us and headed to the Hard Rock, hoping its bar was open. I also know one of the organized UND parties we were invited to started at 1 p.m., three hours before game time, giving people plenty of time to “warm up.”
- I’m not picking on the UND fans. It’s just that there’s so many around and at our hotel that I see more of them than others. In fact, we and the people sitting immediately behind us and to our right unanimously gave the most obnoxious award to the drunk Notre Dame fan three rows behind us. He showed up only for that game and chanted inane cheers at the top of his lungs and had absolutely no clue of what was going on out on the ice. At least if he’d come for the first game, he might have sobered up before the Notre Dame game.
- One of the first stops yesterday was the Tattered Cover Book Store and my daughter and I have hit a total of three bookstores since we’ve been here. It means I’ll be coming home with four more books than I left with, one of the things my wife has come to expect.
- The tourney also provides an interesting question. What theological intricacies are involved when there are two Catholic universities (Boston College and Notre Dame) playing for the national championship and only one can win?
C’mon, this is a football school. Who are we kidding?
Notre Dame hockey captain Mark Van Guilder