A brisk chill hits us as the doors opened and we took our first steps into the arena. Accompanying the chill was an almost tangible electricity that flowed into, and out of, each person that walked through the doors. Tonight was hockey night and every fan, every player, and every coach could feel it. It was our first time visiting the Peaks Ice Arena, and the first hockey game that my kids had seen in person. It is only fitting that as tremendous BYU fans the kids experienced their first game with the BYU Cougars hockey team.
Once known as the Provo Ice Cats, the Cougars now wear their name proudly as they represent the school, their families, and themselves on the ice. The game didn't turn out as well as the Cougars had hoped, dropping the game 8-1 against the Denver Pioneers, however they showed fight until the end and gained a few new fans in the arena. One young fan, only 10 years old, was so overwhelmed with the excitement that he couldn't decide if he was crying because he was so excited to have been at the game, or if he was upset because BYU lost the game.
Against Denver the crowd was a bit more sparse than one would like, but that isn't always the case. When big games come to town the stands can easily be filled to capacity and I can only imagine how much more exciting the atmosphere can get. With the name BYU on the jerseys the team, and the volunteers that help run the team, keep the school mission on their minds as they find ways to keep the atmosphere family friendly. One of the most enjoyable activities is the Chuck-A-Puck. For a small cost a person or a family can purchase used pucks that will then be thrown onto the ice during the intermission. The puck that lands closest to center ice wins a prize. All four of my kids jumped at the chance to participate in the game, and a couple came quite close to winning.
The family friendly experience even flows down through the coaches and players. I can't count the number of times I turned around to find one or more of my kids standing over the wall of the tunnel and chatting off the ear of a coach. Before the game the kids, I am assuming they used their super hockey player locator vision, managed to find a few poor players that entertained them for a few minutes by chatting and taking a few pictures with them. It came as no surprise that the kids were just as excited to meet the hockey players as they are meeting BYU basketball or football players.
Mixed among the fans were friends and families of the players, some with young children that, contributed to the family fanfare. Many of the players are playing despite various commitments. They are sold on the team and the organization to the extent that they pay their dues, both physically and monetarily, in order to play the game they love. This love of the game and their team shows in every play as they skate up and down the ice after the puck, dodging other players in route to the elusive net. Although the players don't have the cameras surrounding them like other athletes, their drive and determination rivals even the most decorated athlete at the school. At the end of the game they show their appreciation to the fans as they face them in thanks before heading to the locker room, leaving the fans with a great family experience from beginning to end.
Before the game had ended my kids were already asking when they could come back for another game. My 12 year old autistic son was hesitant to go to the game, but was enthralled within minutes. He couldn't get enough of the team as he chanted for the players and followed the puck everywhere it landed. However, the biggest sell the Cougars had that night was to my non-sports appreciating wife. With a book in hand, as she has at any sporting event, we expected her to read the entire game. Yet when the puck was dropped the Cougars kept her attention through out the game, and even managed to sell her a BYU Hockey jacket. I have been trying to break through for 16 years, but BYU Hockey did it in one night. Without hesitation we will be back as a family, and will enjoy every minute of the game and the atmosphere.
The Cougars will continue to fight through good games and bad as they look to build young men of character and strength. Don't miss their next home game on Friday October 30th at 7pm as their rivals from the University of Utah make the trip to Peaks Ice Arena. Tickets are inexpensive and can be purchased at the game.. If you aren't in the area you can catch all their home games by going to www.byuhockey.com and clicking on the link for live streaming. Next week the Cougars will spend the full weekend at home. Take a look at the full hockey schedule here. Don't forget to mark your calendar and get the kids out to a great hokey experience!