Photo: Chocolate Hockey
Until yesterday, I had only seen professional hockey played in massive arenas such as the Prudential Center, Barclays Center, and of course the big barn on 7th and F that the Capitals call home. The NHL, regardless of the teams playing, is going to be fun to watch, but it lacks the intimacy that I experienced yesterday at Giant Center in Hershey Pennsylvania. As we approached the stadium for the first time, I thought to myself “This looks like a building where hockey should be played.” I hadn’t even stepped foot inside the stadium, and knew that the atmosphere was going to be something special.
I do not go to a school with a division I college hockey team, so while I had heard about the incredible intimate venues of college hockey (Yost in Michigan, Pegula at Penn State, Mariucci at Minnesota), I had never experienced this first hand. Walking down the tunnel and to the boards for warm-ups, my jaw hit the floor. The proximity between the spectators and the players was something I had not experienced since high school. Our seats were in the upper section right at center ice, where we had a clear view of the entire arena.
While it was not completely sold out, the Bears drew over 8,600 people on a Wednesday night, most of whom were clad in chocolate and white. As the game began, everyone (at least in our section) was incredibly into the game, and when the Bears scored the first goal, the place went nuts. Lake Erie would proceed to score the next four goals, and win the game 4-1, but that was almost beside the point for me.
Watching hockey in its purest form is something that every hockey fan should experience. The intimacy of the venue, coupled with the dedication of the fans made my first time at Giant Center one that I will remember. Hopefully, the Bears can take this series deep, and I can head back to Hershey to see them raise the Calder Cup.
By Matthew Jacobson