January 8, 2010
Last night I went to see the Sharks v the Blues. A week ago that would have meant nothing to me, but now… Let’s go Sha-arks!
I’m not a sporty type. I need a leg massage after a game of pool, but I’ll do my best for you.
This is NHL Ice Hockey, and I went along with my brother-in-law, niece and nephew to the HP Pavilion (sadly not named after the sauce) to see their local team, the San Jose Sharks, take on the St Louis Blues (I kept saying St. Louie, French style… and then getting told off. It’s wrong. You say the S at the end, St. Lewis stylee.)
The Sharks are doing well. They lost their last game after a long winning streak. So the pressure was on to beat the far less successful Blues. The Sharks are the Arsenal/Chelsea/Man Utd/Man City (Hurray! Who’d've ever thought I’d be typing that name up top) to the Blues Portsmouth if that helps. I tell you again, I’m not a sporty type. Though I did once sleep with Tiger Woods.
I liked the pavilion though. I felt like an extra in Sudden Death.
Once in the Pavilion we had our tea. I haven’t been to a football match in England for at least 35 years, so I don’t know what the stadiums are like these days. Do they do teriyaki chicken? Can you buy beer in glass bottles that you can then take in to your seats?
The overhead thing with the big screens* showed a clock counting us down to the start of the game. I say thing because I don’t know what you call those things. Just like I don’t know what you call the things that do that thing to the ice before the game and in the gaps between the halves… though there are three hlaves, and, oh, more of that later. Here’s a pic of one of the things, made to look like a shark. Everything at the Sharks’ stadium is sharky.
I’m shouting Kate. Kate! Kate! Oh, and William. William! William! What are those things called that they drive across the ice? Zamboni’s, shouts Kate.
Ok, it’s a Zamboni. I’ve just looked Zamboni up. Named after Frank Zamboni. But what is a Zamboni? Well, it’s an ice resurfacer.
As we get nearer the start a black clothed monster descends from above. It’s the shark the Sharks run through to get from the tunnel to the ice. The shark’s eyes glow red, it breathes smoke. Once the players are on the ice it gets winched up again, and if you look carefully, you can see a man up in the rigging gathering the black cloth. (I don’t mean you look. You can’t see him in my pictures, though you can see the unclothed shark hovering high in the left hand corner of the picture below).
Then it’s time for the National Anthem.
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Of course I have no clue what it’s about, but those opening lines beat the hell out of God Save Our Gracious Queen, Long Live our Noble Queen… and you can’t do this with our National Anthem-
I stood, a young man sang it beautifully, I almost had a tear in my eye and I felt oddly patriotic for a country I don’t belong too. Can that be possible? What a start to the game.
So, the game. Firstly, the rules:
Each team has about 20 players, with only 6 on the ice at a time. They chop and change like crazy, jumping in and out of the rink (rink? I don’t know. Ice pitch?) They whack a puck about with big curvy sticks. They try to score goals. You have to be over a blue line before taking a shot, otherwise it’s a kind of offside type thing and then you have a powerplay when all the action moves to the other end and one of the three refs drops the puck between two rival players, rugby style. If you do a foul, like whacking another player with your stick, you get put in a little prison for 2 minutes, leaving your side a man down. Fighting is allowed, sort of. The game is split into three parts, called periods, each one 20 minutes long. The 2o minutes lasts about 40 minutes, since the clock constantly stops and starts so people and things can come and go and adverts can be shown and Make Some Noise interstitials can encourage us to make some noise. Got it? Let’s go Shaaaa-arks!
The Sharks were meant to win this game. It’s not fair on my niece and nephew, at their first game, if things don’t go according to plan. Especially since I’ve bought them crappy flags to wave (heck, it’s the least I could do; my brother-in-law Andy had, after all, forked out something daft like $15000 for the tickets).
So, jump to the third period and the Sharks are 1-0 down. Now wonder Jody Shelley went and picked a fight with some poor Blues guy. And this was a proper fight. Sure, they’re shoving into each other all the time, but these two had a stand-off and then Shelley whacked the sucker with a right hook and then he got hit back, and for at least two minutes the game stopped and 17,500 people cheered the fight. Eventually, after Shelley had taken his hat off to use as a boxing glove, a ref stepped in and the two guys backed down. I’d have taken a photograph but I was too engrossed. And the penalty? Five minutes each in the prison place.
Later, watching the game back on TV, the commentators turned from hockey commentators to boxing commentators, neatly describing each move, blow and block. You might think this was all staged. I was there and I think these bozos were trying to hurt each other. William, 7, thought the fight was cool. me too.
Maybe the fight fired the Sharks up. With seven minutes to go Patrick Marleau equalised for the Sharks with a 54 foot slap shot (I’ve been reading the paper today). And at the end of time the score was 1-1.
But you can’t have a draw in NHL ice hockey. When the three 20 minute periods have been played and the score is level you go into overtime. 5 minutes of it. If it’s still a draw after that; penalties.
With 53 seconds of overtime remaining Dany Heatley got off a 14 foot wrist shot (please, no jokes, that’s what the papers say) and the Sharks won 2-1.
Well done Sharks for giving us a great night out. Keep on winning. Let’s Go Shaaa-aaarks!!! (Does funny Sharks shark dance holding both arms out, making fingers into jaws, and swinging open and shut like a big shark mouth… we all did it. You have to. And you have to too.)
* Andy has just told me the screen is called a Jumbotron. Oh, and he also saw a TV slot where a sports commentator said Shelley knew what he was doing; the fight was started to fire up the team and get them going. It worked.