Yes, it finally happened. While trundling aimlessly around Laverton Market last Saturday, waiting for my watch to have its battery changed, I got the call from my mate Trev, the very same Trev immortalised in my petty and sullen revenge fantasy The Chattering Classes (available in Offset no. 10). 'Paul, I've got a spare ticket to the Ice Hockey, do you want to come?'.
Of course I said yes. I didn't know then that it was women's ice hockey, and that it would take forever to find the stadium, which is mostly my fault. But me being a deadset 90s guy, who doesn't mind watching women's sport for the actual contest itself as opposed to more carnal reasons, it wasn't that much of an ordeal. After all, I'd been planning on checking out the IIHF World Championship Division II series that is going to be in Melbourne next year for the sheer novelty, so why not see a local match?
The first thing you notice upon walking into the arena is that it's not as cold as you might think, but a light jacket is recommended. The arena has seating on only one side, with only a very small smattering of seats located on the opposite side of the 'stand' next to the sin bin. Because the rink was also home to a Christmas holiday show of some sort, the glass on the side with all the seats was mostly removed, which meant that we weren't allowed to sit on that side at all. Insurance and public liability and all that.
So we went up to bar area where there was some seating. Some nice, comfy chairs, but several problems. One, the beer and drinks were expensive. Two, you couldn't hear pretty much anything from behind the glass - it took us awhile to realise they were playing the national anthem. And lastly, you couldn't even see the entire rink - the near side, including the goals, was only visible if you stood up. Which was kinda not really the point with the aforementioned comfy chairs being there.
So we decided to move down to the area next rinkside with the few seats that we were allowed to use - we decided to stand anyways. The game made more sense there. For starters, you could see and follow the puck. You could also hear things like the players yelling, the clash of sticks and the thud into the walls of players competing for possession. Some sports are flexible in that they can be both good in the flesh and good on tv or radio. Ice hockey does not seem to be one of those sports.
The game itself was between the Melbourne Ice and the Sydney Sirens. You could tell that there was more enthusiasm than skill on show, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it did remind one of watching women's soccer at a certain level - that the depth of talent is not as deep as anyone would like and therefore some of the slightly more advanced moves - such as connecting with a pass across the face of goal for a well timed first time shot.
There was enough argle bargle I guess, though there's always room for more. The visitors scored first, and then the home side leveled. Both of these goals were messy, resulting from shots saved by the goaltender but spilling out just enough to be scrambled in. The Ice's winning goal was better, a more genuine fluid movement and nice finish. Unlike in sports on a larger field, it was harder to tell who was dominating the match and where the momentum lay, as it was much easier to get into positions close to the other team's goal even if clear cut chances weren't forthcoming.