Friday, November 03, 2006

You think it's cold outside the arena?

Feb. 18, 2006: Feldkirch, Austria.
EV Zeltweg 3, EHC Feldkirch 2000 2, OT
A visit to my sister, who lives in western Austria, provided the pretext for this journey into the belly of minor league hockey, European style. EHC Feldkirch 2000 played in the Nationalliga, the country's second division. (The first division isn't exactly at the forefront of world hockey either, in a small nation where the top three sports are skiing, skiing, and skiing followed at a distance by soccer.)
The Vorarlberghalle was maybe a bit smaller than a minor league North American rink but comparable to major junior or Division I college facilities. I'm guessing there were 2,500 to 3,000 fans there. The concession stand had anything you wanted, as long as you like sausage. (I like sausage.)
The most notable feature was the temperature. It was February in Austria, and it was still colder inside the arena than outside. This would have been fine for me, but was maybe a bit unfair for the long suffering Ms. Hockeywanderer, my sister, and her two young kids.
One corner of the arena was given over to a group of especially deranged fans who dressed in fearsome costumes and chanted the kind of chants we Norteamericanos associate with British soccer. The game was close, though I missed the game-winner because my nephew needed to go to the men's room really badly.
Apparently the Feldkirch club has been through some financial woes and changed its name and colors after the 05-06 season, despite its success, which saw it top the regular season table before losing in the playoffs.

Hokey Minor League Touch I (Eurotrash division): During the pregame warmups, the home team wore pink jerseys labeled for the local "Sex Shop."

Hokey Minor League Touch II:
The intermission contest featured an on-ice parade of Smart Cars.

Local Color, er, Odor:
Cigarette smoke

Game report (in German) posted here.

Circus Freaks and Body Checks

Oct. 29, 2006: Long Beach, Calif.
Fresno Falcons 6, Long Beach Ice Dogs 3

Thanks to a fortuitously timed trip for work, I was able to watch the Long Beach Ice Dogs host the Fresno Falcons at the Long Beach Arena, the hockey rink that looks like an aquarium.

The quality of play, in terms of puck possession and passing, was a bit better than I expected from the ECHL. The Ice Dogs came out well in the first period, but in the end form prevailed and the unbeaten Falcons beat the winless Dogs.

Hokey Minor League Touch:
The home team skated onto the ice through a giant inflatable bulldog.

Local color: It was costume night, in honor of Halloween. In some cases it was hard to tell who was in costume and who just looked that way naturally.

The crowd was sparse. The team honored a season ticket holder who had attended more than 300 consecutive home games by taking him to center ice, giving him a chicken hat, and having him do the "Chicken Dance" with the mascot. If that's how they treat their best fans, I'd be tempted to skip a game once in awhile. But I think he got to keep the hat.
Game reports here and here.