Friday, November 02, 2012

Wanderer At Home

Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012: Daly City, Calif.
The Cow Palace
San Francisco Bulls 6, Bakersfield Condors 5

As a hockey fan, I was happy to hear that the ECHL was adding a team in San Francisco, for the simple reason I would be able to afford to attend nearby hockey games.
The Bulls sold out their opening night, but I dodged the hoopla and headed over the next night, where a more intimate crowd was in attendance.
The Arena: I'm a fan of old arenas with character, and the Cow Palace is old and has character. That said, it's not an ideal hockey arena. The layout, as its name suggests, reflects its original purpose as a livestock show venue. As a result, most of the seats are more distant from the action than would be ideal.
History is on display throughout the concourse, with many vintage photos of the National Western Livestock show, rock concerts and best of all, a display case with uniforms and mementoes of previous minor-league hockey tenants -- the San Francisco Seals of the 60s, the long-forgotten Shamrocks of the 70s, and the one-season wonders of the 90s, the San Francisco Spiders.
Hats off to the hard score Spiders fans who are still rocking those sweaters at Cow Palace hockey 17 seasons later!
Yes, It's the Minors: The team feels compelled to constantly blast mediocre hard rock through the PA system at any pause in the action. I'm sure this is a scientifically market-tested technique that is proven to improve attendance, but it's one of those things that makes me more inclined to stay home. I think it betrays a management's lack of confidence that the people who paid good money to watch a hockey games can be trusted to enjoy a hockey game.
Feel the noise: The Bulls' in-house PA announcer frequently interjected himself into the action with frantic shouts to "Make Some Noise!" Judging from the awkward timing of some of his outbursts and his inability to sync with the rhythm of the contest,  I suspect the Bulls' second game was the second hockey game he had ever seen in his life.
Mr. PA was also completely oblivious to the turning point of the hockey game -- when the Bulls picked up a five-minute major in the third period, and compounded it by taking another minor penalty during the major.
In the first two periods, the Bulls penalty kill was about as effective as the Maginot Line, so it was all the more remarkable that the team killed off the entire major, including two minutes of being two men short.
The PA announcer didn't say a thing about any of this (he didn't even announce all the penalties during the game as is customary) but the fans definitely picked up on it and cheered accordingly -- perhaps us Bulls fans know a thing or two about hockey?
My wife will be happy to read this: There were no fights.
A note on the food: It was utterly ghastly. But it was about as expensive as a meal at the French Laundry. At least a handful of the beer taps had adequate alternatives to Coorsweiser, though the beer is also very expensive.
Just to be perfectly clear: I enjoyed it and planned to come back. My nitpicking aside, it's hockey. I like it. It was a spirited contest that went down to the wire. Game report here and boxscore here.

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