In the USA, the idea of professional leagues in sports is quite old, unlike in India, where we are seeing since few years leagues getting formed in cricket, kabaddi, hockey etc. In the USA, there professional sports leagues for football, hockey, baseball. During my trip to USA last year, I happened to watch ice hockey live. Watching sports live has been growing in India for other sports also. Cricket has always got big audiences watching live at the stadiums. I also happened to watch IPL match live in 2012 at Sahara Stadium near Pune, but about it sometime later. I also had got opportunity watch tennis match at Commonwealth Youth Games back in 2008, again in Pune.
I am not a big fan or follower of game of hockey, not certainly ice hockey. My business colleague had gotten tickets for this particular event on a Thursday night. The ice hockey league is managed by National Hockey League, and they only play ice hockey, unlike in India where we play only hockey on soil or artificial turfs. The game was between Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche. In the evening, after the work, we took SEPTA underground train and alighted at AT&T Station. The match was in Wells Fargo Arena which at stones’ throw distance from the station.
It was cold night of early February. We joined to herd of people walking towards arena from the station. It was orange color all over, as local team’s jersey was of that color. My colleague was also sporting it for the whole day and was warming up for the game in the evening. As we approached the arena, my excitement reached the peak. After entering the arena past security checks, we went towards our seats straight-away. It was pre-match time. The arena had at the center of the court(called hockey rink) TV monitors hanging.
It ran commercials, and after some time the both teams progress and teams were declared. Local team Philadelphia Flyers got a huge cheer the moment they announced their team roster. While all this was going on the support staff was leveling the ice on the court.
They players started their dry-runs, practice sessions, which were also hugely cheered by the crowd. The game of regular hockey, like football is itself very fast, you can imagine how fast ice hockey can be. This is one of the league matches. The Colorado Avalanche had been on winning streak, had won the last encounter with Philadelphia Flyers, I was told. So it was clear that Philadelphia Flyers would get huge cheer from locals on their home venue. The crowd was easily in the range of 20 thousand.
I did not have any affiliation with any of the teams, neither did I know of any players nor of their past records. But, my colleague, being Philadelphia resident, was fan of Philadelphia Flyers, of which he kept talking. I did not know any rules of ice hockey either…but one thing was sure that one needs to make goals on opponent’s goal posts to win. So it was not too hard after minutes to understand what was going on generally.
As the match began, I being in Philadelphia that time, with my colleague besides me, I chose to support Philadelphia Flyers and keenly started watching their moves. Ice hockey matches have 3 halves(they call periods). We watched 2 periods straight. After the second period, we went down to the food court and grabbed our meals and got back in time to witness the second half. The local team was doing good on that day, and they eventually won it by 3 goals to 1.
As I said the speed of the game was electrifying. The players had great fineness and control with which they skated after the ball.
By the time, I reached back to hotel it was well past 10 pm again by SEPTA subway. I knew I had gone through very different kind of experience watching this match live. Next on list to watch is tennis at Wimbledon!