Ice Hockey 1.01: A Day At The Hockey


In April 2018, before COVID-19 and most sport transitioned to being played behind closed doors, I had the opportunity to attend my very first NHL game.


When I travelled to the United States with my mates in 2018, I was determined to see an NHL game in real life. The friends I was travelling with were not hockey fans by any stretch of the imagination. However, they wanted to make me happy, so they were more than willing to tag along.


The only game I could fit into the trip was being played in San Jose the day that we landed in the San Francisco from Australia. Having not slept for a full 24 hours due to my inability to sleep on planes, we put our luggage in our hotel and requested an Uber to drive an hour and a half in traffic down the US-101 N to SAP Centre in San Jose where the game was being played.



SAP Centre in San Jose.


The game for the night was played between the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche. This was the last game of the regular season for both San Jose and Colorado before entering the playoffs. I didn’t bother telling my friends that the game was essentially meaningless, as both teams had already clinched a playoff spot, because I figured that explaining that part would take away from the spectacle that was professional ice hockey. Thankfully, the local San Jose Sharks fans didn’t allow that fact to hold them back from creating a fantastic atmosphere.


As we lined up to enter SAP Centre, which is also known as The Shark Tank, cries of “Sharks for life!” rung out. Fans who were dressed head to toe in black and pacific teal clothing and shark fin hats were walking up and down the lines chanting “Let’s go sharks!”. Inside the concourse, merchandise shops were littered with jerseys, shirts, jumpers, and accessories featuring the names of popular players.


In case you were wondering, I bought a Sharks branded hockey puck as a souvenir.


As I entered the stands, I caught a glimpse of something that might be foreign to anyone outside the realm of U.S. sports. I saw James Michael Day, the San Jose Sharks very own organ player, at his post waiting for the game to begin. For those who are unaware, music is played during some sports in the U.S., and in the case of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, some of the music is played live by an organ player.



As the stadium filled with fans, the lights dimmed and Metallica’s Seek and Destroy boomed throughout the arena. An enormous shark head with red glowing eyes was lowered onto the ice and filled with smoke from a fog machine. The cheers from the crowd began to erupt as the stadium’s announcer introduced the team and the full San Jose Sharks team skated through the shark’s head onto the ice.



San Jose Sharks vs. Colorado Avalanche at The Shark Tank.


With all of the pre-game build up out of the way and the Colorado Avalanche having silently made their way onto the ice, it was time for the referee to drop the puck and start the game. Three minutes into the game, San Jose Sharks player Justin Braun scored the first goal. The puck was unintentionally redirected mid-air by a Colorado Avalanche player attempting to block the short, causing the puck to slightly change direction, confusing the goalie. The roar of the 17,000 strong crowd sent tingles down my spine as the goal horn sounded off and C+C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’ played over the top of the cheers.


The first period ended with the score 1-0 to the Sharks. I took the break in play as an opportunity to try the local cuisine within the arena. I got myself a cheese pizza and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I’m sure I blended in with the locals seamlessly.


The second period began and although it was fast, exciting and had plenty great shots on goal, there was no change to the score and it stayed on 1-0.


After a quick stretch of the legs and a fantastic chat with the elderly couple sitting beside us, the third period started with an early power play for Colorado.


For context, a power play happens after a player of the opposing commits a rules infraction.  For a set length of time, anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes, the offending player is sent to a penalty box and that team is not allowed to replace the player on the ice until the allotted time has elapsed or the team given the advantage scores a goal. This creates a numerical advantage on the ice for the team with the power play.


The Colorado Avalanche proceeded to score a goal through Mikko Rantanen 53 seconds into the power play and evened up the game 1-1. 30 seconds after the goal, San Jose received a power play of their own and Logan Couture scored pushing the score to 2-1.


Jason Donskoi scored 5 minutes later with a backhanded shot putting the Sharks up 3-1 with 9 minutes to go in the game. That was then quickly replied with a Colorado goal from David Warsofsky to make it 3-2.


I turned to my friends, who had never seen a game of ice hockey in their lives, and saw them fully engrossed in the action. Although they had spent much of the first period of the game asking me questions about the rules, they were now involved in the crowd, screaming for penalties and offside calls.


With seconds left in the game and Colorado down by one goal, they removed their goalie so they could add a sixth skater on the ice in an attempt to give themselves a better chance to score a tying goal. This tactic, however, did not work out for them on this night and the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl scored a goal in the empty net with 0.9 seconds remaining resulting in the San Jose Sharks winning over the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.


My friends, although sleep deprived and slightly delirious, were thrilled with their first ice hockey experience. They loved the fast pace, the intensity of the crowd, and the friendly nature of those we interacted with. I didn’t get the same excited response when I forced them to attend a baseball game with me in San Francisco, but I suppose you have to take a win when you get one.




To read more of Ice Hockey 1.01 by James click HERE


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  1. Love the organ tradition of North American sport.

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