At the good ol hockey game....

only in wisconsin....
Originally uploaded by V'ron
I have to admit, it's been a long, long (too long, I should add) time since I've been to a Milwaukee Admirals hockey game, or any hockey, for that matter, and it's my loss. Believe it or not, it was the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast that got me into the Bradley Center for an icy evening Saturday night.

This was the big Girl Scout Cookie Sale kickoff for the girls. They let us in at 4ish, so that the girls could "play cookie games, do cookie trivia" and actually try the cookies themselves. This was the first time they'd done such a thing, and it was quite ambitious. There were some things that worked well (the cookie tasting stations), and the stations that had more complicated activities didn't work so well if you had a large troop trying to navigate its way around the BC. Still, it was fun. And while I made fun of the concept in advance ("There's nothing like a brutal hockey game to get our sweet little girls all fired up to hustle cookies!" I'd told the parents) I have to admit it turned out great. The right-before-they-go-back-to-school timing pretty much forced this to be a girls and their families event, and that was very sweet, indeed.

But really, I'm so proud of our girls because they really had a good time at -- and really got into -- the actual hockey game. There was some Disney singer chick that was in the lobby, but our girls didn't seem to care. They were more interested in getting to our seats, and then it was what a good sports event is for kids -- a time to hang out with friends and family, shoot the breeze, and best of all, have permission to jump and yell and scream your head off.

Yes, the few thousand girls who were there -- many of whom I would hazard to guess were experiencing their first hockey game -- really brought home the meaning of home ice advantage. When the "Make Noise" and/or "Scream" instructions lit up the Jumbotron, the thousands of cookie-sugar-high girls happily obliged, with their ear-splitting high pitched little and big girl voices nearly cracking the ice. You'd think the freaking Jonas Brothers had suited up for a hockey game when the Admirals had skated into the arena for warmups.

And the Peoria Rivermen (second-- and thanks to last night's victory --now third in our division, behind the Admirals) gave us a good game. There was no scoring until late in the second period, and one of our Brownies (who turned out to be quite the hockey fan) wasn't surprised.

Best of all, after all these years, it seems that hockey has given up on this whole trying to clean up its image thing. They don't play up the fights (I had to explain the old Rodney Dangerfield joke to the girls, you know the one about how he "went to the fights... and a hockey game broke out") but they don't sweep them under the rug, either. In fact, they show a few in the opening clip montage. It's obvious that the league can't deny that that fans almost expect (but don't admit) to see at least one fight any more than NASCAR can deny its fans almost expect (but don't admit) to see at least one multi-car pile-up (complete with a few flipping 360).

Rather, they keep it clean (well, mostly -- the home fans still greet the opposing goalie by chanting "You Suck" at the beginning of the game) and let hockey be hockey. It wasn't until that goal in the second period that I was also reassured that the opposing goalie had to endure a chant of "Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!" when the Admirals scored.

New traditions that have popped in since I was last in the BC for hockey:
  • The Merkt's Cheese race: The Admirals' answer to the Brewers' Sausage races. Out of all the attempts to play on those Brewer sausages (and I've seen some really pathetic attempts by pretty much every other Wisconsin team), this one works the best and makes the most sense. Hockey season is winter party season, and everybody has a tub of that spreadable cheese, almost as much as everybody is grilling sausages in the summer. They're also distinctive colors, so you can cheer your favorite flavor. Plus, in keeping with the hockey crowd, was it just me, or were the tubs of cheese actually checking each other?

  • The Human Hockey Puck: Oh my, this was rich. Our hockey seasoned Brownie explained it to the rest of us. There's four contestants, and they get seated on what looks like a saucer sled, and loaded into a giant slingshot on one end of the ice. They get flung across the ice into a set of giant bowling pins set up. Best bowling score wins. In case of a tie, the crowd votes (and since it was weighted, yes, the Girl Scout won.)

  • Two intermission entertainment packages:I seem to remember they didn't use to bother with having entertainment at both between-period intermissions. Or maybe tonight was special. They had these people in those blow-up suits that I've always kind of not gotten the point of. Is it that we all KNOW that they're clearly hard to navigate, and thus fun to watch the actors inside mess up? I really don't get it, but this troupe -- with an animal theme -- at least had some kind of schtick going that kept the crowd amused. There was even one shaped like a clam that ended up "eating" the real human, but still. Not my cup of tea, but I'm at least impressed that they tried to make something of both intermissions besides just playing the Zamboni song.

  • Call and response:Clearly a new(er) crowd tradition (Give me a break, I told you, it's been at least ten years) -- when the one minute warning for each period is announced, the crowd says in a sarcastically tired voice, "Thank you!" as if to say "Duh! We can read the jumbotron!" And the cowbells that seem to accompany nearly every winter sport are acknowledged with the playing of the Christopher Walken Cowbell Sketch.

But as I said, best of all, it was a great family event that wasn't -- and didn't need to be -- overly sanitized. Sports are what they are, and hockey is what it is. It turned out to be just the thing to get a bunch of girls fired up to sell cookies, and it was fun to watch the girls realize they had permission to let their hair down and get a little crazy. They were jumping about and screaming to the music and the promotions and dancing about and letting it rip, which was good for them. You could tell they had fun, because they made us stay until the bitter end, despite the lateness and their ensuing exhaustion. The proof was in Stella's reaction when we got home: "Mom, we should go to more hockey games." She's right.


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