Brady, Habs, Jess
Joe Schuster's Fighting Education
It was quite awhile ago that I attended this game, so my memories aren't quite as vivid as they normally might be. The one thing that does stand out plainly in memory was that it was the first game in quite some time that I saw them play a team other than Bismarck. As if that weren't reason enough to stand up and rip my shirt off like a soccer player in celebration, they were playing one of the teams that they are in a first place dogfight with. That does make for a better game, but it's not enough for me to remove any more articles of clothing.
That fact is quite surprising, though. I never went to go see a game against the Blizzard last year, but that's because they finished with about fifteen points and were far and away the worst team in the league. I'm not sure if they overslept and missed a bunch of games or got more acquainted with Lord Calvert than Lord Stanley at practice, but there are beer league teams who don't own sticks that finished with more NAHL points than the Blizzard.
Nonetheless, the contending Blizzard came to Fargo this Friday evening. The recent surge in attendance at the Coliseum continued, this time drawing the largest crowd I had ever seen in the building. They weren't overly boisterous, which is to say that the police never entered the detox section, but it was still great to see the turnout anyway. The spirit score was:
The spirit level was pushed by the large fan turnout, but the lack of the Pounder and peppermint schnapps bottles kept it from realizing its true potential.
This night was "Air the Bear" night at the Coliseum. The idea was that after the Jets scored their first goal, the fans would all throw teddy bears onto the ice that would be then donated to charity. Just minutes into the game, the Jets scored and the ice was littered with bears, which the Jets players then had to help clean up. You know that you haven't quite made it to the big-time yet when after scoring a goal, you have to shovel a couple hundred Teddy Ruxpins onto a trailer.
If your rating basis for hockey games is based on how close they are, this was the worst contest played in the state of North Dakota in the last fifteen years. But if your basis for ranking hockey games is on your favorite team winning and getting into fights, then this game didn't have any trouble plastering a big smile on your face.
The Jets jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in hockey, which is the equivalent of a 42-0 football lead or the always elusive, 56-8 basketball tally. Minnesota was playing this game with their backup goaltender. One might surmise that the backup goalie playing was the reason for the six goals on the scoreboard, but the fact he was facing an average of four shots every six seconds probably had more to do with it. It also didn't help that his team employed the famed "21st Century Chicago Blackhawks Offense" of not trying to shoot or score.
By the end of the second period, Habs and Jess had bailed to be taxi drivers and Brady had bailed to go watch TV, so I was left at the Coliseum with nothing but my camera to keep me company. It was at this point where I went into Ansel Adams mode trying to capture some great shots down by the glass. I've never stood behind the glass at one of these games, but I knew it didn't feel right. Without the Pounder there, it was a very somber place to be. You knew everyone you looked at was just waiting to throw the first punch, because they knew you were already plotting the location of your own sucker punch. That's what happens when the Governor of the Glass is absent: Sheer anarchy. I feared for my safety and my wallet.
But in between the lonely chaos, I did manage to get some good pictures, many of which were sadly sacrificed to clear the way for shots of drunk people on New Year's Eve, but the survivors are posted below for your amazement. Now, Brady is a hockey novice and I just shook my head at his leaving the game during the second intermission. If a hockey game is 6-0 and there is another period to play, there is usually only one result. I have never seen the two teams come back out, shake hands, and whistle together for the last twenty minutes, but I HAVE seen them come out, talk inappropriately about each others' mothers, and then attempt some amateur dentistry with their fists.
True to form, this night brought the latter.
The first fight happened away from my photographer's post so I didn't get a great view of it. My mind is also clogged with bowl games and garland, so I don't even remember who was in it. I recall it being a draw. And I faintly recall both men being on different teams. That's about it.
The next fight happened right in front of me. Joe Schuster is one of the newer Jets on the team, the younger brother of former Ice Sharks' stud Brian Schuster, and he has been a very entertaining player. A goal scorer and a scrapper, he recalls Happy Gilmore's favorite player, Terry O'Reilly. When I saw him drop the gloves, I was very eager to see how his pugilistic abilities rated with legends like Bob Preece (Proficient Puncher) and Ben Bosworth (Proficient Pussy.) I'll describe the scrap and let you be the judge on where he stacks up.
Right after the equipment hit the ice, Schuster began skating a semi-circle around his opponent, slicking his blonde locks back no less than three times. I recall thinking "Oh man, you better win this fight now." Exiting Pretty-Boy-Mode, Schuster then engaged the enemy. The two tied up for a bit when Schuster reared back and went for the absolute knockout blow.
The punch was thrown with all of Schuster's might. It hit its target so hard, that he will never forget the day he crossed Joe Schuster.
That is, if his target was the air next to his opponent's head.
If it wasn't, then Schuster just swung wildly and missed and ended up face-planting into the ice. It was the perfect cap to a bad third period for the Jets that saw Minnesota put home two BS goals that narrowed the gap to 6-2. But regardless, the Jets won, lots of people saw it, and I am now nominated for a Pulitzer in sports photography.