Dan & Camo
It's not too often that you get doubleheaders in sports anymore. I attended one of the last scheduled (not made-up) doubleheaders in Major League Baseball a couple years ago in the Metrodome, and occasionally colleges will have men's/women's doubleheaders in basketball. But a hockey twinbill? I don't think such a thing has ever been done.
Until January 22, 2005.
After being graciously invited by the Fargo-Moorhead Jets organization, we were set to view a turning point in the history of civilization. How would the players react? How would the fans react? How would the Cougher react? This was all uncharted territory.
A little background is probably necessary. There wasn't supposed to be a doubleheader this evening. In fact, it wasn't even a true two game set. This all happened because the team decided to play a game in Wahpeton, North Dakota in mid-December to try and reach out to new fans. While this move prevented us regulars from taking in a game we normally would have attended, it eventually ended up coming back to us anyway. After a patch of ice deteriorated in the second period, the game was suspended. Much to our delight, it was decided to pick up the game where they left off at a later date and then play a scheduled game right after it.
I probably went into this with my hopes a little bit too high. When picturing this scenario, I imagined both teams exhausted and in one huge brawl at center ice by the time the first intermission of the second game rolled around. These two teams are near the top of the division and I figured the blood would be boiling over.
Secondly, I figured the crowd would be pretty large. This was a suspect prediction, considering the last game we were at had nearly a baker's dozen worth of fans in attendance. (I exaggerate. Barely.)
Were my predictions going to come true? Read on...
With the start time moved up to 6:00 to accomodate the two game slate, the beginning of this game felt a bit strange. A late-arriving crowd was still settling in, trying to come to grips with this weeks-old hockey game being played again. Luckily for the amateurs out there, we were ready to pick up the slack.
The Detox section didn't quite have much punch when we showed up, but we gave it all the firepower it needed. Backed by a not-so-wide variety of cocktails prior to our arrival, we were ready to vocally support the team, as stipulated in our contract for the evening.
Unfortunately, it was tough to support them at first. The Jets came out a bit sluggish and let the Blizzard cut into the 3-0 deficit by surrendering a power play goal. We didn't realize it at the time, but this was turning out to be a milestone moment for the Jets. It was the beginning of the new "allow one goal" trend that the team is currently fashioning. More on this in a moment.
Naturally we decided to take out our frustration and inebriation on the referee, one Mr. Beckers. If there's one thing I love about hockey (well, one more thing) it's that the officials put their names on the back of their jerseys. And if you're going to be taunting the ref, Beckers is just one of those names that rolls off the tongue easily and sticks itself in the target's ear drum. Our advice to Beckers was also aided by the guy in the bathroom who told Camo that we needed to get on the refs a little bit more, specifically the man with the orange stripes on his sleeve.
Inspired by our creative vocabulary, the Jets came out and put the game away in the most painful of styles: With two short-handed goals. Tom Dickhudt and Jon Skoog were the offenders and the Jets were the victors skating into the locker room with a 5-1 victory under their belt.
We left the Coliseum for a bit between games, a major benefit to living just blocks from the building that bears John E. Carlson's name. When we returned, we got a full glimpse of the late-arriving crowd that I had mentioned before.
Elbow room wasn't something that I ever had to worry about last year. There were some decent crowds, but you could always find areas in the stands that you could claim as your own. But when we got back, we were stuck sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. And all around the Detox Section, there was nowhere to turn.
The section was full, noisy, and drunk. I didn't list that in any order of importance, as I feel that that list is subjective in the mind of the reader. But they are certainly complementary and help to create a great home-ice advantage. So much of an advantage, that this was the biggest crowd of the season and probably the biggest one ever. This night's group scored:
With no arrests or ejections, I couldn't in good faith award a five. But it was a very supportive crowd indeed.
To the game itself, the Blizzard switched from their green uniforms to a set sporting blue jerseys. And I must say that these new threads looked a lot snazzier than their Hartford Whalers combo. But while they stepped it up in the fashion department, the improvements in the hockey department apparently got tied up in the bureaucracy.
The two teams started the game quickly, each scoring one goal virtually right after the other one. Chris Myhro got on the board for the Jets, but the Blizzard tallied right after that to make it 1-1, which was where we were at heading into intermission.
1-1 is a pretty standard F-M score. It's been incredibly rare for this team to get up by any significant margin in the first period. But unlike the end of last season, they've been able to step it up in periods 2 and 3. While the team was good last year, they'd usually allow their opponent to tie it up or take the lead in the second, and then the Jets would cower in the fetal position as they threw the game away in the third. This year? They just gain steam as the game goes on.
We threw up the white flag in the Detox Section after being completely crowded out in the first intermission. Without the Pounder there to cheer the team on, we staked out a spot behind the Blizzard goalie and did our best to try and make up for his absence, although we all know it's blasphemous for me to even think that we could.
Kyle Graalum and Trevor Bruess rewarded us with two goals that pretty much put the game out of reach.
After much pounding, we moved into one of the family sections where we were going to ride the last period out. But time was ticking on a social gathering that we were planning to attend, so we were waiting for an omen that would let us know exactly when we should go.
This omen occurred about midway through the period when Bob Preece put home a goal.
That made two pugilists (Preece and Bruess) with goals on the night. We were pretty confident this one was over and it was. Final score, 5-1, even though I felt a little guilty since for the first time ever, I wasn't there at the end to see the victory celebration.
But after putting in over four hours at the Coliseum, we had no choice but to depart.
In four of their last five games, the Jets have held their opponent to just one goal. And in the other one, they shut them out. It's pretty tough to lose hockey games when the opponent is averaging .8 goals a game.
And my predictions of wild and uncontrolled fighting? I couldn't have been more incorrect. While most teams who play on back-to-back nights usually set off the fireworks in the second game, these teams were apparently too polite or too gassed to get into it with another. I would be lying if I wasn't a little disappointed in that, but I did get to see two hockey games in one sitting. And that's an opportunity that I won't, and probably shouldn't, ever get again.