What a wild week I had covering six hockey games all in one-week’s time with regional titles on the line.
Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time in ice arenas, often sitting in enemy territory to get the good action shots of the teams. Unfortunately, none of our local teams walked away with a title, with Swartz Creek getting closer than any team, but losing to Midland in a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker last Saturday in the Div. 2 regional finals.
What struck me over the week was the support from the fan sections from all of the multiple schools. I got a really good sense of the parents’ anguish, and delight, while they watched these games unfold. Some writhed in their seats, pulling caps over their heads or turning away from the ice when their sons’ teams were struggling, while others were too anxious and nervous to sit, choosing to stand behind the sections shouting out words of encouragement one minute, chiding the missed shots the next. Plenty of expletives were muttering when the pendulum swung in favor of the opposition, but the kids didn’t hear those. Yeah, we know, lead by example, right. Still others chewed on popcorn and candy, chatting with friends on cell phones giving them a play-by-play update on the games as they played out. How they were heard over the roar of the supportive fans and the music is beyond me. I tried to make one call during the Zamboni’s time on the ice and couldn’t hear.
There was plenty of expected angst and heart-stopping turning of the tide in many of the games I covered. When those moments happened, the entire fan sections rocked the roof with chants we typically hear from the sideline cheer squads in other sports. In hockey, you can’t have cheerleaders on the sidelines because of the obvious dangers. That wasn’t a problem on any night, as team towels were swung in unison, as cries of Let’s Go Cardinals; Go, Mustangs, Go; and on Saturday, Go, Creek, Go Creek, and Let’s Do it Chemics, rang out from the fan sections. The Creek crowd was larger, as it was on Thursday when Davison was the opposition, but the difference in size was masked by the shared voices from both sides throughout the week that could have rivaled any Flint Generals crowd or college basketball fan section. There was plenty of jumping up and down, too.
It was hard to sit on the neutral fence that we in the media have to during the pre-regional games earlier last week when Davison took on Swartz Creek, then Clio took its turn at the Dragons. We cover all of those teams in their individual community papers, so that was a matter of blending into the fans, clicking away at the camera, and waiting to see who was going to move on.
Now, on Saturday, I didn’t have to ride that neutral fence as much with Midland not in our coverage area, so I certainly felt the pain when Creek’s 4-0 lead slipped away into oblivion. Their fan section tried to collectively pick the team up by skate laces, knowing full well that there was still plenty of time to turn the tide back in their favor. But, the Chemics also were feeding off the frenzy in their fan section and maybe that was the spark they needed. At any rate, you were hard pressed to focus entirely on the games, as the fans were pretty lively and entertaining.
Even though Davison, Clio and others were out of contention, their fans, likely suffering from the early stages of high school hockey withdrawal attended the regional finals, too. You could easily spot the Cardinal burgundy, Lapeer East green and gold, West blue and gold, and other team jackets that other parents sported, happily reporting to whoever was on the other end of the cell phone just who was in control of the games at certain points. I’ll be suffering from my own hockey withdrawal this next week, but then again, I’m happy to regain part of my personal life. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been exciting watching the seasons unfold for all eight of my hockey teams, all at various stages within their own programs. Some didn’t survive the pre-regional round, but for others, it’s been a very long season with very long nights. So, to the parents and fans, student bodies and administration, from the teams to you…Thank you for standing by them, through thick and thin.