When you think hockey, the first thought that comes to mind is the distinct sensation of the chilling cold ice. In Texas, a game is merely another escape out of the hot spring sun and into a nice cold haven.
Hockey (and fans) are displaced in a land where basketball, football, and soccer dominate the overall landscape by major-league teams, and a common misconception of it’s fans are that they’re a strange, rare breed of white, glass banging, jersey-wearing, beer-belching hosers. This, of course, is not the case.
As a military child, I grew up on the eastern seaboard, always rooting for some AHL locals, such as the Norfolk Admirals (not to be confused with the Midwest rivals Milwaukee Admirals). When we moved down here to Texas, however, it was a sport of least importance. Even our home team, the San Antonio Rampage, had been newly created at the time. Now they’ve stuck it around for a whole decade with snowballing attendance rates.
The fact that I even have playoff tickets to see my favorite team still kicks me as a shocker, considering how far out of proximity we are from any source of ice that is not connected to a refrigerator. The players here are actually skilled with tact and agility, but I secretly believe we might import some directly from the Great White North herself. There’s a downside to the AHL league. As soon as our star players show any formidable talent, NHL scouts harvest them right before a game when they’re needed the most.
But I digress. The best parts about going to these local games is how insanely wild and fun they can get, especially when you’re up near the glass. The second you look down at your phone during a second of slow play, CRASH! Right in your face do you find two gigantic faces pressed up against the glass, as if they’re purposeful fighting for your attention.
Because they’re not televised, AHL games have less commercial time-outs and more play time. The game itself is so fast paced that it really is unusual to call it “boring.”
The mascot for the Rampage, T-Bone, is the biggest “ham” there. He’s this crazy mix of frantic energy and debonair that he’s able to go from cuddly and child friendly, to completely risque. He even stole my purse once and held it over my head. I haven’t brought it back to a game since, just in case.
To be rooting for a team in such an isolated setting, it’s surprising that I have fellow crusaders alongside my fancy. It’s become much more than a regional affair. It may not be as widespread as a Spurs game, but I’d take this primal, enlivening sport any day.