Advice for the first time at a hockey game?
May 28, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

What advice to you have for long-time hockey fans at their first live game?

Mrs. Silvertree was kind enough to buy us tickets for game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit. Despite watching a lot of hockey on TV, neither one of us has actually been to live hockey game. What kind of advice do you have for us? Anything we need to know?

Joe Lewis Arena advice is welcome too. As huge Pittsburgh fans, we will be pilgrims in an unholy land. :-)
posted by Silvertree to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bring a coat/sweater. It will be chillier than you expect.
posted by found missing at 10:16 AM on May 28, 2009

I'm trying to keep my jealousy in check...

Where are you sitting? That makes a big difference in how you experience the game. Sitting close to the ice gives you a feel for the speed and power of the game that you can't get from TV, while sitting higher up gives you a chance to see the plays develop and allows you to see the "flow" of the game.

My main advice is to pay attention. Fans at a hockey game are more involved and engrossed in the game than most any other sport (except maybe soccer) because important things can happen at any moment. Don't let your eyes leave the ice for more than the few seconds it takes to check the scoreboard. Arrive at your seat before the puck drops or else you'll miss Malkin's first goal 40 seconds in, and don't leave for the bathroom before the end of a period or you'll miss Crosby's score with just a few seconds left.

Oh, and consider bringing a space set of clothes to change into after a Detroit fan "accidentally" spills beer on your Pens jersey.
posted by arco at 10:18 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

It can be a little tougher to follow the puck live, since the camera isn't following it for you, but watching hockey in person isn't too different from watching on TV, especially if you're on the second level. I've been a Flyers' season ticket holder for 20 years, and aside from not hearing announcers, there's not a lot of difference in how I experience the action on the ice.

I can't speak for Red Wings fans specifically, but if you sat near me at a Flyers game and were nice, I'd return the favor. Hockey fans love their teams, but they love the sport just as much. Just watch out for flying octopi.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2009

My advice: Find some amazingly cool way to thank the wife. That's an awesome present.

Also, watch the puck, but pay attention to what happens away from it. On TV you mostly have cameras focus on the puck, which means you miss a lot of the action away from it. You can see plays develop, you can see the guy streaking in at an angle to await a pass for a one-timer, you can see the little scrum behind the net that the ref misses (or ignores) once the puck is cleared from the zone.

There are huge screens in every big arena, so you won't miss a goal if you're not slavishly following the puck. You'll definitely see the replay, and hell if the Wings score you can't not notice the crowd reaction and the horns going off, right?

I've never been to a pro game but spent a lot of years watching college hockey. If my one experience at an away game is any indication, be prepared to have everyone (from tiny tots to grandmotherly types) giving you dirty looks and taunts. Hopefully it's mostly good-natured, but it can most definitely feel cold to be in the opponent's arena.

Also, go Wings. :) (and it's Joe Louis.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2009

Addition: Make sure you don't leave/try to return to your seat during play. The ushers should take care of the latter part, but it's up to you to stay in your seat while the puck's in play. Once you're acclimated to watching the game live, you can see more of the ice and see more of the play and how it develops than the TV cameras show you. So pay attention.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 10:22 AM on May 28, 2009

Bring a little radio with headphones, and listen to the local broadcast.

Radio is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a hockey game, especially in conjunction with a live game--I have even been known to watch a television broadcast on mute while listening to the radio broadcast.

Just, you'll be the LOCAL broadcast, with a bias in that direction.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 AM on May 28, 2009

Get there early (45 minutes or so) to catch the pre-game warmup.

Don't know about the Joe, but here in SoCal at Staples Center and the Honda Center, during warmup fans are allowed to leave their seats and congregate along the glass to get a closer look at the skaters and the ice. Good photo opportunity, and if you're lucky, a good opportunity to pick up a puck tossed over the glass.
posted by notyou at 10:29 AM on May 28, 2009

What sjuhawk31 said. It's a big no-no to get up while the pucks in play. Wait for a stoppage in play before you get up.
posted by eightball at 10:57 AM on May 28, 2009

Go as early as possible -- the crowds will be down, parking easier, and as notyou says, there is usually a pre-game warmup that is fun to watch. Rushing to get there isn't that much fun and you don't want to be stressed out.

Bring a sweater or light jacket.

I wouldn't listen to the radio for your first game - you want to be able to experience it with your (awesome, amazing, fun) wife who got you the tickets! And being live in the game, with the crowd, is part of the great fun of the event itself.

Bring enough cash for a beer or snack.

Don't leave mid-play unless you have to - you have to wait for a break in play to sit down again and people next to you will be annoyed that you're interrupting their concentration.

Have SO much fun!!!
posted by barnone at 10:58 AM on May 28, 2009

Plan ahead. Go to the bathroom and get food/drinks ahead of time. Hockey is so fast that people keep their eyes glued on the ice. If you stand up in the middle of a period to move, people will want you to sit the hell down, whether or not they actually say anything to you. Then there's a mad rush for bathrooms and concessions between periods.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:59 AM on May 28, 2009

If you're in the lower sections and not behind the end netting, keep your eyes on the play for your own safety. Pucks do come into the crowd and they come very fast.
Also, what frogs said. Observe the side action you don't get to see on TV...the on-the-fly line changes, the pinching defencemen, and the attempted breakaways. Most of all, cheer loud and have fun.
posted by rocket88 at 11:01 AM on May 28, 2009

Speaking from the experience of someone whose uncle had season tickets to Blackhawks games - get really drunk, record the game at home and watch it later to see if you got on camera and to see all the action you missed while you were partying in the stands.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:07 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Advice: Don't wear penguins jerseys or gear in Detroit. You WILL have stuff spilled on you and thrown at you.

Not sure how games work in Detroit, but at other NHL games I've been to you can walk down to the good seats during the warm-ups before everyone sits down and watch the teams skate around and stretch, so get there 30-40 minutes early and you get to see the guys up close. Either have your drinks and snacks by then, or wait until in-between periods to get them because you don't want to miss a second of the game, especially during the finals!!

Go Pens!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 11:22 AM on May 28, 2009

Superior Fish Market is the best place to get an octopus for the game, if you're so inclined.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2009

First, I'm jealous.

Second, it's really sad that you're going to go through all of this just to watch the Penguins get buried for the second season in a row, because you guys suck and Crosby and Malkin can both go blow.

Third, that said, I will give you my observations. First, Joe Louis Arena is a mess. It's old, as far as stadiums go, and parking is a total cluster fuck. You can park downtown in Detroit in a less populated area and take the People Mover over to the Joe, but be careful - I did that once and I wasn't paying attention and it turned out the parking garage closed before the game ended, and that totally blew. Now when I go, I park at the parking structure attached to the Joe. It's always a bitch to park there, so give yourself plenty of time. Traffic gets all backed up going in there, so there will be a long line of cars and you will slowly proceed into the garage. Then you will be herded like cattle through a series of narrow stairs and pipes and tubes and things until finally you arrive at the Joe proper. This process will repeat itself when you leave - you will be crushed in among throngs of people as you are pushed en masse back out toward the parking garage. Then you will have to wait as slowly cars vacate the garage. This will be worse for you because you will have just watched the Penguins lose in horrific fashion, so you will be doubly annoyed.

As for the game itself - no matter how many times I go, I'm always surprised at how close to the ice everything is. Everyone just seems so much bigger than they do on TV. Even in the upper-bowl, noseblood seats, things actually seem pretty close up.

Also, if you are wearing your Penguin schwag, there is the possibility that someone will be drunk and stupid and do something completely inappropriate and moronic like throw beer on you. I wish things like this wouldn't happen - a rivalry should be fun and good natured - but some idiot always takes things too far. Detroit is no exception.

Have fun. Cheer. It will do you no good, for you are doomed, but still, I'm jealous.
posted by kbanas at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2009

If you are sitting on the sides or behind the goal, there is tall netting up behind the glass to protect the fans from pucks (this became mandatory in all arenas a number of years ago). Unless you are pretty much ice-level in these seats, you are will be looking through this netting during the game. It annoys some people (me!) but you'll probably get used to it once you learn to focus though it.
posted by Spurious Packets at 11:34 AM on May 28, 2009

That said, if you wanted to make a night out of it you could go down to, like, Greektown, and get something to eat at one of the great restaurants and park there and maybe check out the casinos and then take the People Mover. I've been to a couple Tigers games that way.
posted by kbanas at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2009

Also, according to my friend the hockey guru, of all the concession stands, only the Hockey Town Cafe stand has a really diverse selection of beers and mixed drinks. Everything else is pretty static.
posted by kbanas at 11:43 AM on May 28, 2009

An extension to the "stay seated until play stops" rule: don't lean forwards in your seat. I don't know how Detroit is arranged, but in San Jose (sigh...) a leaner can really get in the way.
posted by lalas at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2009

Oh. Almost forgot. If you happen to be in line with the cameras - do not be that guy who stands up and waves smiling like an imbecile into the camera every time it pans past you. It's sucky enough watching it from home knowing you are there in person without having you stand up and block the view of the ice for every person watching on TV. Don't know why so many arenas have cameras at such low angles that they can be blocked by the crowd, but they do, so watch out you aren't the one blocking them.

However - if you get on the big screen in the middle of the arena - by all means scream hi to your mom, hold up a sign or generally act like a total fool. That's acceptable, and expected.

Oriole Adams has a good suggestion there but I doubt you'll want an octopus. Anything else you're of a mind to throw on the ice (hats aside) can land your team a penalty though, so be aware of that.

Have fun cheering on your team! The last two years have been darn good to both Detroit and Pittsburgh hockey fans. This rematch will be one for the books. (Even though I would rather have seen Detroit take on Boston... thanks to your guys for taking out Carolina though. Boston deserved that win.)
posted by caution live frogs at 3:53 PM on May 28, 2009

One of the biggest sacrifices I made in moving to Vermont was giving up nosebleed season tickets to the Penguins. There is nothing like live hockey. Nothing.

I do encourage you to go early and watch the warm up. It is a fun experience and can really set the tone for the game. You've also got lots of advice about not trying to sit or leave during play. I do encourage you to get up and around at intermissions. By the end of the game you can get pretty stiff.

As far as watching the game, a few thoughts:
Following the puck takes practice, but if you pay attention you can start to intuit where the players are looking. You may be surprised at times because unlike t.v. there is nothing compelling you to focus in the right place.

The game of hockey is primarily played away from the puck. You can get a bit of this on tv, and HD has made it much better, but you still miss half of what happens on the ice that way. Watch the players who are skating to space or mixing it up behind the play. As a fan there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the whole play develop from back to front.

Another way to have a lot of fun is to key on a couple of favorite players. Not necessarily the biggest stars, but however inspires your fancy, like Talbot, Kennedy, Scuderi or Staal. By keying on one player you will see in a new way how shifts happen and plays develop. Key an eye out for when they get on the ice and then watch them out of the corner of your eye through a shift. You'll notice little things you hadn't seen before.

Finally, some folks get enjoyment out of tracking stats. I haven't seen that so much recently, more when watching ECAC hockey growing up. But if stats are your think it can be fun to keep you own little box score sheet, or even track your own stats (like number of times Malkin bulls right through splitting the D).

BTW, I'm more than a little jealous. Mostly, just enjoy!
posted by meinvt at 4:29 PM on May 28, 2009

1. Don't be afraid to wear a jersey. Even if you buy it ahead of time in your home town.

2. Go as early as possible. its easier to get a parking spot. Also, there sooooo much to see walking around ( inside and outside ) the arena before the game. Sights, sounds and of course those GREAT smells. But DO see the practice!!!
3. Take a pen or "sharpie" you never know if you'll see somebody (player or otherwise) and have a chance at an autograph.
4. Buy a program. Its a neat souvenir, first time or any time. Its also good for possible autographs.
5. Keep yours (and everyones) eyes open, pucks fly much faster than at home.
6. Washroom breaks are best done between periods, but you might be late getting back to your seats ( they do get busy).
7. Like a few others already said, watch the plays developing. Scan the ice for things happening away from the puck but don't forget #5.
8. Take your time leaving. it can get pretty crazy in the parking lots, unless your in a hurry of course.
9. Plan on getting home later than you probably think.
10. Enjoy the game, You owe Momma BIGTIME!!!!!!! Your one and so.

Go Pens go!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I wouldn't do the radio thing the first game, but you can always take it off if you don't like it.
posted by Taurid at 4:50 PM on May 28, 2009

You'll miss instant replay and announcers pointing out things that have happened. You'll enjoy hearing, in person, the thunderous sounds of your team delivering powerful checks to its oppenents.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:59 PM on May 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the words so far. I will have to find a way to thank Wifey, but don't kid yourself, she loves hockey too. Sorry about the Louis typo.

I am tempted to go through and mark some of the Detroit fan's answers as best. Not because they necessarily are the best answers (although some are quite good) but so they get a little something to make them feel better. It is going to be a rough and disappointing series for Detroit. ;-)
posted by Silvertree at 5:39 AM on May 29, 2009

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