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Hockey Blog, Six Packs on Ice: For Love of the Game (and Your Sanity)

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The puck goes over the glass and a group of fans scramble to grab a token of hockey history. From the shuffle emerges a young boy, about four or five years of age, tossed into the air by adoring enthusiasts, all smiling at the kid who just claimed his prize. Yup, the boy got the puck, and he beams with pride as he’s lifted up for all to see while the crowd laughs and applauds.

It’s Saturday night at Jay Lively Arena .

Spectators are so involved that they almost forget they’re watching Division III college hockey and that the NHL, now at the end of September, is still sadly dormant.

Conversations around the bleachers include people saying they’re no long surprised at the lack of agreement between NHL players and owners.

The mood when the topic of “the lockout” arises parallels a parent who you just wish would yell at your rebellious actions instead stands silent in deep disappointment. I witnessed an older gentleman, a college alumni, look toward one such lockout discussion and merely shake his head.

We’re all aware NHL are currently dark. Conversations circle the news and Twitter and all the negotiating that is supposedly happening seem to be taking us nowhere. It sucks. I know as well as anyone that life without hockey is no life at all. (OK, maybe I took it a little far there, but diehards can agree with me.)

My point here is to try and cheer everyone up with a little good news. Hockey itself still exists! Hooray!

Now I know it is not those beloved teams and players who you’ve been following all these years who represent your city — those boys you bleed black-and-gold or whatever color it is for, and it’s just not the same.

I get that.

But what are you going to do? Sit at home and cry into your beer when you turn on your television and there is no pre-season game on? I did it once, and let me tell you, it’s not very fun.

Instead of this sad life of lonely couch-dwelling existence, let me introduce you to the other hockey that IS happening in the world. Because no, it isn’t the same, but it is the sport you love to watch, and it’s a means of getting you out of the house. And maybe, just maybe, we should show a little appreciation to the boys (and girls) who skate their hearts out for little to NO money at all.

This past weekend I spent my time up in Flagstaff., Ariz., home to Northern Arizona University and their IceJacks to watch my younger brother play.

He is a freshman on the DIII hockey team, and Friday and Saturday night they kicked off their 2012-2013 season with back-to-back games against Texas Tech. The arena was packed and the introduction of the team created the same buzz around the rink that you feel at the beginning of NHL games. Solidifying that tingling sensation in my toes, and no it wasn’t just the cold, was the audio clip that NAU used while the players took the ice…

“It’s not easy being a fan. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a commitment that requires dedication, desire, and heart. It’s peaks are supreme; it’s valleys a trial. Being a fan isn’t just about the thrill of triumph, the pursuit of glory. It’s far more demanding than that. If being a fan were easy, it wouldn’t be great.”

This was it. This was all I needed to remind me that while my favorite teams might not be playing and favorite players must head overseas to do so, there still is hockey to be watched. Granted, this isn’t a substitute for the NHL, and I hope the owners and players figure their crap out soon. But in the meantime, it’s nice to enjoy watching some young talent. After all, this is where some of those NHL players start.
If Arizona, a state in the U.S. desert in which many believe ice hockey can’t survive, is able to boast six or more college teams (ACHA and club spread between Arizona State, University of Arizona and NAU), a Junior ‘A’ team (Arizona Redhawks),and a CHL team (Arizona Sundogs), then I’m sure you can find some hockey to watch.

So find yourself a team nearby, buy some new apparel and get into the game at a different level, because it’s that or nothing at this point, and I’d rather watch some hockey than no hockey at all.

*On a side note, I promise to not always write bias articles or report autobiographical information, but as my first story on Babes Dig Balls, I thought it might help you all to get a sense of who you’re getting your hockey information from. Hope you all enjoy, much more to come!