Having played some pick-up games with grade-b college players in the late 70's, and some street hockey with "over-40" players in this millenium, I can honestly say I have played in some of the worst hockey games ever to disgrace the ideals of the sport. Having owned season tickets to the Washinton Capitals for 12 years (the first two being partial plans, including the only Stanley Cup appearance by the team) I can honestly say I've seen some of the best hockey as well (having seen everyone from Gretsky, Mario, Forsberg in his prime, Patrick Roy setting the career wins record, Messier before his tear ducts started malfunctioning, Ovie, Malkin...am I forgetting any great players?). But in all that time I have never been to a college game. Much to my dismay, I rectified that gap in my experince Thursday, April 9th.
I can't honestly say I was seriously injured by the event, but it hurt. In fact, watching college hockey after 12 years of NHL level hockey served to demonstrate the level of athleticism inherent in professional hockey that other sports don't necessarily demand.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these kids didn't play relatively well; I'm sure if I kept up with college level hockey I would be impressed. But I'm used to the professional level and this not only didn't impress me, it made me certain I want no more to do with it.
There was, first and foremost, the disparity in size. Both Miami and Boston University towered over their opponents Bemidji and Vermont respectively, although the smaller teams, for the most part, had an advantage in speed. The goalies on all four teams made excellent saves and the majority of goals were the result of wonderful plays. But you can see the same thing in pee wee hockey if you don't set the bar too high.
My biggest problem was with the speed and basic hockey skills. The passing would have been hilarious if it wasn't so frustrating. The speed was almost snails paced compared to what I'm used to. Passes to empty wings resulted in icing calls. giveaways were prevalent, broken plays were created by sheer ineptitude without any pressure being applied by defense or checking.
The boosters in the crowd were wonderful however, even if they didn't understand the first thing about basic hockey etiquette (the stair aisle next to our seats looked like it led to a urinal on free beer night even during game play). Being a graduate of Maryland, a university that only has a club team, I had no real horse in the race, and that certainly detracted from my enjoyment. The students and ubiquitous alumni (the average age of jersey wearing fans was about 50) no doubt had a stake in the games that made the night infinitely more entertaining, and I appreciate that. I also liked the schools' bands. We should get one of those.
Sometime in the remaining 25 to 30 years of my life I might have occasion to boast that I attended Final Four, and I might show some kind of pride in the fact. But I don't think I'll be able invoke any kind of satisfaction.