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Monday, February 19, 2007

(Which is Houghton.)

As mentioned, I attended Friday's Michigan-Lake State game in the Soo, and everything about it was lovely except the actual game itself. Some hockey comments first before delving into the atmospherics, as the game was not televised:

  • Can't blame either Sauer or Hensick, really. None of Lake State's three goals were remotely savable. There was a deflection, a goal-crease scrum that ended with Sauer buried beneath a defenseman, and a horrendous Hunwick turnover that turned into a Lake State player with all day mere feet in front of Sauer, who managed to kick out the first shot before a second unmarked player threw the rebound over his prone body. For all I complained about him earlier in the year, he's been somewhere between solid and outstanding for the past couple months.

    Hensick, on the other hand, had games similar to those he had against BGSU and Michigan State where he would set his teammates up for glorious slot opportunity after glorious slot opportunity only to see those chances get flubbed. (Seriously: Porter in OT against MSU. WTF? How do you miss that?) On Michigan's last rush of the game, Hensick skated through two Lakers and rifled one off the inside of the post, prompting a torrent of inappropriate profanity from myself. And that's just me, a passive observer. I hope the team kept puppies away from him on the bus ride home.
  • Yeah, other than that, though, the team was suck. The only player I trust to make intelligent decisions on the breakout is Jack (note that two of Michigan's three goals on Sunday came from tape-to-tape Jack breakout passes). Everyone else is slow and predictable and highly prone to hideous turnovers. I continue to be amazed at Hunwick's constant errors both in his own zone and at the opponent's blueline. He may be playing dumber than Jeff Jillson, though it's hard to tell. I sincerely hope Hunwick's smarter off the ice than on, otherwise he's going to have to do some serious explaining after slapping together yet another Onion Teriyaki Uranium sub once his AHL career is over.
Taffy-Abel. A charming little arena that feels like the best high school rink in the world. It's directly attached to the LSSU version of the CCRB or the IM building, and so you stroll by chlorine-scented doors and abandoned gymnasiums before arriving at the arena proper, which has all the ambiance of a missile silo from the exterior. Once you crest the threshold and view the thing itself, however:

Perhaps there's an excess of concrete, but I'll take that over an enormous, sterile box any day. The sizable but by no means sold out attendance was something of a disappointment: you have something else to do? No, you don't. I saw the town. The bars will be open after the game ends.

Lake State's relevant banners:

They're weird to look at: at one point in the not-distant past this place was the home of Doug Weight and Sandy Moger and a bunch of other guys who were the best hockey team in the country. Fear Jeff Jackson.

Behold the Glory of Pep. The Lake State pep band begs to be euthanized. There are ten of them including the battleship-sized conductor:

Piped-in music is heavily employed.

Yonder. The camera fritzed out before any shots could be taken of the improbable, blue-haired, booty-shaking student apparently named "Ashley Bugg" or something who functions much like "Mo Cheese" at Red Wings games. For those who have managed to dodge the sullen, overpriced glory of the Detroit Red Wings live, Mo Cheese is an immensely overweight man who arises sometime during the game and shakes like he's in a paint mixer. This invariably garners more cheers than anything outside of actual goals. Imagine this, only replace Mo himself with a generously proportioned LSSU student in a blue wig, the "Mo Cheese" Wings jersey with some sort of tassled, too-tight t-shirt with "69" inscribed on its back, the mercifully bountiful Mo Cheese pants with a pair of ratty boxer shorts, and increase the sexuality and frequency of the dance by two orders of magnitude. Also remove the uproarious approval and replace it with a quiet discomfort somewhere between mocking and pity.

This wasn't actually that surprising once I had gotten my head around the sheer brazenness of it. The colleges of the Upper Peninsula have an extremely sensitive term for the typical girl that attends them: "snow cows." Despite the evident distaste implied by the term, snow cows often find themselves in high demand simply by virtue of being identifiably female on campuses with 75% men, many of those engineering majors. For four years they get to be queens of their tiny universe and often lose all sense of perspective. For a miniature version of this principle at work, find an attractive (but not that attractive) female engineer anywhere.

Anyway... yeah. The eye is drawn against its will. It's a trainwreck.

KILL ZONE. Holy God, Taffy-Abel's glass is low. The nets found in the endzones of most hockey arenas are farcical as it is, but Jesus:

I've never sat in row four and had a direct flight path from most of the rink to my throat. This does have its advantages:

Our Laker guide regaled us with stories of kids getting pegged on a regular basis and one about an alert father who managed to snag a puck intent on his child's skull but could not repeat the trick when, a period later, a second rocketed out of the stands directly at him. Sadly, the KILL ZONE took a game off; no pucks came anywhere near us.

GOOOOOO BLUUUUEEEE. Sometime during the first period, a man who looked like the irritating father from that irritating show that puts together motorcycles entered. He was the size of a bouncer and had that particular combination of mustache plus enormous, connecting mutton-chop sideburns that screams "English PhD student," and by "English PhD student" I mean "yooper factory worker." Periodically he would scream "GO BLUE" at the top of his lungs. Standard operating procedure in these situations is to start making sarcastic comments that are just audible to the offender, but the combination of drunk, huge, and probably already wanted for murder put me off. Not to mention his companion, who was the size of a kodiak bear and may have been wearing the pelt of one.

Anyway, after Lake State's first go-ahead goal in the third, this guy gets up out of his seat, climbs up the aforementioned low boards, and starts SMASHING them with his ham-hock of a fist, screaming "GO BLUE GO BLUE GO BLUE" at the top of his lungs until arrested and removed from the arena.

The team was totally fired up.

What? As we made our way through the surprisingly crowded concourse after the game, a door opened up and the Lakers, shorn of skates but still in full equipment and smelling like it, emerged from a pair of double doors in front of us. I was brought up short by the convoy and made a WTF shrugging gesture to my travelling companions, at which point one of the Lakers slapped me five. Then they were gone, evidently to ring the victory bell outside. When they returned, I kept my hands in my pockets.