Break­ing The Ice

Escalon Times - - PERSPECTIVE - Marg Jackson Marg Jackson is ed­i­tor of The Escalon Times, The Oak­dale Leader and The River­bank News. She may be reached at mjack­son@oak­dale­ or by call­ing 847-3021.

Is it pos­si­ble – I made it to two hockey games in Jan­uary? Both were birth­day gifts, the first was a San Jose Sharks game with my daugh­ter and her fi­ancé and the most re­cent, a Stock­ton Heat game at­tended as part of a birth­day din­ner/night out with my friend Kre­mer.

It was his first hockey game and as my ex­cel­lent plan­ning skills would have it, the Heat (af­fil­i­ate of the Cal­gary Flames) were host­ing none other than the San Jose Bar­racuda, the AHL (Triple A) af­fil­i­ate of the Sharks. Add to that the prices for an up close and per­sonal view at the Stock­ton Arena are con­sid­er­ably less ex­pen­sive than a sim­i­lar seat in San Jose and … well, I was in heaven. You’ve seen those peo­ple hang­ing over the rail­ings as the team comes through the tun­nel to get high fives from the play­ers? Yup, that was me.

Kre­mer thought it was hi­lar­i­ous, a sup­pos­edly ma­ture news­pa­per ed­i­tor act­ing like a kid, fist bump­ing a bunch of hockey play­ers. Our seats were in the fourth row from the ice, be­hind the vis­i­tor’s bench, so we could watch the line changes, hear some of the chat­ter from the coaches, and do the high five rou­tine at the be­gin­ning and end of ev­ery pe­riod with the Bar­racuda.

My apolo­gies for dis­cussing hockey in back-to-back col­umns but, hey, my team isn’t in the Su­per Bowl, so ... oh, wait. They weren’t re­ally even in any games this year, ei­ther. One win bet­ter than Cleve­land? Not ex­actly a sea­son to re­mem­ber. And though the day is draw­ing near for pitch­ers and catch­ers to re­port, my eyes are still on the ice.

Since we were go­ing to be sit­ting be­hind the Bar­racuda bench and I most def­i­nitely would be cheer­ing for them, I wore my Sharks at­tire. That con­cerned Kre­mer a bit, not sure if we would be in dan­ger from the hordes of Heat fans in at­ten­dance.

It all worked out, as we had noth­ing but Sharks/Bar­racuda fans in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity and since it was a week­night game there wasn’t a huge crowd. We were safe.

Ex­cept from the fly­ing pucks, as we were in an area where you had to keep your head in the game and duck at a mo­ment’s no­tice. A cou­ple came over the glass dur­ing the evening but they were a few sec­tions away so we made it through un­scathed.

We saw plenty of fights (they do that more at the mi­nor league level, it seems) and five goals by the Bar­racuda, shut­ting out the host Stock­ton Heat 5-0. It was def­i­nitely fun to be that close to the ice and gave me even more ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the speed and fi­nesse that is part of the game.

I tried to ex­plain the ba­sic set up: the for­wards, the de­fense, the goalie, what a power play is, what a penalty kill is, etc.

An older gentle­man sit­ting be­hind us, at­tend­ing with a num­ber of fam­ily mem­bers, was en­joy­ing the com­men­tary and of­fered an oc­ca­sional thought. What I liked was watch­ing play­ers that have been up with the NHL team out on the ice, know­ing some of them are the fu­ture of the Sharks.

The mi­nor league level is its own unique niche, whether it’s hockey or base­ball, there’s noth­ing quite like watch­ing the play­ers so close to re­al­iz­ing their dream work­ing hard to achieve it. And the Stock­ton Arena is a great place to watch a hockey game; there is no bad seat. Their Ban­ner Is­land ball­park is also a tremen­dous venue for some base­ball.

The game we at­tended saw a player card give­away so I will have to keep my eye on the guy and see if he makes the jump to Cal­gary; maybe I should take it to an­other Stock­ton game and have him sign it, just in case it turns out to be worth some­thing.

Ex­cited about be­ing four rows back and happy to in­tro­duce Kre­mer to the sport, I know I’ll have to go back – there are four more times this sea­son that the Bar­racuda swim in to Stock­ton. I see a lot of hockey games in my fu­ture.

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