When you think of New Mexico, you don’t often think …hockey? Our oldest son Will and his wife, Kirsten, called us with an intriguing offer. Would we like to join them and 19 other cousins and friends on Valentine’s Day at a hockey game? Would we? I have not been to a hockey game since I was 12 in Iowa.
The players in Iowa were mostly from Canada. They spoke differently like, “I’m A Boot to play hocky ‘eh. Hey, you Hoser, we’ll beat yous good.” The rest of the team spoke French. I don’t, so, it was a bit cold on the metal seats in the rink, but Iowa is mostly cold every day in the winter.
It was with some trepidation we said, “Yes, we’d love to go.” I bundled up in three sweaters and took a blanket. Boy was I off base. If you are looking for adventure, excitement, and fun, put down that phone or tablet and get out to the Outpost Ice Arena at the end of Tramway, past Paseo del Norte. It is next door to the County Line BBQ.
When you enter, it is warm, and you wonder why you brought a blanket. It was just redone, and the main concourse has tickets, a café with good eats, and a gift shop of Ice Wolves gear. Lovely young ladies, who are Maidens of the Ice Fans, were selling little hand-sized wolf dolls of foam rubber six for $5. And they also sold pucks for a game you play later. Outside the café are tables and chairs to eat your hot dog or salted pretzel with cheese dip, or to chat with friends. The prices are reasonable, and that is just the beginning.
You go through doors to the seats (that have backs!) and you sit behind tall glass-like panels. They must be flexible to take the pounding of checking that the players do to one another. That means they hit one another in the game and bounce off the sides with the windows. It is exciting. The players skate and use sticks to hit a puck which can go over the windows, so you need to keep alert.
The new Ice Wolves are a Tier II team in the North American Hockey League, South Division. So, let’s talk hockey players. They are young, they are talented, they are adorable. People grade sports on skills, and hockey holds all others in one game, and they do it on skates. The umpires are as notable as the players. The game is broken up into three periods of play, each 20 minutes. The game runs when the puck is in play. Teams change ends each period. The goaltenders are tough. How would you like three forwards and two defenders for each team bearing down on you at top speed, with sticks and a puck?
They are all terrific, but my money is on the umpires. They are remarkable. They skate all 60 minutes, while the players come and go on the ice. Sometimes the puck gets away from them and the true fans DUCK. The puck must get past the blue line on each end of the rink before the players can cross the line.
The action is so fast, you might need a neck brace, back and forth. We played the Odessa Texas, Jackalopes and we won four to one. Each team played well, but you know, we were for the Ice Wolves. When they made a score through the front of the goals, the crowd went wild and threw the little silver wolves onto the ice. That was done with each score. The little Ice Maidens skated in and picked them all up and sold them to the crowd again. Such a deal, I bought 24 and then Bill and Will said, “No more, Mom.” But I am a fan. And it is my money. No go.
We only threw the 24. In between the periods there was also entertainment. Water balloons are hit with hockey sticks and the first child to get them across the blue line wins an autographed puck. Same with the puck game. The audience tosses them to the ice and the winner with a matching number gets another puck, signed.
Would we do it again? “You betcha!” That’s Iowan. It was a ton of fun. A gentleman was at the door dressed in Ice Wolf colors, yellow, red and turquoise. He was thanking everyone for coming and shaking hands. This was Mr. Trevor Flint, manager of the Outpost. We were impressed and now big fans. Go Ice Wolves! Roaring Mouse, trying to skate on melting snow, out.