As much as I am a fan of hockey and as much as I watch the sport on television, it’s quite embarrassing to admit that I’ve only been to three hockey games in my entire life. Despite having been a fan of the Dallas Stars for the back half of my 21-plus years of existence, I’ve been to as many Stars games as FC Dallas matches — and I’ve only really been an FC Dallas supporter for the past two seasons really.
But that changed this past weekend … well, kind of. Saturday night I made the trek through the rain up to the Cedar Park Center to watch the Stars — the Texas Stars. The Dallas Stars’ minor league affiliate was in action against the Stockton Blaze. My purpose for going to the game was two-fold. First, I needed a little bit of research for a scene for a Reporting Texas Story I’m doing over one of the players. The other was that I needed to get off campus and watch a team that has been pretty stout the past couple of seasons.
The game turned out the wrong way unfortunately. The Stars recovered from a 3-0 deficit only to give up the lead shortly after tying the game. But I think I’ve discovered quite the hidden gem in the world of sports: minor league hockey.
I’ve always found it hard to get behind anything minor league (I’m not including arena football or lower levels of American soccer in this). I’m not too big of a fan of the Frisco Roughriders, for example, and I can’t even name the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate. But I think I’ve found a minor league team I can throw my support behind.
For one, the Cedar Park Center is an incredibly nice place to watch a game. It’s clean, it’s nice, it’s comfortable and most importantly it’s relatively cheap. For about $30 I was able to sit about 15 rows or so behind the Stars’ bench, and that one of the more expensive tickets in the arena. It might be too much for a family of four or so, but for a single college students, that’s not too bad of a deal.
Also, with minor league hockey comes guys that know all the players, maybe a little bit too much. I got my entertainment for the couple of guys behind me barking out players names, complaining about their performances, etc. It’s a hallmark of minor league sports. And to top it all off, the fans around the rink were into the game, a lot better than other minor league games I’ve attended.
Of course, it’s still minor league hockey and the level of play isn’t really close to the NHL. I mean, there’s a reason these guys are in the AHL and not the NHL and that was evident Saturday.
But if you just want to watch a hockey game from a much better and much cheaper spot than you would at an NHL arena, minor league hockey is certainly worth the try.