Join the University of Maine men's ice hockey team Jan. 19-20 as it celebrates the 40th Anniversary of not only the program but also the storied Alfond Arena. The Black Bears will battle the rival New Hampshire Wildcats on Friday, Jan. 19 at 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday, Jan 20. at 7:30 p.m.
I didn’t want to go. It was too cold. I was tired from spending my Saturday refereeing a two-year-old and a seven-year-old confined to the house by runny noses. I had never seen a hockey game and it wouldn’t put a dent in my life if I never saw one. I voiced every excuse, feeble complaint, week protestation in vain.
The tickets had been bought. The babysitter had been hired. Reason weighed against me. We went.
We passed the short time along the Interstate to Orono scraping the interior breath frost from the windshield. By the time we reached the university, the glass had cleared enough for us to clearly see great waves and rows of vehicles, carries of hockey aficionados faster than we, stretching far into the dark allies and canyons of the fieldhouse parking lot. We drove around and around, we ranted, we persevered, we parked.
Then we ran. It was too cold to walk. Running pass all those cars in my clumpy boots game that old nutball sensation I used to get trying to walk in skis. If God had wanted mankind to stumble around that way, He would have designed us with great long feet.
We puffed into the Alfond Arena on a blast of Arctic desperation and came body to body with great waves and rows of the hockey aficionados themselves. They were dressed all in down from their heads to their feet, and they were lined up three deep along every passage designed to get us to our appointed seats. The tribal drums of the UMO band thundered at us from somewhere just beyond the three layers of humanity, blood-churning rhythms that squeezed us through the down-and-nylon-lined artery along the back wall until we could break through to the stairs leading to our seats.
Now I could sink down out of my mittens and earmuffs and coat and reconnoiter. I was astonished at the relatively small size of the arena, quite pleasantly astonished. I could see every corner of the rink. I could see very face in the crowd across the way. I could watch the faces looking down from the gallery.
But now the tribal drums began to pound in earnest, the band exploded into the Maine Stein Song, the crowd exploded into general exultation, and two sets of brightly-colored, cloth-covered stuffed dolls swirled out of somewhere and swept down the ice past us.