A New Frontier: the CHL in Oklahoma

I’m fortunate enough to work at a school that gets two weeks off for Spring Break. Yes, two weeks. It works out really nicely because for one of those weeks, I’m feverishly catching up on grading and prep work and the second week can actually be a break. This year, I traveled.

A friend of mine moved from Northern IL to Oklahoma last summer to take a position as professor at a small college. So me and a friend of mine (still in IL) drove down there to have some serious girl hang-out time. This professor friend of mine took it upon herself to find us some hockey tickets. Yes, because they also play hockey in Oklahoma.

I know. I was surprised too. Is there any place in the US that hasn’t been taken over by hockey? We can only hope this infiltration will continue.

So, on Sunday, four (another friend flew out from Massachusetts) of us drove to Tulsa to watch the Tulsa Oilers take on the Allen Americans. Most of the game consisted of me doing some brief explanation of rules like ‘off-sides, icing’ and little things like that. My friends enjoy live hockey like most people enjoy live sports (they are so much better).

Ready for the game! (ecnewman’s photo)

This was the Tulsa Oiler’s last game of the season because well, they are last in the league. Dead last. The Allen Americans? First in the league and on their way to the playoffs.

I’ve never watched the CHL (Central Hockey League) before. Some brief googling confirmed what I’d thought: a lower league than the American Hockey League (of which I have seen). But still, CHL is above men’s league, so I fully expected the Americans to dominate the Oilers.

Not the case. The Americans did win by a goal, but overall, both teams were pretty even in some cases. The Americans had a way better goalie in stats and it seemed both teams spent most of their time in front of the Oilers goal, but it was not the blowout I expected.

The stands had a few hundred people, including the group in front of us. Now, I don’t suppose I know exactly what a typical hockey fan is supposed to look like. I’m not a typical hockey fan and most people I’ve met haven’t fit anything typical. But the group in front of me was completely unexpected. I call this photo Hipsters at Hockey. (I love the alliteration).

Hipsters at Hockey (ecnewman’s photo)

Only one seemed to pay attention to the game (in jersey and standing in photo), but he also seemed to very much enjoy dancing to the music played. They also spilled nacho cheese sauce on a woman in front of them. Accidentally, but there seemed to be more amused than embarrassed. (Which according to some stereotypes, makes them very much typical hockey fans) I don’t believe anyone should be barred from enjoying hockey, but it really seemed like an odd group to find in that venue.

There was a fight on the ice, of which I stood and cheered for. My Massachusetts remarked on my love of violence (which is pretty much untrue in the rest of my life) and how unnecessary fighting seemed for a game, but I didn’t go into a long diatribe about how fighting incited one’s team and it was often about defending a teammate. I couldn’t really argue with her. I do kinda love the violence.

The CHL was a lot slower than the NHL or even the AHL. Which is really helpful because I can actually catch things like off-sides, and some penalties. I tried (using my iPhone camera) to actually catch good shots. I almost caught a goal being scored.

You can’t see the puck, but this is a goal for the Oilers. (ecnewman’s photo)

I grabbed a shot of the Oilers goalie stopping a puck.

It really helped that the puck moved about half the speed that it would in an NHL game. (ecnewman’s photo)

I even got the best hockey beard ever.

It was also kind of square from a front view. (ecnewman’s photo)

But probably the best, most memorable part about my first CHL game ever was that I won something. It was hurled toward me and I caught it before it hit me in the face.

Notice the goalie on it. It’s like they knew I’m a goalie girl. (ecnewman’s photo)

Which, as a friend told me, is exactly what a goalie would do. All I need to do it become more proficient at skating.

Happy Spring, everybody!