UMass Hockey Is a Great Night Out

UMass plays Merrimack at the Mullins Center on Friday night.
UMass plays Merrimack at the Mullins Center on Friday night.

Tonight I fulfilled a promise to my grandson Nathan that I’d take him to a UMass hockey game. I gave it as a Christmas gift, and I think we both got the gift for having shared the experience. It’s been a while since I have been in the Mullins Center and there were some things that were pleasant, while others were somewhat annoying.

The hockey game was fun–fast action, a lot of scoring, and even a brief flurry of fisticuffs after a savage boarding call that sent a Merrimack player to the locker room for misconduct. When they announced the players I was pleased to see a good number of Canadians on the UMass roster.

There are players from Calgary, Ontario, British Columbia, and a very tall player named Yavenko, who was from Minsk Belarus. They skated well and checked hard, and tonight’s score, a 5-2 win, was an exception. This brings their record to 7-16-3.

One other Mullins Center beef–how about showing replays of the goals? There were more than a few times I wanted to see a goal or a penalty over again, and a dim screen gave very limited replays, I guess I’m spoiled after seeing an NHL game in Madison Square Garden where nearly every play was shown again and sometimes more than once.

What I liked besides the game action was the rituals–the chants that every kid sitting in the student section behind one of the goals knew by heart. I love the sponsor gimmicks, like the Kiss-Cam, where the Jumbotron’s camera picks out unsuspecting couples and then they dutifully have to lean over and give each other a smooch. I especially liked it when they would train the spotlight on a couple who were not a couple and they’d have to kiss anyway. This and the Liquors 44 T-shirt toss, projecting compacted tee shirts way up into the stands. My grandson scooped up handfuls of the posters of the team in the lobby, who told me he’d bring them to school and all the kids would want them. “Even teachers want them!” he exclaimed.

What disappointed me was the concessions. Walk, walk, walk to find the one booth that sells ice cream. And it turns out not to be one of our great local favorites, like Barts or Snows, but –Herseys. Ugh. And then the chains who claim the rest of the concession booths. The only thing close to local was Legal Seafoods whose clam chowder we enjoyed. But no familiar local names, no presence that would appropriately belong in the state-funded money-losing arena, none at all. Just bland corporate logos and indistinguishable products made in Indiana or some such place.