I was sitting home watching television last Saturday night, periodically checking twitter, when I saw someone retweet something about Mick Foley being at the Admirals game the following afternoon. Some quick internet research showed it was true.
Mick Foley is my all-time favorite professional wrestler. One of the reasons I liked him so much is that he wrote an autobiography (almost all wrestlers use ghostwriters) which was engaging, enjoyable and endearing. Later, he several more autobiographies and then two fiction books that I really enjoyed.
The previous opportunity I had to meet him, I chose to pass on to go to a work event. Now, for the mere price of an Admirals ticket, I’d get to have that interaction and tell a hero of mine that I enjoyed his writing (I’m not much of a wrestling fan anymore). I texted Michelle and she was game, like she is for nearly any adventure.
The game began on Sunday at 4 p.m. Michelle and I arrived at the Bradley Center before it opened. I had a coupon from the Entertainment Book for buy-one-get-one-free tickets, so two tickets ended up costing me $21, total! A large contingent of people arrived early, surely both to meet Mick Foley (and several other former wrestlers, Mr. Wonderful, Paul Bearer and Molly Holly. Additionally, the big giveaway was a George Washington bobblehead for some inexplicable reason!
The crowds made a mad dash for section 211, where the wrestlers would be signing. We got there in a orderly fashion, after claiming our bobbleheads! I personally didn’t care about getting autographs of the other wrestlers on hand, but the way it was set up, we had no choice but to do so. Mick was third and the line we were in went pretty quick.
Mr. Wonderful didn’t look too happy to be there, Paul Bearer was kind and then we were in front of Mick. I had his book Scooter while Michelle had Tietum Brown. As I began to talk with Mick, Michelle took a picture and right after she did, the security lady told her not to take another. Thankfully she got this one!
Mick told me he didn’t see his fiction books very often and he began telling Michelle, Molly Holly (the wrestler beside him) and I about the blurb he got from a famous writer and how it didn’t get the reviews he hoped. The security lady was shouting at me to move along, but I was too busy listening to Mick talk. Finally, he told her it was his fault. The final thing that he mentioned is that if wrestling fans ever want to talk to a wrestler, they should talk to him about something he is interested in besides wrestling. He is constantly hearing about his most famous match, Hell in the Cell, I think as much as he enjoys that legacy, he would equally like to be remembered for his writing. I have no doubt if there’d been no one else there, we’d have spoken for much longer.
Nonetheless, I walked away exhilarated and Michelle walked away charmed. We could have left right then and it would have been worth the money to me. Alas, there was a hockey game to be played!
We found our seats, which were surprisingly excellent, not that there would be tons of people there, no upper deck seating was available. Michelle observed “if you like hockey you wear whatever hockey jersey you want.” There were Admirals jerseys to be sure, but there were also jerseys from tons of other NHL teams. These things aren’t cheap either, the replicas in the pro shop were $130.
It was easy to tell that we were by some hardcore fans, certain people seemed to know each other and one guy was talking loudly about how the Admirals sucked this year, seemingly to no one in particular. Pregame began, and like all minor league teams, the promotions continued. Today, a certain lady wearing a bridesmaids dress would win a trip to some tropical locale.
I tried to recall all I knew about hockey. It was limited. I think the game can end in a tie. Similarly to soccer, the offensive guy can’t get in front of the last defender or something. If you didn’t skate well, but could shoot a mean knucklepuck, there was probably a spot for you.
After the fanfare ended, it was time for the game to begin. A gentleman near us in a jersey began leading cheers, and it was obvious that we were amongst the diehards and that the section beside us was somehow set aside for them. Michelle turned to me and laughed, but what could I say, as a former Squad 6-member, I could only admire their panache.
The Admirals kept a fast pace and the puck remained mostly in their possession until they scored the first goal. The crowd beside us yelled gleefully at the other team’s goalie. Despite understanding less about the game than me, it seemed Michelle enjoyed the fast pace, claiming that she enjoyed watching hockey more than basketball. Huh…
After the first period ended, the Admirals were up 1-0 with a huge shot on goal differential. The zambonee came out and did its thing, there were more promotions and then it was time for the second period. Peoria scored quickly on a little cheapy goal that made the people around us super frantic and agitated.
Then we got to see a fight! You can’t have Foley in the house and not have a fight I guess. Michelle marveled at the fact that they let these two duke it out for what seemed like a full minute before they were both escorted to the penalty boxes. I can’t think of another moment in sports where everything stops the way it did for this fight. Barbaric, yes! Entertaining, yes!
Initially, I doubted that we’d stay for the whole game, but we continued to be entertained by the game and by the crowd. The Admirals scored again. Then Peoria did. We were tied 2-2 headed to the third period.
They had a contest to award the tropical trip. They shot people on sleds across the ice. Everything was family friendly and fun.
Peoria got another goal, putting the Admirals down 3-2. With victory in sight, they seemed to be doing everything they could to bleed out the clock. Finally, when the minutes became seconds, the Admirals pulled their goalie in a desperate ploy to win the game. Peoria managed another cheapy goal.
So despite the fact that the hometown boys had almost twice as many shots on goal, the were doubled up by the visitors.
Though some of the folks around us seemed very disappointed by the outcome, I was just grateful to have this fun afternoon with my fiance and the opportunity to meet a hero of mine. I felt like we got to see everything you could hope from a hockey game, a goal, a penalty, a fight and more.
I was also pleased to see that there were people who did care about the outcome. I’d imagine being a minor league team isn’t easy, you can’t build promotions around your best player because he is always a phone call away from being gone. Instead, you must find a way to build a fanbase around fun promotions and an overall excellent experience. The Admirals do a very good job of this.
I’m not going to become a season ticket holder, but I would recommend our local minor league hockey team to anyone. The action is fast, the promotions are fun and the passionate fans are entertaining to watch.