Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adventure #001- The Hockey Game

Last winter, when I first decided to stay in Prague, a friend asked Lisa and I if we wanted to go to a hockey game. I hadn't seen a hockey game before and wanted to go, but couldn't afford the ticket (reported to cost 400kc-$25) so I stayed home.

This last weekend, I was invited to another hockey game. The cost was only 150kc ($8)! So last night I went to the Slavia-Brno hockey game with Tomas, Heather and Jo. It was a close game, with Slavia winning in the 3rd minute of overtime. But it wasn't the result of the game that made the experience enjoyable, it was the entire experience, the energy of the fans, the violence of the sport.

I arrived about 30 minutes late because I came straight from teaching. My student had been flustered at our lesson and it had rubbed off on me. I purchased my ticket and got ready to go through the airport style security into the stadium. After a slight detour to find the cervena caravan (red trailer) where I had to leave my notebooky (laptop), I went through a rigorous security check. I was wanded and questioned about the places where it beeped. I found my friends and proceeded to grill Tomas about the rules of the game. The first period ended without anything interesting happening and the 18 minute break gave me more time to catch up on the details.

The second period brought a few more interesting highlights. Brno scored! The fans went wild and, as I looked around the stadium, I realized that more than half the fans were for Brno. I was a little disappointed in the Slavia turnout, as I have been told that Slavia fans are proud supporters of their teams. But the battle for the loudest side was not an uneven match. The Slavia fans were quite vociferous with drums and horns to add to their mayhem. They were also well organized, rolling out an enormous Slavia flag that covered a majority of the fan section behind the goal, as well as other banners and streamers, belittling the Kometa and boosting Slavia pride.

Soon after Brno scored, Slavia followed suit. The woman behind us let her deep voice boom out over the stadium, shouting encouragement and degradation at the players as they raced back and forth after the puck. I am not sure what she was saying but Tomas kept grinning every time she spoke, whether it was the unusually deep voice or what she said, I don't know.

The game itself seemed a bit like soccer (football for the rest of the world, minus New Zealand), but much faster and more violent. The players would slam each other into the walls and use the closest part of their body to change the direction of the puck. It was amazing. It seemed so dedicated to throw your body into the game with so much passion, knowing that you wouldn't be able to move the next day.

After the game, we and the other 9,800+ people made our way to various modes of transportation. As we went, the fans chanted. It was like a cheer-off. One side went, then the other and sometimes they would try to drown each other out. It reached it's crescendo on the metro platform as Slavia and Kometa fans alike stuffed themselves into the metro and as they chanted, they jumped, and the cars moved with them. We waited until the second train amid more chanting, with the presence of the riot police who stood in vigilant groups watching everything and moving people back from the sides. We crushed ourselves into the car with a group of Brno fans and rolled our eyes as we tried to not to fall when the train started to move. At our station, we had to elbow our way out of the car, shouting prominte (excuse me) as we went. After the excitement of the Yellow line, the few stops to Muzeum seemed tame and the walk home was quiet.

It wasn't the game that made the biggest impression, but rather the fans. They were so passionate about their team, it was infectious. The flustered feeling I'd had as I entered the building was replaced with positive energy and curiosity sometime in the 2nd period. It was at once relaxing and energizing. I would do it again and I highly recommend it!

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