Ah yes, the great Canadian/American/British/Scandinavian (the jury's still out on that) sport of kings...Hockey!
Beyond being a great sport to play if you can stay upright on skates, it's an EXCELLENT spectator sport with some of the most vocal and passionate fans on the planet.
Don't believe me? Spend an evening at a Milwaukee Admirals hockey game. You'll get the idea.
I didn't know much about hockey when I started to go to the games, and what kept me interested in it, while my husband taught me the basics were the GAMES.
Now I'm a solid fan and try to make as many home games as I can.
For *MY* "Do My Job" I wanted to take a look at the magic that goes on in the background coordinating the events and contests that happen during game stoppages and intermissions, also known as Game Operations.
Not only that, but tonight, there's even an Eli Young Band concert on the ice after the game! More on that later.
Putting on this kind of spectacular, at least on the professional level, takes work... A LOT OF WORK!
"When our fans come here, we want them to remember when we win, but we don't want them to remember when we lose. And hopefully we can put on a good enough show where they say 'WOW they flung people across the ice' , 'I got to throw pucks on the ice for Chuck-A-Puck' , 'Roscoe came to our section and took a picture with us' and they just completely forget that we may have lost 7-2." Heather Wojciechowski-DeCaire says.
She is the manager of marketing and entertainment with the Milwaukee Admirals and it's HER job I'm going to attempt to do!
After our prep meeting with the "Lee Jeans Puck Patrol" (the crew that does a lot of the running around and contestant selection) it's time to start the fun! Heather took me up to welcome spectators and hand out tonight's give-away. A Patrick Cudahy Bacon Hat! An important psychological tactic as we are playing the Rockford ICE HOGS.
After that, we take a walk around the concourse, making sure that all the gears in this well oiled machine are turning properly.
It looks like a full house judging from all the people in the concourse, and it's not even 6:30 yet. And you never know who you'll end up running into like fellow Admirals Hockey fan, the one and only Gene Mueller of Wisconsin's Morning News. I had to admonish him for not acquiring the coveted bacon hat.
Time is flying so we need to get to the rink. Once we get there, we do a lot of prep for the introductions. The zambonis have to come out and they've got to clear the ice before the game starts. And then after that, my job will be to help inflate the inflatable. This is in the form of a big Admiral Skull through which the players skate out as they get introduced.
Fun fact, freshly zamboni'ed ice... REALLY SLIPPERY! But if you stay still your feet actually STICK to the ice!
We can't forget America's most popular mascot, ROSCOE! I got a chance to sit and chat with him a bit... well, sort of. You see, Roscoe is the kind of mascot that doesn't talk. He communicates through different gestures. Luckily I had help from an interpreter.
The interview went something like this:
ME: So Roscoe, how long have you been doing this?
ROSCOE: (Puts up fingers then points to his back)
ROSCOE'S INTERPRETER: Roscoe's been the mascot since 1998. That's why he wears the number 98 as his number on his hockey jersey.
ME: Was there a lot of training to go into being the mascot?
ROSCOE: (Shakes his head, waving his hand as if to say "NAWWW")
ROSCOE'S INTERPRETER: No he just kinda got thrown into it. Plucked from birth you could say. But a natural, just a natural.
ROSCOE: (Nodding feverishly)
Well, you get the idea.
And a natural he is! A fan favorite, especially with the kids. He's got his own job delivering a free pizza, helping judge the chicken wing eating contest and generally spreading hockey cheer to all the Ads fans here. Sort of like a big furry ORANGE Santa Clause, with a hockey puck nose.
From the Cheeseburger Race to the Human Hockey Puck, Heather and her crew (and I, of course) handle setting up and running each of the contests.
Meanwhile, a hockey game is going on. Unfortunately, this time, the team came up a little short, and they lost in overtime.
BUT, for the Game Ops crew, there's no time to lament. Tonight there's an after-game concert... ON THE ICE!
After the final post game interview, everyone leaps into action.
Looking like bees around a hive, our crew as well as the Eli Young Band's crew are able to get from a completely bare ice rink to a concert stage, lights and speakers included, in about 23 minutes. It's a sight to behold.
So even though the outcome of the game wasn't what we wanted, like Heather says, we hope people will at least remember the FUN they had at their night out at the Milwaukee Admirals hockey game.