I have to admit that I am a fan at heart. I know that being in the media, people seem to think those of us who cover the games do it because we have to. The reality of it is we don't get paid jack, our hours are long, and our wives look at pictures of us to remember what we look like. We do this because we are fans, and we love covering games like Middlebury and Norwich.
When I arrived at Kreitzberg at 1:00 for a 3:00 game, the parking lots were packed. When I found a parking spot somewhere close to Randolph, I walked up to the guy who was directing traffic and said, "Man, and I thought I was early". He shrugged his shoulders and then looked at the line of cars coming up and said, "I think they thought they were early too." When I got to the doors, there were already people lined up for tickets. Luckily, I have this cool thing known as a press pass and walked my way into the arena so I could get ready for the game.
When I walked in, I could already feel electricity in the air. I dropped my stuff off and sauntered across the arena so I could say hello to George and John from WDEV, and John and I started talking about radio stuff, then the discussion came to the game itself. John told me that for only the second time this year, the students would be around for a game. In other words, the cadets would be loud; especially since ESPN U was televising the game live. We both sat back a bit, looked at the pristine ice, and said that it doesn't get much better than this.
These are two teams who have healthy respect for each other, yet beat the daylights out of each other on the ice. To say the fans were into it is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole.....It is understating things just a bit. Scott Miller, who is the Sports Information Director at Norwich, and doubles as the PA guy got the crowd going early when the Cadets took the ice. Scott was frantically flying around the arena before the game trying to get everything done, and I offered to do PA for him so he could do other things. Scott said, "Chris, I am too much of an ego-maniac to give up the mic." Scott, who is one of the better SID's around, then got the crowd fired up and ready to go. (It turns out he is a pretty good PA guy as well.)
When the puck dropped, the crowd was even more nuts. With every Norwich hit, the crowd roared. When the crazies in the corner knew the ESPN cameras were on them, they went even more insane. When Nikita Kashirsky opened the scoring with a jaw dropping, falling backhanded goal with 51 seconds to go in the first; the place EXPLODED!!! When he started off the second with another one, I thought my eardrums were going to pop. The joint was going insane, and I was loving every second of it. Yes, I would have loved to see a Middlebury victory, but I was having such a blast just being there. The fans know their stuff, they love their team, and they love the game. Games like Cal/Stanford; Harvard/Yale, and of course Norwich/Middlebury is why I love sports as much as I do. (Throw in Campolindo/Miramonte from my high school days, and Rice/Burlington as well.) It is the rivalries, the passion, and the respect and handshakes after the game that make covering sports so much fun.
On a personal note, I would like to send my best to my father-in-law who was rushed to the ER late last night. Hang in there, and get well soon.