The call time was 4:30. An hour before, I changed into my uniform so I wouldn't be scrambling around at the last minute.
This didn't matter, for reasons I'm about to explain. All hockey games take place at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The place is only five or six minutes away from my dorm at most, allowing me to simply walk there as opposed to walking all the way to the Hughes and getting on a bus. The problem is that the place is HUGE and has multiple entrances. Since which entrance the band enters in was never mentioned, I found myself becoming increasingly late as I walked around trying to figure out where to go. I eventually asked an employee, who told me that it was at the opposite end of where I was, through the white gates (closing off a parking lot and what I later found out was a BUS entrance); apparently, I was extremely lucky, because according to band members later on, pretty much no one who works at the Ralph knows where the band comes in because they're mostly volunteers.
After finally getting there, I found out that I was NOT late, despite it being 4:37 or so, because the call time is when the buses leave the Hughes.
About the Ralph itself: first off, everyone calls the Ralph Engelstad Arena (really not sure if I'm spelling this right) "the Ralph" for short. Second off, it's essentially a huge ring, all lined with restaurants such as TCBY, Little Caesar's, and Subway. Third off, its FUCKING HUGE. I mean HUGE. The hockey arena can hold around 12,000 - that's as much as the Alerus. These guys have a hockey arena as big as their football stadium.
Hockey band and hockey in general is far different than football, I soon learned. I myself have never watched a hockey game in my life, so I had no idea what was going to go down.
1.) There is no "halftime". Upon asking fellow band members when halftime was, I promptly got laughed at. A clarinet player sitting in front of me said that my question was the "comment of the night". Hockey games are divided by three 20-minute periods separated by two 15-minute intermissions. Luckily, given the style of the game, the clock is going almost continuously. Hockey is a very fast-paced sport, and it's not divided into "plays" like football - they don't stop every ten seconds. This makes for a game that, in my opinion, is far more fun to watch. The rules are also simpler, too, basically consisting of "GET THAT PUCK IN THE NET!!!".
2.) Players can switch in and out with other waiting players at will. Fascinating.
3.) The hockey arena was oddly quiet, despite having an attendance of around 10,700. You could actually hear what other people say next to you, and even the hockey players themselves as they play.
4.) These people really, really care about their hockey.
After signing in, I followed other band members to our seats, which were really, really awesome ones. It was close, but not too close for comfort. We had a decent amount of free time before we had to play before the game, so I made a mental note to bring my DS next time.
Before the game, we basically played the fight song twice as the players came out for a little pre-game practice. And then we went back to waiting.
Remember #4 in that list above? They really do care about their hockey. The opening theatrics for the game are far more elaborate than that for the homecoming football game. Videos on the display about how awesome the team has been over the years. All players getting individually mentioned and called out, with PYROTECHNICS. It's really elaborate. By the way, I was rooting for the player with the last name of "VandeVelde", because he knows exactly what it's like to have a long last name like mine. One of the players, ironically one of the Defense ones, had a last name of "Blood".
What had to have been one of the most outright weirdest things ever was the fact that both the American AND CANADIAN national anthems were sung. Ok, ok, so there was a Canadian team there. But we aren't in freaking Canada, alright? That's like having games in Las Vegas start out with the Mexican anthem...which would not have surprised me, actually.
And then we played more fight song. And then the puck toss, done by a guy who I've heard of as "Danny" who has been doing it for 44 seasons. This guy looked seventy. Talk about dedication.
And then the game started. We were against Manitoba. And, frankly, we were getting our asses handed to us. The score was 0 - 1 by the end of the first
We actually get to relax during intermissions, since stuff happens. The first intermission had two teams of little kids play a bit until one of them scored a goal. Like, seven-year-olds. I can't even ice skate and I'm 18! There was also a bit where a random person was chosen to answer three questions. He was practically right next to the band, so we were yelling answers. He didn't get the first one right, despite our screaming, but listened to us the second time and did. However, that was his undoing. For the third question, some members of the band intentionally yelled out the wrong answer to a really obvious question ("True or false: financial aid covers online classes")...he went with it and got it wrong. For every question he got right, he'd use a provided giant slingshot and fling a T-shirt to the audience.
And then there was music, commercials, the whole shebang. The second period started. We scored a goal, resulting in a tie, but in our minds, we were still losing.
If we're losing by the end of the second period, members of the band do something special during the second intermission.
Two members from each section go out of the arena proper and line up in two lines, parade formation, out in the commercial areas with all of the concessions. Remember how I mentioned that it was a ring? This is what they call a "fish bowl": in those two lines, they march once around the arena, playing three fight songs in succession until they're done. This greatly boosts morale, as demonstrated by the final period.
Because we totally kicked their asses.
When a goal is scored by UND, an air horn goes off, fireworks go off, and the entire arena goes crazy. We play the fight song, and the next song up is instantly the "beer song" as opposed to the tune we originally had ready.
Imagine this happening six times in the last period.
Manitoba wasn't happy. Two fights broke out near the end of the game between the teams, which, I found out, is one of the main reasons why people come to the games to begin with.
The final score was 7 - 1...too bad it was an exhibition game.
At the end of the game, we play the fight song AGAIN, then a beer-based tune, then "Get it on". Always. Unfortunately, this totally ruined my plans to go to one of the TCBYs at the end of the game and get a mint ice cream cone, because they were closed by the time we finished. Also, the President and his wife came. DAMN, they're dedicated! I see them all the time now, it seems.
After the game, I put away my clarinet, walked back to the dorm, changed my shirt, and walked to Wilkerson to get dinner. I came back with my food this time and ate in front of my computer, watching anime music videos and getting increasingly tired. After a while, I opted to brush my teeth and go to sleep.
Sorry about the lack of pictures, I forgot to bring both my cell AND my camera. I promise I'll bring them this Friday, though! Really!