After T’s game today there was a Metropolitan Junior Hockey League game between the Florida Eels and the Space Coast Hurricanes.

I saw the Eels play a couple weeks ago at the Kissimmee rink, but I couldn’t stay for the entire game.  This afternoon I was able to watch the game from the start and it was awesome!

These are fifteen- to twenty-year old kids who clearly love the game of hockey.  They’re fast, skilled and they play hard!  In both games that I saw there were some fantastic goals, some great saves and a lot of hard checks. In today’s game, there was even a bit of a brawl that included the entirety of both lines on the ice. 

It started the way that sort of thing typically does, with a breakaway and the defenseman taking the offense off-balance and into the goalie.  So, of course, someone has to shove the guy who knocked the goalie down.  So someone has to shove the guy who shoved his teammate.  And on from there until there’s ten guys pummeling each other in the crease. 

As I watched this game, I started comparing it to the last two Lightning games I attended and, frankly, the Lightning come up short.

So let’s talk price.  Today’s game cost me nothing to attend, but that was because we got three free tickets as part of T’s game.  If I’d had to pay, it would have cost me $5 – the last two Lightning games I went to were only $10, but that’s because they were with groups.  Going alone would have cost a minimum of $20-$30 per ticket.

Today I had a slice of pizza and a Coke during the game.  At the Tampa games I told my son “no” when he wanted cotton candy, because it was $7.  A cheesesteak was $9.  Fries were $6.  My slice and a coke?  Three bucks.  I can’t get just the Coke for three bucks in Tampa.

So, sure, there’s a difference in the level of play between the two, but what these kids lack in experience, they make up for with enthusiasm.  And some of these kids will be moving on the NHL, not all of them with a stop at college, so make your own guess at how many levels there are between their play.

And what did I get for my $5 seat vs. the $25 ($10) NHL seat?

Well, here’s my view at the last Lightning game:


It wasn’t quite the last row of the upper-bowl:


See?  There were worse seats I could have been in.

Here’s my view of the ice this afternoon:


And I could have gone down and walked around right on the glass to watch the game.

Um … no, those aren’t the players, they’re the cheerleaders/ice-dancers.  That’s another plus, the cheerleaders at the Lightning games don’t skate.

These cheerleaders were one bad part about the game, though.  I was enjoying them right up until the point that I realized they were probably in the same age group as the players … then it became icky … and a little depressing that I’m old enough for it to be icky. 

Damn it.

Anyway, I had a much better hockey experience at this game than at a Lightning game.  I think I got a much better value from this game than any NHL arena. 

Another big difference was the crowd.  No, there weren’t 10,000 people there, but those that were had an interest in the game beyond just being a fan.  I was surrounded by a couple hundred people who were the friends and family of the players.  When they cheered or clapped, it was because they felt it, not because the jumbotron told them to.

There’s something awesome about watching a game where the lady next to you is yelling a player’s name, not because she memorized the roster, but because she cooked him breakfast that morning. 

This was the most fun I’ve had at a hockey game in a long time.  If you have one of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League teams near you, or really any of the junior leagues, you should check out a game. 

This was good hockey.