Too many empty seats

This past weekend, I ventured down to Bemidji to watch some NCAA “hackey” (as the Americans would say it) action. And the Lake Superior State Lakers versus Bemidji State University Beavers proved to be a great display of Division I competition.
I arrived at the rink early, mostly because I had nothing better to do, bought a hot chocolate (as I usually do), and grabbed a seat at centre ice.
Now I’ve seen college rinks in the States before, and usually they’re top-notch, NHL-style arenas. But not this one. One side of the ice was lined with bleachers while the other side had the team benches and penalty boxes.
It was bush league, really.
I sat there, waiting for the teams to come out and get the game underway. The next thing I knew, the lights went out and every single person in the entire packed arena was on their feet—clapping, screaming, and banging their feet on the stands.
Music started playing, lights above the ice started flashing, and (no kidding) people who were on their cell phones pulled the old shoulder hold and continued to clap and cheer.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more enthusiastic or loud in there, the Beavers came out on the ice. I remained seated because I was cheering for the Lakers, but I’m not going to lie. I kind of wanted to stand up and pretend just for a second—everyone was having so much fun.
Instead, I just sipped my hot chocolate.
Then the Lakers came out and boos were heard throughout the rink. Here and there, you could here the muffled noise of my lone pathetic clap (I tried, I really did).
But anyway, I’ve been to a few hockey games in my time and I’ve never seen such a keen fan base.
Even though the two teams were relatively close in their skill level, the Lakers took the first game Friday night by a 1-0 score. But it was a battle the Beaver fans—nor the team—were ready to give up.
They came back the second night and tied the game 2-2, but the Lakers still skated away with the Memorial Cup that was up for grabs to the victor of this exhibition series.
But let me tell you, without those yelling and screaming fans who were encouraging each one of the Beaver players, I’m pretty sure their dam would have collapsed.
That team came back every time they were down with the help of their fans.
I ask one question. If Fort Frances is suppose to be a “hockey town,” where are all the fans? I’ve been to every Muskie home game so far this season and I see plenty of empty seats in the stands.
Sure, for high school hockey, the local fan base appears to be decent. But I know this isn’t just regular high school hockey—this is downright classic hockey.
So maybe you’re thinking: Well, the Muskie girls’ and boys’ teams seem to be doing just fine, winning left, right, and centre, which is a valid point. But imagine what the atmosphere would be like in the Ice for Kids Arena or the ’52 Canadians Arena if they had a few hundred people out there to support them?
The way I see it is, we don’t have an NHL team real close to us (the Minnesota Wild are about a five-hour drive away). So why not make the absolute best of what we’ve got right here in Fort?
Imagine what the rink would be like packed every Friday and Saturday. It would be support for the team—and a great experience for the fans.
The competition for our Muskies is only going to get tougher; the teams they’re beating now are only going to get hungrier for victory.
So I say let’s get out there and show them what kind of support Fort Frances and district has to offer their Muskies.

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