Hockey in The South

The last time I posted was over two months ago! During this time, I have seen hockey in three states and five different rinks. Here’s a quick rundown of the rinks:

  • Mississippi Coast Coliseum
  • Pensacola Civic Center
  • BladerRunners – Harmarville
  • Cambria County War Memorial
  • Covelli Centre

As you can see, two of those aren’t in the North. Two weeks before Christmas, I embarked on a trip to Mississippi to stay with family. During my three week stay, I was able to catch seven Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) games. Six of them were Mississippi Surge home games and one was an away game in Pensacola, FL against the Pensacola Ice Flyers.

I was due to fly out on December 13th, but that was bumped back a day following a delay that would have caused me to miss my connecting flight. So, after a lack of sleep, I flew out on the 14th early in the morning. The Surge had a match up against the Fayetteville FireAntz that night and I took my grandmother to the game. It was my first live SPHL game in over a year and Fayetteville completed my list of current SPHL teams that I have seen in person. It was a good game, but I was a bit tired from the traveling to really get into the game. The following night of the double-header was teddy bear toss and it turned out to be a great game. Tommy Lange of the Surge had a Gordie Howe hat trick; two fights, an assist, and a buzzer beating empty net goal.

I’m pretty sure everyone doesn’t want to read a game-by-game analysis, so I’ll summarize up until my trip to Pensacola. Due to my aunt’s ‘in’ with the Surge, I was able to have lunch with the previously mentioned Tommy Lange. The teeth marks in his knuckles from his fights were something you don’t see every day after Christmas, I was invited down to the locker room to meet some of the guys after the game. It was a nice experience and  fellow Pittsburgher, Nicholas Kuqali (Now with the Orland Solar Bears), said he’d leave us some tickets for the Pensacola game on that Saturday.

Having been to Pensacola multiple times before, we figured the trip would take around two hours. We left a bit early so that we could stop to get a bite to eat. With my iPhone and our GPS giving us two different sets of directions, we made a few wrong turns once we hit Pensacola. After getting back in the right direction, we spotted the Pensacola Civic Center. I have to say that they have the most confusing entrance of anywhere I have ever been. We had to make two loops around the arena before we could find how to enter the parking lot. After we walked over the highway on a walkway, we were a bit early, so we had to wait about fifteen minutes for the doors to open.

Confusion over will-call and a pretzel (very good pretzel) later, we found our seats which happened to be between a group of Mississippi Surge fans. The arena has two levels with seating that wraps entirely around in the lower section. The upper section was roped off, so the bottom section was quite full. We were seated a few rows from the glass to the left of the Surge bench. The game turned out to be a blowout in Pensacola’s favor. The most exciting part of the night was a scrum near the end of the game where all ten players were sent to the penalty boxes. The night prior, the Surge had a bench-clearing brawl with the Huntsville Havoc, so they were already down quite a few players. Even though the Surge lost, we had a great time. After a stop by Hardy’s and a short discussion with the manager about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ flop of a season, we headed back to Mississippi.

The following day, we were due to drive back to Pennsylvania (20 hours with a packed car and two dogs). Before that would happen, I had one last Surge game to attend against Louisiana. The Surge were still down a few players, but skill player, Adam Stuart, of the Surge was forced into a fight late in the game in which he put on quite the beat-down of the opposing Louisiana player. I’d like to think that the fight sparked Surge to make a rally in which they scored a very late, game-tying goal. The excitement didn’t last as the Surge would be taken out in overtime.

That concluded my trip to Mississippi, but I will hopefully back very soon!

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