At the rink.

There will be more local music reviews here in the near future.

But I was busy tonight at the hockey rink in Wilkes-Barre, watching the home Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins beat the Hershey Bears 5-3.

Like most sporting events, it was a cornucopia of little images and passing moments, some of which will stay with me long after I’ve forgotten the goals, saves and fights:

– 2013 marks the Penguins’ 15th year in W-B/S, and the team surprised me (granted, I haven’t been paying close attention) by wearing, not a commemorative patch on their jerseys, but an entire commemorative jersey. Pretty nice-looking, IMHO.

Click to enlarge. (Or, don't.)
Click to enlarge. (Or, don’t.)

– In a classic and long-fought rivalry, the evening pitted two second-rank Pennsylvania communities against each other (well, three, if you count Wilkes-Barre and Scranton as two), and I was pleased to see W-B/S come out atop H.

There’s nothing in Hershey except chocolate … and the reality of that is less alluring than the concept, let’s just say.

– It was Teddy Bear Toss Night, when fans are invited to throw plush toys onto the ice, to be collected by the local Tobyhanna Army Depot and distributed to needy children.

One older gent in the row in front of me brought a Hefty bag packed full of toys. The overall haul of playthings was quite remarkable, considering the arena was only about half-full.

One little kid in the front row had one of those huge floppy stuffed teddy bears, and kept trying and failing to get the mammoth toy over the boards and onto the ice. One or another of its limbs kept catching the top of the glass and pushing it back into the stands.

Finally, with much of my side of the arena cheering them on, a couple of helping hands managed to get the thing over the glass and onto the ice … where Tux, the Penguins’ mascot, leapt gratefully upon it.

Tux, at right, hefts his quarry while Mr. and Mrs. Claus prepare for their egress.
Tux, at right, hefts his quarry while Mr. and Mrs. Claus prepare for their egress.

– The National Anthem was performed by a group of perhaps 25 clean-cut young men from a local boys’ prep school.

In between periods, they entertained on the scoreboard with Christmas carols, juggling tricks and other diversions.

(As I left the arena, they were standing in the cold outside the east gate, singing, while two of their number juggled flaming torches. If I hadn’t known they were from a Cat’lic boarding school, I might have mistaken them for the kids from “Fame.”)

Between periods, trying to out-sing the Zamboni.
Between periods, trying to out-sing the Zamboni.

During the playing of “Surfin’ Bird,” the lads appeared once again on the Jumbotron, doing the Bird in not-quite-unison, jerking their arms back and forth, mouths open, gently flushed with spirit and exertion.

It looked a little like they were indulging in a different form of stress relief, one known to prep-school boys since the dawn of time and not normally practiced in public.

– On the ice (ahem), the evening belonged to the Penguins’ captain, Tom Kostopoulos, who scored two goals and was named the first star.

Kostopoulos will be 35 in about a month; this is his 15th season of professional hockey, including part or all of 11 seasons in the NHL.

Doubtless, the AHL is not where he wants to be at this point in his career, and he’s probably giving a lot of thought nowadays to what comes next.

But he hasn’t lost his skills yet, and he seems to be a fan favourite in coal country.

If his career is winding down, nights like tonight seem like a nice way to head into the sunset.

Tom Kostopoulos

If any of these things sound like fun to you, get yourself to Wilkes-Barre in time for tomorrow night’s game against Utica.

Eastern Pennsylvania is going to get something like nine inches of snow tomorrow.

So plenty of good seats will be available for you to enjoy the details and passing moments tomorrow night, when the arena opens its doors, the Penguins suit up, and everybody does it all again, only different.

2 thoughts on “At the rink.

    1. I have heard that the name “Hershey Bears” was chosen as the closest possible equivalent to “Hershey Bars” … though I suspect that is an urban legend.
      (The name “Bears” does lend itself nicely to a chocolate-brown-and-white color scheme.)

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