February 20, 2003

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

All it took was a little warmer weather and I talked myself out of what looked like the final two weeks of ice fishing. While others were getting in their final fix of the very addictive sport I had already put away my ice tent and believe it or not even finally put away the rest of my gear after it had sat by the front door for about 10 days.

While I am sad that I missed out on a farewell fishing outing, I did still have some fun via the sporting world. Last weekend I made my first return trip to Hearnes Arena in Columbia since my days in college at MU. The atmosphere hasn't changed much, as it was a packed house of more than 16,000 rabid fans on hand to watch the nationally ranked Tigers defeat Billy Knight and Texas Tech.

Sure, I could have used a pair of binoculars and I'll need a week of therapy to get over my claustrophobia after sitting up in the general admission bleachers packed in like a can of sardines, but it was still a great experience. Of course it still ranks behind one of my fondest memories, back in 1990, when I was a freshman in college (boy I'm getting old) and good old Mizzou was ranked #2 in the nation. Kansas (boo, hiss, boo, hiss) came to Columbia as the #1 team in the nation and I was on hand - all be it in better seats down in B section, to watch MU become the top ranked team in college basketball by beating the Jayhawks. No, Doc Donelson didn't pay me to include that in my column, but then again my teeth could probably use a good cleaning.

While the trip to Hearnes was a nice return to my sporting past, the following weekend I had a first as far as my athletic hobbies go. Everyone has always told me how great hockey matches are to watch in person. I've missed out on a couple chances to go see Blues games in St. Louis and that was truly a loss as those tickets are hard to come by. However if a hockey fan turns his sights north instead of south, there are plenty of good opportunities at a much more affordable rate. Des Moines is just one of the homes of the United States Hockey League (USHL) an amateur league for players under age 20 who are on their way to play hockey in college.

So, the romantic guy that I am, I took my wife to a hockey game on Valentines Day. She didn't get any roses, or candy or anything like that (however the home team Des Moines Buccaneers did wear special pink and red heart jerseys for the game). For $12 a ticket we sat on the front row just behind the boards separating us from the ice by no more than a few feet. Trust me, it was close enough for us to check out the dental work of the players unfortunate enough to be checked into the glass as the puck came into the corner.

There was plenty of action with Des Moines making the home crowd happy with a 7-2 win. It looked like a good family atmosphere too as there were no fights or scuffles that often cloud the professional game. I can't stand up in a pair of ice skates so it was very impressive to see how fast these guys could get from one end of the ice to the other. There were four of us from Memphis that made the trip, and while none of us were up on all the rules of the game, we still had a blast watching the high-speed game filled with equal amounts of speed and power to go with skill and style. It got me thinking that maybe some of us guys around here that are so graceful as we trudge across the ice hauling our fishing gear should look into forming a hockey team here in Memphis. Then again if I can't make it from the tent to the truck without falling 10 times maybe I should just be happy to sit up in the stands and watch the fun.

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