Rocket's Red Glare: A first-hand account of the Duke-UNC rivalry (on ice)

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • February 16, 2011 - 2:55 PM


Remember, this is a weekly feature during which commenter Rocket spreads his hockey knowledge so we don't have to. Rocket?



Part I
Longtime readers of RandBall are probably well aware of the fact that I am either an eccentric genius or simply mentally ill. Truth be told, my own opinion on which side of the fence I reside has a tendency to waver. Luckily, I don’t have to figure it out because either excuse seems to adequately explain my behavior on Friday night. That evening, I drove about a half-hour down a bunch of unfamiliar, curvy roads to watch a club hockey game between UNC and Duke that started at 10:15 P.M. Somehow, I was unable to talk Rockette into coming to the game with me.
Why, you may ask, did I spend a half-hour in the car in the dark to find an obscure rink to watch an obscure hockey game? Well, the smart money would bet on me being a little homesick and willing to cling to just about anything that reminds me of life in the upper Midwest.  But my PR firm is spinning it as a fantastic opportunity for one of RandBall’s intrepid reporters to give a knowledgeable fan base a taste of a favorite local activity from the South’s perspective. Either way, here is a chronicle of one of college sports’ greatest rivalries in one of its least likely venues.
The rink is actually in a larger structure that is a “sports complex.” Apparently they also have a pool and some other workout areas. I was just getting my bearings when I walked back to the where the rink was and was going to sit down when a woman who was the size of two Gump Worsleys tied together half-yelled at me, “Are you here for the  game?” I said yes and she said that it would be five dollars. She was wearing a “Duke hockey” sweatshirt and seemed none too pleased that I was wearing a Tar Heels hat. I gave her the money and decided that it was much easier for her to hate me then for me to try to explain that my connection to the schools and the rivalry is really quite tenuous.
Driving a zamboni shouldn’t be this hard. I’ve seen it happen certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of times. All you have to do is go around the boards once or twice and then bisect the ice and then drive in slow, repetitive ovals. If you do it right then you finish your last strip of ice as you drive the zamboni off of the rink. The man behind the wheel tonight is trying to follow the pattern, but his geometric follies have left him with a large swath of ice that he is going to need to double back and get. It is entirely possible that the driver is drunk, inexperienced, Southern, or any combination thereof. This does not bode well for the rest of the evening.
UNC is sporting some gorgeous light blue jerseys with dark blue and white trim, whereas the Duke jerseys are black with dark blue and white trim and don’t look nearly as awesome as this Duke jersey that I randomly found on the interweb, or this awesome jersey from the 1917 Stanley Cup champions. I know that I risk your incredulity in writing this next  statement, but the pre-game drills were not crisp. Yes, it is difficult to believe, but somehow a club hockey game between two basketball schools from the South might possibly not produce the sharpest contest I will have ever
Both teams helped each other pick up the pucks they used for the warm-ups. I suspect (and hope!) that the niceties
have now come to an end. In fact, I will actually be a little disappointed if there isn’t a fight or two. I spent a little time in Tucson, Ariz., a while back and saw some club hockey down there. I came to learn that fights in club hockey in the Southwest are apparently mandatory. C’mon boys, don’t let me down. We have a whole host of stereotypes to maintain.
1st period
How does that old adage go? Offense is all about talent and defense is all about effort? Well, there certainly is a lot of effort out there. Approximately 4:53 of the first five minutes is played in the neutral zone. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of dump-and-chase hockey, but sooner or later one of these teams is going to have to do something to make me turn my head in the direction of one of the goals. First, the refs made a terrible elbowing penalty call on a great, clean check giving the Tar Heels a power play and then shortly thereafter they missed a blatant elbow that should have been called. I suppose it’s reassuring to know that the third team on the ice is appropriately matched with the other two.
About halfway through the period things finally started opening up. Duke is looking like the better team and would have a lead if it weren’t for a very solid performance by the UNC goaltender. He has made some nice saves and I’d like to shake that kid’s hand, but I fear it would be frowned upon if I were to climb over the boards and onto the ice and approach the young man with an extended hand. Customs in the South are so different. Believe it or not, I have a strong distaste for snobbery. This very much includes sports snobbery. As a knowledgeable sports fan I consciously make the effort to teach and to share my sports knowledge with any neophyte who is wiling to give sports a shot. For example, I refuse to get impatient or flustered no matter how many times Rockette asks me to explain offsides because she is genuinely willing to learn and is developing a passion for hockey. That being noted, there are times when I need a little extra strength to maintain this disposition. Tonight, for example. It has become undeniably evident
that there is more enthusiasm than understanding in the crowd. A UNC player took a penalty late in the period. A middle-aged man sitting in my zone of hearing looked quizzically at the scoreboard for a few moments, obviously contemplating the fact that there was more time left in the penalty than in the period. After a moment he turned to his friend sitting beside him and he asked, “Will the penalty stay over to the next period?” Did he really just ask that? [Redacted] [redacted] [redacted], where the [redacted] am I?
Both teams failed to notch a tally and we’re scoreless after one. Mare sure to check back next week (or tomorrow or later today, whatever RandBall decides) for the exciting conclusion to this riveting tale!

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