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Enhancing the fan experience: Bring your kids to a game

Today's installment of the "Enhance Your Experience" series (part 2 of 3, sponsored by Samsung) focuses on an aspect of hockey fandom which I've really grown to appreciate over the last few years; taking your kids to an NHL game. When I first considered buying a partial season ticket plan with the Nashville Predators during the Great Rally of 2007, the idea of attending 13 games seemed a daunting one. With 3 small kids in our house, the babysitting alone would probably equal the price of the tickets for my wife & I to go, and buying 5 tickets was simply out of the question.

After a quick conversation with the Mrs., however, we hit upon the ideal solution - getting two seats, and taking turns going to the games. Babysitting costs are minimized, since we only need one when she & I go to a game (usually we'll pick a Saturday night game and get dinner downtown beforehand), and perhaps most importantly, it provides for rare 1-on-1 time with each of the kids. Believe me, it's much easier to enjoy a game when you've got one little urchin in tow, rather than playing zone defense all night because you're outnumbered 3-to-2.

Bringing your children allows you to not only pass on the love of hockey to a new generation, but you end up re-discovering what it is that drew you to the game in the first place - the tension, the speed, the incredible rush that comes when Hope turns into Reality in the blink of an eye.

That was never more evident than in Game 3 of the 2008 playoffs, when the Preds, having defied conventional wisdom by even making the post-season, battled the heavily-favored Red Wings. I took my youngest son (pictured above in an older photo) to that game, and no matter the outcome, I knew he'd have a good time. He's usually a kid we're trying to settle down in most situations, like going out to a store or a restaurant. He's just a bundle of energy, and loves to talk to other people. At a hockey game, however, he's encouraged to cut loose and make noise, and trust me, when the Noise Meter goes up on the Megatron, he's doing everything in his power to move that needle.

So here we were with the Preds down 2-0 in the series, trailing Detroit late in Game 3 by a score of 3-2. The crowd was as intense and energetic as any I had ever been in, and it felt at times that the energy coming from the stands was actually helping lift the Predators up to their competition's level. Whether that was true or not is completely irrelevant - it felt that way.

Then, the magic struck - two goals in the span of just 9 seconds, turning the tide of the game, igniting the arena, and ending the NHL career of Dominik Hasek in one fell swoop. Nobody who was at that game will ever forget that moment, I can assure you. My son was about ready to blow up after the Suter goal, and as we were still on our feet celebrating when Jason Arnott blasted that slap shot by the Dominator, I'm just lucky he didn't take off like a rocket afterward (jump to the 3:05 mark):

That moment burned the love of hockey right into his DNA, and even though he was only 5 at the time, he still remembers it vividly to this day. I've been lucky enough to see lots of great hockey moments in person over the years, but this one stands above the rest simply because of that shared experience, and what it has led to ever since.

Now certainly, there are a few louts you may run into at a game, the (usually inebriated) blowhards who feel entitled to point out anything and everything they don't approve of, often with saucy language and at maximum volume. But you know what? This provides a teaching moment for you and your child, an opportunity to shake your head at such behavior, point out the miscreant, and tell your progeny, "whatever you do in life, just make sure you don't end up a Blues fan like that poor sap."