Growing up in Southwest Virginia, Hockey is not a sport you imagine yourself being a part of, something of a past time only enjoyed by our northern-border neighbors and the kids from The Mighty Ducks. It was not until a few weeks ago that I learned about the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) and in turn learned that one of the teams made their home down the road in Roanoke, VA. So naturally, our curiosity drove us to the Berglund Center where the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs reside.
Even though the rain poured it did not dampen the spirit or the curiosity of what I was about to see. Not only had I never seen or watched a hockey game, I had no idea that the sport had even made it’s way to Southwest Virginia. As we waited for our passes. I could hear the people that were already in the arena clapping and cheering, waiting for the Rail Yard Dawgs to make their appearance.
As we took our seats and the National Anthem was sung, I looked at the players out on the ice with pads and sticks ready to go and I can honestly say it was not what I was expecting.
The game began and ended with high intensity. Both teams coming and going in transition with one goal in mind. The back and forth went on for a while until the overhead lights shut off, smaller lights flashed and danced and the crowd erupted into a frenzy of applause. It happened so fast but once I looked at the large screen over the middle of the ice, I realized that the Dawgs had just scored their first goal of the night. 1-0.
After the first goal was scored and the first period ended, I knew I had to keep up better with the players as they zoomed past me. All through the very lively first intermission, I was anxious to see more of the game. When it finally started I kept my eyes peeled as to not miss a single play. The second period brought two fast-paced goals for the Rail Yard Dawgs and one score for the Knoxville Ice Bears. 3-1.
By the time the third and last period ended, Roanoke led Knoxville 5-1, and hockey had itself a new fan. I have always been drawn to sports particularly basketball and tennis but this was like no other game I had ever watched. Every second was high intensity and made you really get into the game. That momentum, added to the energy of the fans at Berglund Center made it absolutely impossible not to stand up and cheer.
If you have any interest at all in going to the games, you can find information at www.railyarddawgs.com.