Archived Story

City Arena should be the hottest spot in town

Published 10:17pm Monday, February 14, 2011

I don’t want my column to begin sounding redundant as I’ve written about poor fan attendance at Albert Lea sporting events before, but it’s something I’ve been wrestling with since I started this job nearly nine months ago.

It was troubling to come home after spending four years at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and see little student support at Albert Lea football games.

I’m troubled more now by the lack of support at Albert Lea boys’ hockey games as up until last Tuesday’s game against Mankato West, I haven’t seen a discernible student section at City Arena all season.

I understand that enrollment is down and hockey typically plays on Tuesday and Thursday nights, often at the same time as boys’ and girls’ basketball and boys’ swimming, but scheduling hasn’t changed over the last eight years, and from 2002-2006 at least, City Arena was THE place to watch a game. I mean they sell cheese curds and chicken strips for crying out loud! They’re even better than the ones mom makes at home.

I’ll admit I wasn’t the first one in the pool. I skipped out on the team’s first two home games, opting to cover basketball and let my colleague Jon Theuer cover boys’ hockey instead. But since I covered my first game on Dec. 21, a 9-0 thrashing of Austin, I’ve slowly grown more partial to the sport. Now I’m hooked.

I’ve even caught myself watching NHL highlights on ESPN.com and glancing at the Wild jersey collecting dust in my closet. Do I dare wear it? The answer is inching closer to ‘Yes’.

But the Albert Lea boys’ hockey team is having a special year. They’re on their way to another 20-win season, a Big Nine Conference championship and the No. 2 seed in the section tournament. They’ve also won seven straight games and while their win streak has continued to grow, until a week ago, student support hasn’t.

Hopefully Albert Lea’s thrilling 6-4 win over Mankato West was eye-opening that the Tigers play an exciting brand of hockey and that hockey itself is an exciting sport. The sights were encouraging as the opposing team’s goalie was finally back to being heckled by Albert Lea students and playful chants were being exchanged back-and-forth across the rink between student sections.

Despite that Albert Lea plays their final three games on the road, there is still time to sustain the raucous environment that was the City Arena last week. Should the Tigers wrap up the No. 2 or 3 seed in the section, their first postseason game will be on Feb. 24 at home.

The City Arena should then be the hottest spot in town.

Andrew Dyrdal local sports column runs every Tuesday in the Tribune.