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Fun to be a fan again

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We are moving into the fun zone.

Good (Americans) versus Evil (Chiefs)
Photo by Doug Love

Editor’s note: Paul doesn’t really think the Chiefs mug old ladies.

So last Friday a buddy of mine surprised me by treating me to a Western Hockey League game. The evil Spokane Chiefs hopped a likely stolen bus to face off against my Tri-City Americans at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

Before I talk about how the game went and what it meant to me, let me just say that it’s always a good thing when the Chiefs take a break from kicking puppies and mugging old ladies long enough to play a hockey game.

Now to the game...

I watched in horror as the Chiefs raced out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period. Left wing Ethan McIndoe, assisted by Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, scored a power play goal 9:03 into the game. An alleged hook by American Juuso Välimäki set that one up. Dalton Hamaliuk scored the other goal 36 seconds later.

I watched with delight as the Americans rallied to tie the score with 50 seconds remaining in the first period. Jordan Topping got them going in the 12th minute, with Välimäki and Anthony Bishop assisting. Morgan Geekie then evened things up on an assist from Riley Sawchuk.

I watched with alternating good and bad emotions as the two teams traded goals in the second period, with Dylan Coghlan (Assists: Jake Bean and Brett Clayton) scoring for the Americans and with Filip Kral (Assists: Nolan Reid and Hudson Elynuik) scoring a power play goal on a BOGUS unsportsmanlike penalty on Geekie. Him hurt someone’s feewings.

I chewed my nails during the third period when the teams again traded goals in the first six minutes to eventually force overtime. Geekie (Assist: Topping) struck for the Americans, and Nolan Reid (Assists: Milos Fafrak and Jake McGrew).

I huffed and puffed out of the arena when Spokane’s Jaret Anderson-Dolan stole an unfortunate pass and raced to the net for the game winning goal 3:51 into the extra period. What a jerk.

Now to how the game felt...

But as ticked off as the result of the game made me, I now realize something looking back on the experience. As I watched it with my buddy, I was leaning on the rail the entire time concerned with nothing but what was going on in the game. When Tri-Cities did well, I hooped and hollered and grinned. When Spokane channeled whatever evil spirits it took for them to do well and eventually win the game, I shook my fist and booed and called them names. When the refs made terrible calls, I booed and called them names.

At various stopping points in the game, my thoughts inevitably turned to the future, and how I couldn’t wait for the NHL to arrive in Seattle. I wasn’t hoping it would happen. I was looking forward to it happening. I wasn’t obsessing about how to get an arena built or wishing there was an “NHL first” scenario. I was relaxing in the knowledge that our arena WILL be built, and that we WILL get the NHL.

Though I’ve made lots of friends and built new relationships in this arena process over the last several years, the last several years pretty much sucked.

The Sacramento Kings saga? Sucked.

The Arizona Coyotes story? Sucked.

Watching Milwaukee and Sacramento keep their teams with the NBA’s help? Great for them, but sucked for us.

Watching Steve Ballmer bolt for Los Angeles? Sucked.

Watching every investor group in Seattle fail to apply for NHL expansion? Sucked.

Watching the Sodo arena project slowly fall apart? Sucked.

Watching street vacation get denied? Sucked.

Watching the Port of Seattle and its allies win? Sucked.

Watching the fan base turn on each other at times over arena location? Sucked.

Notice a theme?

But it’s starting to dawn on me. Things don’t suck anymore. OVG came along and is getting this done. The arena is approved. The environmental reviews are going smoothly so far. The NHL allowed us to apply for expansion. We actually applied for expansion. Seattle passed the test of the season ticket drive with flying colors. We have an NBA ownership group (David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer) identified.

It. Is. Fun. Again.

More specifically, it’s fun to be a fan again.