Along with music, sports are a huge part of my life. I’ve swam and dived and, in high school, was the team manager of our Varsity Women’s Basketball team. I love watching basketball and football (Go Giants and go Alabama Crimson Tide!).
Because of my busy schedule as a musician, I mostly watch games at home, but I love being in a stadium with other sports fans sharing common emotions over the action on the field or court. I knew that when I came to study in St. Petersburg I was going to miss the American football season and would need to find something to fill my sports void. Luckily I was invited to go a hockey match here in St. Petersburg and was greatly entertained.
The hockey club here is SKA Saint Petersburg; “SKA” stands for “Sport Club of the Army” in Russian. The team was founded in 1946 and they play their home games at the Ice Palace, which is located right next to the Проспект Большевиков metro station. The hockey arena can hold over 12,000 people. Although New York has two professional hockey teams, the Rangers and the Islanders, I was never interested in the sport. I decided to attend a hockey game in St. Petersburg because I understood what the sport means to the Russian people and I wanted to see firsthand their hockey experience. The fact that you can get great seats for only 800 rubles also made me want to see a game. On the way for my first hockey match, I had no idea what I would see. The stereotype I had grown up with was one of rowdy, drunken fans watching hockey players constantly getting into fights. Going to a match in St. Petersburg changed my view of the sport greatly.
I felt the excitement of the match as I was riding the metro to the arena. I saw fans decked out in their team gear and it made me smile to see that their colors were the same as my NY Giants. The arena being right next to the metro station was very convenient, but the metro is packed when the match is over. Even though my seat was on the upper level, I was amazed by how much I was able to see on the ice. Fans were given free clapping balloons so they could join in with the cheers. It was great to see one section that looked to be the SKA fan club that led the cheers for the crowd. In this section, the fans were beating on drums, waving flags with the team name, and they made sure that the stadium was always hype for the home team. There was a very family friendly atmosphere in the arena and I loved watching the children being excited for the plays on the ice. I especially loved watching little girls dancing on the stairs with cheerleaders with they pom-poms. I appreciated the fact that drinking alcohol was not allowed in the seats. Patrons were able to purchase drinks in between periods and I believe this created the safe environment in the arena. Many stadiums in America allow drinking while the fans are watching the game and this can create an environment that is not appropriate for younger fans, since it has been proven that intoxication leads to the violent actions of sports fans during games.
I may not be transformed into a complete hockey fan, but it was nice to be around sport fans. It was easy to understand the rules of a hockey match and I enjoyed being apart of the emotional reactions associated with the match. I have already been to two SKA matches and I cannot wait to see another game.