I start this first and foremost by thanking Howard Dolgon and the Syracuse Crunch for choosing to put on this event. It was an event of a lifetime and while I do have some issues with it, none of it could have happened without their efforts.
The first missed opportunity for the game was the marketing of merchandise. I understand this wasn’t an AHL event so they were able to do whatever they wanted. However, as a Comets fan, I had no interest in any of the t-shirts which all had the Crunch logo on them. Even using both logos would have at least made me consider buying something related to the game.
I had seats in section 303, which fell right behind the net. For the price, the tickets were a good value, I can’t complain in the least about our view of the game. I did notice that after the first period that on the bench side, the ice level seats were empty for about the first 15. I wasn't sure why until a couple days later when I talked to someone who had seats there. Apparently the seats were below ice level, so once players were on the bench, there was no view from those seats. Fans in those areas had to be moved to locations where they could see. You would imagine that this would be one of the first things to be considered before setting up seating arrangements. However, the need to sell tickets at the higher price was the priority.
There was no re-entry policy for the event. This was probably the biggest complaint I had about the event. If you wanted to see all of the games, it would have been about an eleven hour day. Eight dollar beers and food prices in the same range made it a ridiculous day out if you were to have brought a whole family had had to feed them one meal, if not two. As a rebellion, not that those in charge care about 5 people, my family and I avoided buying anything from the concessions. Another issue I had was that there was the time taken to plan out the Utica Strong get together as well as one for Syracuse fans. Those who wanted to see the college game were unable to get out to take part in any of them. There is no doubt that there could have been a much larger crowd for the Pioneers versus Lakers game had people been able to leave for the three hour layover between games. I have a hard time believing that a hand stamp and retaining the ticket is that hard of a policy to enforce to allow re-entry into the game.
The ice was a major issue in terms of the actual game play. It appeared to be very soft ice and was definitely slow; the water from the Zamboni took until halfway through the period to set up. Holes were constantly being patched, I’m sure the head referee would have appreciated it, as he found himself on the ice multiple times during the course of the game. I’m not sure I've been a puck bounce around as much as I have in both of the games on the big day. A big part of this I associate with the timeline of the event, which was mostly out of the control of the organizing committee. Another couple days to monitor the conditions would have allowed them to set the temperatures to the idea levels. I just hope the soft ice wasn't an intentional result of knowing it needed to be broken up right after the game. Another good idea would have been to keep the Crunch off the ice on Thursday before the game. They held a skate, even though they had to have cones on the ice to keep players away from problem areas. Getting the ice to idea conditions should have been the priority. Overall, there were 5 games in about 24 hours, while this will take its toll on any ice surface, I do believe that there was an opportunity to have better conditions.
As for the game lineup, it was a very pleasant day of hockey. Both games that I watched were great games considering the circumstances listed above. There was a solid contingent of both UC and Comets fans which helped make the games more fun since we weren't outnumbered as bad as it could have been.
This was my first time at a major event at the Dome. I had attended the Iowa-Syracuse football game years ago, but to say the environment for that was underwhelming would be kind. This event had a buzz from the beginning, even if it did take Comets fans starting chants to get the Syracuse fans going during the AHL game (all but once as far as I could tell). This wasn't all that surprising though given the similar situation at the War Memorial for the one game I attended last year. It was nice though to not experience any disrespectful fans. I’m sure there are situations contrary to mine, but when the biggest insult that I heard from a noisy Syracuse fan near us was “you’re from Utica” I can deal with that. It also made me realize that I need to attend an Oswego hockey game in Oswego. While I couldn't always understand what they were saying, The couple hundred Oswego fan were constantly chanting things, which is exactly how a student section should be. Overall the fan experience was the best part of the day, 30,000+ people watching a local hockey game was awesome!
For the entertainment that the hockey products provided, the rest was lacking a bit. The honorary puck drop was ok, I’m glad they honored the hockey players and the military member as well. However, this was not a Syracuse University event, the basketball and football was irrelevant to anything happening that day. I would have rather seen the owners of the Comets and Crunch if they insisted on filling all of the carpet that they rolled out. I would assume I am in the minority on this given my lack of caring about anything Syracuse sports but that’s the way I see it. Intermission entertainment was pretty weak as well. The Steve-O bit had potential but should have been planned out before the game. Syracuse has plenty of ice rinks around, figuring out the logistics of getting someone past centre ice on a sled (should have been a saucer) wouldn't be that difficult. The Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit was beneficial; it allowed me to kill a few minutes between games and gave me the desire to return to Toronto so that I can actually visit the hall again. I didn't have the patience to push through the lines of people to get to read all of the available information.
This list may seem that it wasn't enjoyable, but I want to clarify that it was a great time and I would certainly do it again. I just feel that there were many things that could have been modified slightly to increase the experience for all involved. A Comets win certainly would have been among those things, but redemption on Wednesday took care of that for me. I’m looking forward now to see how the Comets staff and the AUD do hosting the All-Star game in the near future.