This ethnographic observation comprises two separate visits to a NHL hockey game, during the regular season. Both of the observations took place at an evening game, which began at 7PM. There are several predispositions of how I believe people will look and behave in this setting. For example, I believed that men would outnumber women. I also believed that about half of the people at the hockey game would be with groups, and especially with families. I believed that roughly half of the attendants would be wearing a hockey team jersey, and that a quarter of the fans would have purchased beer from the stadium kiosks. Shouting and other signs of fan participation and enthusiasm was also expected. I have been to several NHL hockey games, as well as minor league games. This is why I have some expectations of the game but still tried to keep an open mind while making my observations. Moreover, the ethnography was designed to reveal much about what I do not typically observe when at a hockey game.
This occasion was a game against a key rival and on a Friday night, which I expected to be fairly crowded. I was correct. On a typical evening, only about a third to a half of the seats in our stadium are filled, but on this occasion, it was about three-quarters full. I assumed this was because the media had been promoting this particular game as being important, due to a key trade made a few days prior. I sat about halfway up the stands, at center ice. There were several diverse groups around me. I watched the stadium fill up, at first taking notes in the concession corridor outside the stands, and then throughout the game from my seats.
In the concession corridor, I was able to watch the flow of people. Some were rushing to their seats. Others were rushing to the toilets. Many were patiently waiting in the long lines that formed at the concession stands, especially for beer and food. The diversity of the crowd was impressive. In terms of age, there were babies as well as seniors and every age group in between. In terms of ethnicities, it was not quite as diverse but there were Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans visible in addition to people from European backgrounds. The vast majority, I would say about 80%, were white. I mostly heard people speaking English, but occasionally I heard some Spanish being spoken. There were many women, but I would still say that the majority, about sixty percent, were male.
From my seats, the experience was different. I sat while the fans were still streaming in, and before the puck was dropped to signal the beginning of the game. Here, there was an opportunity to differentiate the hard-core fans from the more casual observers. Some of the fans seated around me wore team jerseys. Of those, a few stood by the railing overhang to observe the players skating prior to the puck drop. There were a few women in jerseys, but by far the most jersey-wearers were men. Most of the people wearing jerseys were carrying a drink in their hands. When the game started, it was harder to differentiate the people wearing jerseys from those who were not because most of the fans were shouting at appropriate times in the game either for pleasure or displeasure at the gameplay. Some of the fans seemed remarkably serious, and others took it more lightly even though they seemed passionate. There were a few families sitting near me, with children ranging from toddlers to teenagers. All the fans got excited when the home team scored, but few would high five strangers. They high fived each other in the family unit, or sometimes, male friends would simply nod and clap. Reactions to the opposing team scoring were different, with some people remaining quiet and others shouting or hissing. Several man called bad names to the referees at key moments in the game. My theory is that there are certain features that acculturate some fans to be more enthusiastic vs. other fans, and that fan participation is a sociological phenomenon.
The second game observed was also an evening game, but it was…