If you’ve never heard the phrase “pass the biscuit,” you probably didn’t grow up around hockey fans.
Most of my childhood friends played. Their parents pushed them on the ice with a twig at age four while mine practiced laissez-faire parenting and let me wander off into the pool. While I was swimming laps in high school, our hockey team went on to win four state championships in a row. I still relish those victories, even though I was just an envious spectator.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I assumed I’d have to suffer from a hockey shortage. The city isn’t exactly known for the sport. I knew there were others like me, though, huddled around TVs in their sin bins and chomping at the bit for live hockey to return to SF.
Hockey isn’t new to the Bay Area, but it’s been a while since the sport had a home in town. We hosted the San Jose Sharks for their first two seasons while the Shark Tank was being constructed, and the International Hockey League’s SF Spiders played one fleeting season at the Cow Palace in 1995. Hockey fans can once again show their chiclets, though, as a 16-year hiatus has been broken with the inaugural season of the San Francisco Bulls, our very own ECHL professional team. And this new crew isn’t a temporary thing. Head coach and president Pat Curcio tells me he’s confident the SF Bulls are here to stay.
Still, hockey isn’t the first sport that comes to mind when you think of San Francisco. Sure, we love our home teams – rejoicing over the Giants (especially during the playoffs) and wholeheartedly backing the 49ers – but support for local hockey games comes from a passionate minority rather than from the vocal majority. That’s what I had assumed, at least, until I went to the Cow Palace on October 12 for the first game in Bulls franchise history. The sellout crowd was electric and the game was as brisk, bloody, and beautiful as I’ve always remembered the sport to be.
Hockey is an incredibly fast and physically exhausting game for the teams and their diehard fans, who cheer and stomp when fights break out or when a player “lights up the lamp” (newbies: see “Hockey Terms,” below). Our Bulls play fast and aggressively. The boys may have tallied more landed punches than shots on goal during that first game, but damn, they were fun to watch. I predict more than a few gongshows this season.
I had a chance to interview some of the Bulls early in the season. It was startling how many of them are from Canada – a reminder that we need to foster hockey in this country. I have a feeling that a pro team in San Francisco will help with that.
Fire up the Bulls by attending the games at the Cow Palace. Or come along with us - The Bold Italic is hosting Bull Headed, a tailgate party for beer and hockey enthusiasts, with the Bulls, brewtruc, Giordano Bros, and Magnolia beer on Friday, Nov. 16. Tickets include delicious craft beers, transportation to and from the game, and tickets to the game. All the deets here.
For a snapshot of Bulls action, check out this video from Oct28 Productions (a collective that includes Scott, Ina, and Mike).