(As part of a promotion SBNation is running with Samsung, we're talking each Friday for the next few weeks about how to enhance the fan experience. Today? It's my turn. Stay tuned - we'll also have information on a contest where you can enter to win a new Samsung HDTV!)
It's a simple concept, but it's surprising how well it works: Going to a hockey game is always more fun with other people. If you go by yourself, you still get to watch a hockey game, which always beats not watching a hockey game, but there's a totally different vibe when you have a friend or two along with you.
Of course, once you've decided to bring a friend, there are two different paths that you can go down...
The big question when you take someone to a hockey game is: Are they a hockey fan yet?
When you're taking someone to their first game, or someone who is interested but has never attended a hockey game in person, it adds a new dimension to a game. Explaining icing, trying to show them players to watch, suggesting they follow a particular line or pairing, and of course having to discuss penalties...it can be quite a lot to cover, but if you balance explaining with just quieting down and letting the play on the ice do the explaining for you, it's a very rewarding experience to see someone go from a neophyte to a convert. There's nothing like the speed and physicality of a hockey game seen live and in person. TV just can't capture it, no matter how hard they try - and it's that magic that helps to turn people from attendees to fans.
When it's going with friends who know the game, it can be fun to agree to do something of a post-game show of your own over a beer or two, discussing players you liked or didn't like that night, breaking down the goals, and debating on how your team may fare.
At the game, one the best parts of having friends along is getting involved with the crowd! One guy who tries to start a chant (Let's go jackets?) is nowhere near as effective as three or four guys getting into it. (LET'S GO JACKETS!) Plus, there's chances to add your own unique touches to things - like my friend Dave making cardboard cutouts of William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant to take to Nationwide Arena the last time Atlanta came up to Columbus for a game. Or maybe you just want to make sure the referees really know what you think about that last hooking call...
But let's say it's an away game. Still a great idea to have friends along. If you go out to a sports bar, it's always easier to convince the management to tune into a hockey game when there's a full table interested instead of a single fan - and if you get a chance to go to a game watching party held by the team or their booster club, suddenly you have an entire bar or restaurant full of people pulling for your team - and the roar as they celebrate a game winning goal in OT is just as satisfyingly loud as it is from your seats in the arena.
So you want to watch the game from home? Nothing like putting together a nice hockey-friendly meal (burgers? Dogs? Steak?), have friends bring over the beverages, and arrange a buddy system so nobody has to miss too much game action - rotating who runs to the fridge during a commercial might be the difference between seeing a great play and missing it while the TV suddenly goes nuts while you're head-deep in the fridge.
There can be practical concerns, too (the parking gets a lot cheaper when you split it three or four ways), but there's no doubt that every game is a bit more satisfying when you have someone sitting next to you who can share the joy (and sometimes the pain) during the game.