Howdy and welcome to this belated post. I had hoped to have it up a day or two after I got home but I had to watch the Gilmore Girls reunion and then the week just kind of got away from me. I guess it's better late than never, as they say. I've decided to write it in two parts so it's a little less overwhelming to read. Enjoy!
You may remember last year I wrote about the inaugural Friendship Four ice hockey tournament. You can read that post here. It was an amazing weekend of ice hockey in which four college hockey teams came to visit schools and promote ice hockey, as well as play a four game tournament against each other. Many free tickets were also given away - mostly to schools and youth clubs - to promote the game. The hope is also that after having a taste of what hockey life is like here, that some of the college players that may not advance to the big leagues in the US and Canada, might think about playing overseas in our league. So all round it's just a really positive and amazing thing they've started in Belfast. After having such an amazing time last year, I couldn't wait to do it all over again this year. The teams playing visiting were from Quinnipiac University, University of Vermont, St. Lawrence University and University of Massachusetts.
The tournament rolled around again on the 25th and 26th of November. The first game was at 4pm on Friday and then there was about an hour break and then the second game started around 7:30pm. The two teams that lost on Friday would play the 4pm game on Saturday and the two that won would play the final at 7:30pm on Saturday. As you can imagine it was a long weekend with four hockey games and especially with a lot of drinking. Last year we just went home after each of the later games but this year we decided to make a weekend of it and stayed in the Premier Inn by the arena. It meant less travelling for both us and our dad and it was just a fun break away. So on Friday the 25th of November we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to our pets and headed up to Belfast. By the time we got to the Premier Inn it was almost 3pm so we checked in, I took some photos for this blog post and then we headed straight to the arena.
The room we stayed in is the exact same room we've stayed in every time we've stayed at the Premier Inn. It's so spacious compared to other accessible rooms I've stayed in. Here are some photos for readers that may have not seen it before. They feature my sister, Eva, doing some modelling for me. Ain't she a natural?
I also took my obligatory mirror selfie. I always take these at hotels or in clothes store dressing rooms because I don't have a big enough mirror at home. You actually get to see more than my head and shoulders once in a while.
Earlier in the week Hockey Gods Apparel had offered college team t-shirts for a day so after debating who we were going to support we bought a Vermont t-shirt each. Being the indecisive person that I am I decided to hedge my bets and also bought a St Lawrence t-shirt too. They were hand delivered to us at the game, which was just awesome.
For £12 each these t-shirts are such amazing quality and I really just love the design. Despite the fact I'll never see either of these teams again, I'll definitely be wearing these t-shirts in the future. Vermont and St Lawrence never ended up playing each other so I was able to wear one for the first game and switch to the other for the second game.
Once we had our t-shirts we went to get a drink and something to eat before the game started. We planned to consume quite a bit of alcohol so I got a cheesy chip to set me up for the rest of the evening. They had some entertainment on before the game in which a kid's stage school did a couple of music numbers, including Don't Stop Believing. It was a nice change of pace to the usual cheerleader routines. One of them also sang the US National Anthem before face off and she was amazing.
The arena was mostly full of youth clubs and schools during the early game, meaning it was super loud. It was good to see the arena was a little bit more crowded than the year before. It meant there was more of an atmosphere, which is what you want. The later games are always more packed as 4pm is an awkward time, especially on a Friday. I'm not going to lie, the games are a little hazy for me due to the alcoholic beverages. The first was between Vermont and UMass and from what I can remember was a very close but exciting game.
Admittedly we got a little distracted when St Lawrence started coming out to watch the game by the side of the ice. What can I say? I'm even more thirsty when I'm drunk.
Okay, I can't remember the score of the first game but Vermont won, which we were obviously super happy about as it meant they had made the final. Last year when the first game ended we were all herded on to the bridge until they tidied the arena for the next game. You were given a wrist band so they knew who was supposed to stay for the second game but we didn't realise it also let them know who was supposed to come back in if you went outside. It wasn't nice being cramped on the bridge so this year we went out. Eva had a smoke and then we went to Rockies Sports Bar and got a drink.
We weren't there long before we had to head back to the arena for the second game between St Lawrence and Quinnipiac. Once again the youth club sang before the game and did the National Anthem.
Eh, this game was pretty boring from an ice hockey point of view but it didn't really matter because by this time we were pretty drunk and ended up listening to Hamilton and singing along. So we still had a great time. You can tell that by the fact I didn't take any photos of Eva and I together during this whole evening and I only took a couple of photos at the beginning of the game. Despite the game being a bit flat there was a lot more people and a pretty good atmosphere too.
No goals were scored the whole game or in overtime so it ended up going to a shootout - as far as I remember - in which Quinnipiac won (of that I'm sure...). I was a little conflicted by their win. On one hand I wanted St Lawrence to win, obviously, but it also meant I wouldn't have to decide between my two chosen teams as they wouldn't be playing each other. We were set up for a St Lawrence and UMass early game and a Vermont and Quinnipiac final.
By the time the game ended I had a bit of a headache and Eva was pretty tired. We had hoped to go to out after the game but we decided to just head back to our room and rest up for the long day on Saturday. We were soon in bed and dreaming about breakfast.