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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Friendship Four 2015

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow."
Anthony J. D'Angelo

On Friday 27th and Saturday the 28th of November Belfast held the inaugural Friendship Four ice hockey tournament. It was something I had been excited about for months even though I wasn't completely sure what to expect. Four US college teams would take part in what would mark the first time competitive NCAA games would have been played in Europe. They would also be competing to be the first winners of the Belpot Trophy. All very exciting. The teams coming over to take part were Brown, Colgate, Northeastern and, my personal favourite, UMass Lowell. It was my first time seeing college hockey and I was looking forward to seeing the difference between it and what we see in our league. Aside from showcasing college hockey the weekend was to promote education. The teams arrived earlier in the week and had visited schools and such. Many schools and youth clubs had also been given free tickets to the games to promote the sport within Northern Ireland.

When I woke up on Friday I was excited but I also knew I had a long weekend ahead of me. We had two games each day. Face off for the first game was at 4pm and the second was 7:30pm. Eva was accompanying me to the game on Friday and headed up to the SSE arena on the train. We had a weekend pass but some people were only there for individual games. Therefore those that would be sticking around between games had to get a wrist band. Once we had our wrist bands on we made a bee line for the bar. A couple of weeks before Eva had noticed they sold Desperados and that became our drink of choice for the weekend. Hard to beat tequila flavoured beer, am I right? I hadn't had much to eat all day so the alcohol hit me pretty hard and fast. By face off of the first game I was already a little tipsy.

The first game was between Brown and Colgate. The thing about a tournament like this is because none of the teams are the 'home' team, you have to decide who you're going to support. I'd done a little research before the games but I still wasn't 100% sold on any teams, though I was pretty sure I wanted UMass Lowell to win over all. But between Brown and Colgate, I was a little stuck. Originally I was going to go with Brown as it was the college I was most familiar with, mostly through teen dramas, but still. Remember when Summer Roberts went there...? Before the game started we had the US national anthem. It was sort of nice as because of the divisive nature of our national anthem, we don't have it before games the way other teams would.

I have to say that for such a big event and the fact so many tickets were being given away, I was surprised by how many empty seats there was. For 4pm on a Friday, I thought there would be more schools and youth clubs. When it was announced how many tickets were being given away there was a lot of grumbling with the local hockey fans because they thought we might miss out or something but I don't think any of the games were a sell out. You can see how many empty rows there was in front of us for the first game.

At the beginning of the first game I decided to switch from Brown to support Colgate. I have no idea why I made the switch. Lets blame the fact I was drunk. It soon became very apparent that I'd made a mistake. Much to Eva's delight as she'd stuck with Brown. We were enthralled by the game when the Giants' team mascot, Finn McCool, came up behind Eva. I noticed him but Eva didn't. Anybody that knows us well knows that we both have a phobia of mascots. He went right up behind Eva and thankfully the alcohol mean I didn't freak out. Eva still got a bit of a shock though when she finally noticed he was there. I wish I had gotten a photo! As much as we were enthralled by the game, we did end up getting a little bit distracted when we noticed that some of the UMass Lowell players were sitting amongst the spectators and others were watching from the side of the rink. I've never much been interested in younger men but American, hockey playing, younger men? With a college education to boot? To say Eva and I were obsessed would be an understatement. To be fair though, we've both been single a long time. But I digress...

Brown beat Colgate (I can't remember the score, sorry) and we then had to make our way to the bridge that you can see at the far end of the arena in the photo above. After showing our wristbands we were all held there like cattle while they tidied up the arena between games. It was less than ideal if I'm honest. They had two food carts and two bars, but there was no seating and the food options were a little limited. We'd been down stairs and to the bathroom though so we'd made it a little late to the bridge and the time flew in faster than it probably would have. Eventually we were allowed out and Eva and I picked up some food from one of the in the wall concession stands rather than the carts as there's more options. We also got more Desperados!

Soon we were settling down for the second game of the night, between UMass Lowell and Northeastern. After becoming even more attached to UMass Lowell while creeping on them thirstily during the first game, Eva and I both agreed they were the team we were supporting. The game itself was a bit of a blur, thanks to the alcohol. It had been a long time since I'd drank and I was taking full advantage.

What I do remember of the game is that it was close and a lot more entertaining than the first game, which was completely dominated by Brown. While watching the game I recognised someone quite a few rows in front of us. If you read my Belfast Pride post, you'll remember Eva's friend Rhys who accompanied us. At first I wasn't sure it was him, so I pointed him out to Eva. Eventually he noticed us too and he and his girlfriend, Laura, came up to chat to us. I thought it was a little crazy that of all the places they could have been seated around the arena that they were sitting a few rows down from us. They weren't hockey fans but had gotten free tickets for the second game through someone in work. I'm not really sure they got the appeal but it's difficult when you don't really know what's going on. At least if they were at a Giants game they would know who to support. Seeing them also gave Eva the chance to have a little chat with them before she headed to Amsterdam with them and two others the Monday after.

It was probably a lucky thing that there was nobody sitting beside us during the second game because Eva and I ended up chatting about all kinds of shit while we watched the game. I mean, we always talk a lot during games but we were particularly bad that night. Aside from cheering and shouting, "Weeeeerk!" and "Come through UMass (or insert player's name)!" or "THE JERKS!" our latest favourite catch phrase, we also had some deep talks. All I remember is Eva saying to me, "I like to think I don't let people in but you really don't let people in." No idea what conversation led to Eva making that statement, but there it is.

As I said, the game was tight. It was touch and go but UMass scooped it at the end. I mean, I can't exactly remember how the end unfolded but I do remember UMass winning, setting us up for a UMass Lowell vs Brown final, and Colgate vs Northeastern game for third and forth place. In the end I was glad I'd supported Colgate in the first game because Eva had to decide who she was going to support in the final. I was UMass Lowell all the way!

After the game Dad picked us up and I think he was surprised by how drunk we were. While Dad was surprised, my mum wasn't happy. I was a little worried how bad Eva's hangover would be, not to mention my own. Though mine aren't usually too bad where as Eva will throw up like there's no tomorrow. 

As we had imagined, Eva and I both woke up on Saturday with hangovers. Eva's considerably worse than mine. I do think part of the reason I felt so ill was lack of food. I barely at anything all of Friday and that is never good with my stomach. So I think that's where some of my nausea came from. I had high hopes that my dad's fry would right all the wrongs my stomach felt.

It helped immensely and I think it was a good set up for another day of drinking, meaning the alcohol didn't hit me as hard on Saturday as it had on Friday. Eva had no such luck. After a late breakfast it wasn't long until we had to start getting ready for another 4pm face off. Once again we ran late and it would have been so helpful if Dad had offered to give us a lift but I could tell that wasn't an option. So we ventured out, in the rain, to the train stop. Which resulted in this...

We were completely soaking! Not only was my clothes drenched and did I have make up running down my face, but I was so worried my electric wheelchair would break down on the way to the arena. I was not best please my dad didn't offer us a lift.

Once I got on to the train I was able to tidy up my make up some. I was glad I had worn minimal eye make up because if I had gone full on eye liner etcetera, I would have lost a wing for sure. Once we arrived at our stop I was glad to find that the rain had stopped. Well, at least I was until we were about three minutes from the arena and it started to down pour. So we both got soaked all over again. By the time we got there the game between Colgate and Northeastern had already started but we had to get our wristbands, plus Eva had to buy me a travel cup with the Friendship Four and team logos on that I had bought the night before (I forgot to take a photo to include in the post) because at the end of the night she'd dropped the one I'd bought and cracked the bottom of it. It was probably a little mean to make her buy me a new one but I like my keepsakes intact.

Me pictured with said Desperado
I started the night off with a coffee rather than going straight for the alcohol as I wanted to get warmed up a bit. I also attempted to blow dry my trousers with the hand dryer in the bathroom but that was a fail. Eventually we settled down to watch the game. Despite laying off the drink for a bit this particular game escapes me. I know that at some point I switched to Desperados and Northeastern won. I was supporting Colgate again, not that it did them any good. I felt a little bit bad for them if I'm honest. Especially since they'd given up a home game to play a league game over here. Again, the highlight of the first game was seeing all the UMass Lowell players sitting in the stands of watching from the side of the rink. Perhaps that's why I can't remember much of the game...

On Saturday Eva and I went straight to the bridge during the break between games so we were penned in for the full hour and felt every minute of it. Eva was so bored she used the time to sort out her purse.

I was glad when we got to go back to our seats. After queuing for Eva to get a hot dog we were just in time for the teams coming out on to the ice.

I think the best thing about the second night was by then you were a little more familiar with the teams and the players. You felt a little more invested in the outcome. It was a great final. Such a tight, exciting game. Exactly what you want. UMass Lowell took an early lead but Brown caught up to them. One of UMass Lowell's goals was scored by the brother of a current Belfast Giant, which got a particularly loud cheer. At the end of overtime the teams were tied 4 - 4 and it ended up coming down to a penalty shoot out, with UMass Lowell scoring the only shoot out goal for the win! It was a great end to an awesome weekend.

They then presented the trophy. It being an old hand bell from a Belfast school. A little different to what I imagined the trophy to be but I guess cool. The night before Eva and I had had to go straight home but on Saturday we wanted to stay after the game. For reasons I don't really want to get into, I wish we hadn't bothered but by the morning after I was glad those reasons hadn't tainted the whole weekend. Aside from being penned in on the bridge during the break, another low point of the weekend was having to put on my soaking wet hoody when I was going home on Saturday. I thought it would have dried out a bit but I was very wrong. I wasn't as drunk when I got home on Saturday night but Eva was. I had something to eat then headed to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up to find Eva standing beside my bed drinking a pint of water. She'd thrown up and wanted in beside me. Though she soon realised that wasn't a great idea because she couldn't make a quick break for the bathroom when she needed to be sick. I was sure she was going to end up vomiting on me. Ah, got to love alcohol.

All in all I had a wonderful, but tiring, time at the Friendship Four Tournament. They also announced it will definitely be coming back next year, so I can't wait! I really hope they make a point to try and bring back the winning team to defend their title. And I'm totally not biased. I think they should try and do that every year. I think next year Eva and I will try and book to stay in the travel lodge beside the arena so Dad doesn't have to worry about picking us up. Though if we do, Eva will have to drink a little less as I'd probably have ended up sleeping in my wheelchair if we'd been staying by ourselves this time. But yeah, it was an amazing sister, ice hockey weekend and I look forward to doing it all over again next year.

1 comment:

  1. Looks and sounds like you had a lovely time at the game - I love the shots of you and Eva together, your blue hair is so cool and I love your choker necklace. Also, the sight of that fry up looks so good - I've had the flu all week so haven't been eating much and now my appetite is back so any foodie photos have got my attention! Lovely post. - Tasha


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