The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Hockey Night in the Rhône Valley!

The sporting hierarchy in France goes something like this:
1) Soccer
2) Also Soccer
3) More Soccer
4) Rugby (especially popular in the Southwest)
5) Formula 1 racing
6) Cycling (poised to drop after last year's Tour doping fiasco)
7) Basketball
8) Handball (actually looks really fun)
9) Swimming (there's this one French woman who's pretty good. And prone to nudity, which helps keep her in the papers)
10) Tennis
11) Golf
12) Judo (apparently the French are pretty good...who knew?)
13) Hockey Sur Glace, aka ice hockey.

A low profile means low ticket prices (€6/€3 for kids, and there are usually half-price coupons in the paper), so every now and then Boog and I head down to the Patinoire Charlemagne to see Les Lions play the good ol' hockey game (the best game you can name). The seats are general admission, so even if you show up late you can usually find seats just up from the glass toward one of the ends, or right behind the benches if you're so inclined. (photo: this kid hopped the rail and grabbed a puck that came over the boards right after I snapped the picture. I woulda grabbed it myself if I hadn't been putting the camera away. Rotten kid)

The atmosphere isn't quite Maple Leaf Gardens: there's music pumped in, but it consists of the PA announcer potting up an obnoxious Hi-NRG! eurodisco radio station at breaks in the action. Still, there's a hard core of fans who bring in drums and chant soccer-style, all wearing their Lyon jerseys, which are covered in more logos than a NASCAR driver.

The standard of play, too, isn't exactly NHL-quality; while some teams in this league are fairly decent, there's a wide disparity in talent between the top and bottom of the standings, leading to some horrific slaughter (in this particular game Lyon beat Cherbourg 12-1). There are flubbed odd-man rushes and beach-ball shots let in from the blue line, and tape-to-tape passes and cleanly finished checks are rare. Still, lots of end-to-end action as the players go at it as if leaving their day jobs depends on it.

Boog of course wants to go check out the snack bar, so we wander to the concourse at the first intermission. [Visible as the tents at upper left in this photo.] No Dippin' Dots, no nachos, no SuperPretzels, but they do have beer and hot dogs; the latter are served in the French style, in which a baguette-like bun is impaled lengthwise on a heated metal cylinder, then mustard is squirted into the resulting steamy orifice to anticipate the penetration of the hot, dripping meat. (I cover Boog's eyes so he doesn't see this openly-displayed concupiscence.)

At intermission there is the tomfoolery typical of minor-league sports; some kids come out and shoot pucks from the redline for a chance to win a jersey; a new model of delivery van (brought to you by your Rhône-Alpes Fiat Dealers) cuts some rad doughnuts on the ice [photo].

After the intermission, when the zamboni has gone back in its garage and the players warm up for the next period, the goalies put their own nets back up [photo; note Air Canada ad on the boards, eh]. This kills me for some reason. Do they do their own laundry, too?

So it ain't the big leagues... still a lot of fun for not much money, something hard to find in France these days.


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