Back in July, the Stavanger Oilers (the pro hockey team here) was at the NATO base and were playing around with sticks and tennis balls with some of the older kids. I guess Tim had a really good time trying to shoot on them and managed to get a few shots past their goalie. They gave him 4 free tickets to any home game this year. Well tonight we cashed them in and went to a game. Rich and I went as well as Tim and his good friend, Kjell (pronounced Shell).
Stavanger is the 4th largest city in Norway and this pro Norwegian hockey team has been here since 2001. The SiddIsHallen, where the games are held, is quite small. There was less than 5,000 people there...and it was full. Our tickets were standing room only tickets. The boys were able to find two empty seats but Rich and I found locations to stand and watch the game. We had a hard time recognizing any of the other teams in the league...the only place I recognized straight away was a team from Lillehammer.
I have to start by saying that the Oilers did win it, 5-4. There were a lot of differences from the NHL though. The ice is slightly larger than the NHL rinks...more the size of U.S. college rinks. They have very strict rules on violence in the game. I can count how many solid checks against the boards on one hand. Three of them resulted in penalties. So it was a pretty benign game. If you have a son that wants to play at a higher level and you want him to be remotely safe...send him to Norway. I am not sure he could earn a living being a hockey player here, but it he would be safer than playing in North America. :o)
Differences other than the gentleness and slowness of the game? Let's see...there is one player on each team that wears a gold helmet (kind of looks like C3PO from Star Wars). I thought perhaps they were team captains. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I asked a man standing next to me. The player with the highest number of goals and assists gets the honor of wearing the gold helmet. Interesting. So the hottest player is marked for everyone to see.
The only other really big difference was that you could hardly find the players' names and numbers on their jerseys because they had so many sponsor logos on their uniforms. I counted no less than 20 logos on each player. It was even on their shorts! This is very common here in Norway...all the teams (even the sports club teams that play against the boys' JV sports teams) that have logos all over them. The visiting team, the Sparta Warriors, was so covered in logos that their names were relegated to be in smaller print on the back tails of their shirts, over their rear ends. They were each a walking advertisement to anything and everything in Norway.
The Oilers (called that because of all the deep off-shore drilling that is done in this area) have players from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the U.S.
Anyhow, just wanted to share a new foreign sporting event with everyone. I would definitely go again. I had a great time, even though I was standing. There were cheerleaders, the crowd was really into the game and it was really a clean game.