We attended a Bloomington Prairie Thunder hockey game on Friday night, when the Prairie Thunder hosted the Muskeegon Fury in an International Hockey League (IHL) matchup. The IHL is comprised of only 6 teams representing a who's who of Midwestern holes in the wall, including Flint, MI; Fort Wayne, IN; and of course Bloomington, IL. The league and its players put the "minor" back in minor league. Bloomington's leading scorer paints houses in the offseason, and probably earns twice as much painting as he does playing hockey. The best skaters on the ice were the referees.
We highly recommend this experience, which was far greater than the sum of its parts: the venue, players, and 3,700 fans in attendance. The Prairie Thunder mascot is a bison, and many fans wore team gear, including some fans who donned bison hats. That's right, furry hats with little bison horns, which are friggin' awesome!
Whenever the home team scores a goal, the arena erupts in cheers, train whistles, and blasts from novelty plastic horns carried by some fans. The crowd expressed more enthusiasm and had more fun than some NHL crowds 4 to 5 times as large (think Penguins games when the team was awful). Unfortunately, we had a 1 hour drive home after the game, otherwise we would have taken up an offer to hang out at the bar in the arena and "hobknob" with the players.
All this would have been enough to add up to a great evening, but two tickets to the game cost us only $12. The tickets were buy one get one free if you redeemed a special Pepsi can. We strode to the ticket window, asked for two of the best available tickets, crushed a pepsi can, slid it under the glass along with a credit card. You can't do that in Philly or Pittsburgh. Score one for the Midwest (finally). It was a great night.