Bethany Drysdale is our new writer at Vegas Hockey. She writes from her heart about the game we care for so much – Lee
For the Love of Hockey
By Bethany Drysdale
It’s 8AM on a Tuesday and my two year old son, Blake, is running into City National Arena. He takes his usual path through the doors of the Summerlin Hospital Rink and waits for me to catch up. Pausing briefly, he sees the players already on the ice practicing. “Hurry up mommy! My hockey friends here,” he says in an excited voice. We walk up the stairs and say hello to the only other two fans watching the UNLV Rebels Hockey team practice. Standing close to the glass, Blake watches intensely as the players skate by, shooting pucks in different directions. The guys notice him and wave. Throughout the hour long practice, Blake will make his way from one end of the stands to the other, carefully watching each drill. As any parent with a two year old can attest, keeping them focused on one thing for an hour is a daunting task.
Blake and I began our visits to City National Arena last fall when we learned the Golden Knights allowed the public to watch practices. Each Tuesday and Thursday morning we would drop my oldest son, Lucas off at preschool and wait for the Golden Knights to take the ice. What started as a small group of fans attending practices quickly became larger crowds as the team found success in their inaugural season. Watching the Golden Knights practice was as close to a game as we could get. With ticket prices higher each game, we could not afford to watch a live game at T-Mobile Arena. As a military family, our budget is tight, but that does not stop us from seeing the Golden Knights at many of the free fan events they hold around town.
Hockey has always been my favorite sport to watch. Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, on the Ohio/Pennsylvania/West Virginia boarder, my first loyalty was to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The ECHL Wheeling Thunderbirds/Nailers are also nearby and I remember watching them as a child. Getting to see young guys like Vegas Golden Knights broadcaster Dave Goucher start their careers, solidified my love for the game.
My husband and I have been stationed in Las Vegas since February 2012. When our boys were born here, it was a natural transition to support the Golden Knights as our hometown team. Our adopted city opened up a chance for us to share the love of hockey with our two boys. What we never anticipated was our chance to get to know the UNLV Skatin’ Rebels Men’s hockey team. The Rebels practice on the same ice as the Golden Knights. As practices for the Knights became more popular, we started arriving to the ice earlier, giving us a chance to see the collegiate athletes practicing. Day after day, we found ourselves arriving early, not to get the best seats for the Golden Knights, but to see the Rebels work on their techniques. Over time, we have developed a friendship with several of the players. They have encouraged my boys to learn to skate and to love the game.
The Rebels are currently ranked #10 in Division I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. That success is due to the cohesive team efforts and experienced coaching staff. Over the next several weeks, I would like to introduce you to these players, coaches and trainers who have worked hard in the shadow of the Vegas Golden Knights. Each one has a unique story of how they came to Las Vegas and why they chose UNLV to further their hockey careers as well as getting an education. The love of hockey brought them into our lives and we are forever grateful for their friendship and encouragement. I truly hope the Vegas hockey community comes out on a Friday or Saturday night to City National to see the Rebels play passionate hockey. Stop by a morning skate too, and say hello to the next generation of Vegas hockey.