Sauntering into the Ice Sheet on a brisk fall evening, the first thing the “regulars” noticed was it was feeling a little cooler than usual in the venue that night.
“The first thing I did when I got here today was kick the temp down a few degrees,” said Doug Anderson, the longtime Weber County worker charged with building service activities for the evening. “You get 500 extra bodies in here, and the whole environment changes.”
It’s hard to tell whether Anderson was referring to the temperature and humidity of the facility or if it was a wry reference to the competitive buzz hanging in the air — the hum of which was matched only by the bright arena lights hanging above.
Few people can offer a perspective on this place and, conversely, this year’s hockey team like Anderson.
From his perch high atop the Zamboni, Anderson will tell you that he’s “seen it all.”
“I’ve known some of these players since they were three to five years old,” Anderson said. “I know them better than they know themselves.”
And on Thursday night, he said, the boys were a little extra edgy.
The University of Wyoming Cowboys were back in the saddle after suffering a hard-to-swallow loss to the Wildcats the night before, and they sharpened their spurs.
Well, that is to say that Anderson sharpened them.
“Scott [Wiseman] is a great coach, and he knows we’re happy to help his Cowboys anyway we can when they come to play Weber,” Anderson said. “Making sure their skates are nice and sharp is something that we’re happy to do when they come to town.”
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their freshly honed skates were no match for razor-sharp claws.
On a night when seemingly all bets — and gloves — were off, the Wildcats gashed Wyoming for five scores and more than a few lumps and bruises.
“The Cowboys are a little chippy out there tonight after dropping a close one last night,” Anderson said. “(The game) is going by pretty fast tonight. We’ll get out of here quick so long as nobody does anything stupid.
As if on queue, the Cowboys, who had struggled all night to herd the Wildcats, caught one in their net as a Wildcat shot on goal was followed with an unintentional slide into the goalie.
“Well, dammit. Here comes stupid,” said Anderson.
The melee that ensued was a live-action demonstration of the cats and dogs fighting allegory as both squads rushed in to defend their teammates.
“There’s a lot of love and respect out there among the teammates,” said Anderson. “They’re tough as nails, and they’re not going to let anybody try to muscle one of their own.”
The remainder of the match looked more like rugby on skates than ice hockey, and it electrified the home crowd.
After several more penalties and an ejection or two, the Wildcats skated out the clock to secure a 5-3 victory over the Cowboys.
“They’ll skate and shake each other’s hands and leave it out there on the ice,” predicted Anderson. “Hockey’s an awesome sport.”
After the good sportsmanship salute on center ice, the Wildcats and Cowboys exited to their respective locker rooms to, presumably, talk about the good, bad and ugly of the match.
Anderson climbed up onto his Zamboni, like he’s done so many times before, to smooth the night’s carnage right out of the ice.