Home too far away from home

Imagine you enter yourself in a year-long cooking competition, one that you’ve entered many preceding years. After steady improvement, you’re especially confident about your performance this year. You’ve had the same kitchen for more than 30 years, one steeped in tradition, so everything seems to be going your way.

But there’s one problem.

Someone blew up your kitchen.

Don’t worry; you’ll get a new, state-of-the-art kitchen that will be the class of the competition. But that won’t happen for several years, so in the meantime, get used to moving around.

You’ll have to move around between numerous kitchens, adapting as you go. No one’s really quite sure which kitchen you’ll be cooking in any given night, and you’ll have to maintain early-morning hours just to practice your skills.

This is the current situation of the Queen’s ice hockey teams.

With the obliteration of Jock Harty Arena, the men’s and women’s teams are playing about half of their home games in Napanee and the other half at Kingston’s Memorial Centre. The women’s team had to play a home game against York University at York’s rink.

Although Queen’s athletics has floated the idea of having a fan bus to one or two games this year, it is otherwise impossible to attend games in Napanee, and the Memorial Centre is north of Princess—uncharted territory for most Queen’s students.

Any sports aficionado knows the importance of a home arena. A favourable crowd can act as a seventh player on a team, and having a regular playing environment makes athletes much more comfortable. In professional sports, arenas such as Maple Leaf Gardens, Chicago’s United Centre and the Montreal Forum provided a mystique and aura that had the potential to put visiting teams on their heels.

Professional hockey teams are generally more successful at home than on the road (an exception is this year’s circus-like edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs). But the Gaels will have to do their best in 28 road games this season.

The men’s team is trying to make the best of their situation. Coach Brett Gibson has said it gives the team a “wolf pack mentality,” while captain Jeff Ovens jokingly described the team as a “travelling circus.”

Through 11 games, the men are 6-4-0-1, which is two wins shy of their total from last year and one point shy of the Mid-East Division lead.

Saturday at the Memorial Centre is the annual ‘Kill McGill’ game, the second-oldest rivalry in ice hockey history. McGill is bringing busloads of fans down to the game, perhaps unaware of our lack of home arena.

The McGill game is the first major opportunity for the Queen’s student body to give the men’s team some much-needed crowd support, and show appreciation for their efforts so far this season.

Who knows? The Gaels might cook up a storm.

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