Penalty Box

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the penalty box? I always did. Now I am lucky enough to have the seats right next to the visitor’s penalty box. It is always interesting to see the players as they come into the box.

As they arrive at the box, about 90% of the time they are complaining to the ref or linesman that they are innocent of their crime. They just know they couldn’t possibly be guilty of anything. Some are very angry when they get to the box. It is usually best for them to keep their mouth shut, go in the box and serve their time. But several don’t know when to stop and the ref rewards them with a 10 minute misconduct penalty to go along with their 2 minute minor or 5 minute major. These players are usually very angry in the box and throw the water bottles around. As they arrive in the box, the one thing that overwhelms me is the smell. The odor immediately makes you think you are in a locker room that is full of sweaty, moldy gear. Many of the players just plain stink. You wonder if the uniforms have EVER been cleaned. And when you get a gang in the box, like 2 or 3 or even more, the smell can be pretty bad.

As they arrive, most of them immediately start drinking water. They drink, they spit. They drink, they spit. They drink, they spit. This goes on pretty much constantly, most of the time they are in the box. Most sit quietly, but some will continue to yell at the ref or linesman as they skate by. Hockey is very much a game of emotion and there are many who are so intense, they can’t control it. Sometimes they just sit and rock, talking to themselves or teammates (when there are several in the box at the same time). Tom Fritche was one who impressed me. He was in the box several times in our game versus Ohio State early in the season. Miami was pretty much beating up on OSU, but he was so intense and into the game. He was rocking back and forth. He just couldn’t sit still. His intensity was really something.

Another thing I notice when they come is how young many are. When they are in their gear and helmets, you visualize them as full grown men. The visiting team portray’s an image like Darth Vader, “The Enemy”. But many of them are very young looking kids. The 18 or 19 year olds look like they are barely able to shave. Other times you look and players are unshaven. One team who visited Cady Arena last year had players that looked like 40-year old Russian Olympic team players, scars and all. When I got home, I checked that team’s web site. They had several 27 year old seniors. There is a big difference between a 27 year old senior and an 18 year old freshman. But on the ice, many times they young ones outplay the older ones.

Some of the real fun is when a player or two from each team goes in the box together after roughing on the ice. There are usually words being exchanged as they sit in the box. The Cady Arena penalty boxes and scoring area are not separated physically. It is one big open space. One time the exchange kept going on and on as the players told each other what they were going to do to each other when they got back on the ice.  Finally after about a minute of this, one of the off ice scoring officials yelled at them both to shut up. And just as if they were being scolded by their mother at home, both immediately became quiet. It was very funny; two young bucks being shut up by a 60 year old guy.

I always find it very interesting studying the players as they come into the box. Occasionally I make a few comments to them. I feel it is my job to distract them from their concentration. Once in a while, I offer them advice. Sometimes I say, “Uh oh, look at your coach. He looks like he’s really mad at you for taking that penalty. I hope you get to play next game.” Or when there was a dirty hit on Ryan Jones, “Looks like Jones will be looking for you when you get out of the box. He’s over there staring at you right now. You better watch your back when you get back on the ice.” It’s funny to see them quickly look over at their bench or ours. I know I have distracted them just a little.

Recently, one of the Canisius players came into the box for the third time late in the 3rd period of the game we won 11-1. Early in the game he and Nino Musitelli had been having words in the penalty box. He was very angry and intense. By the third time he visited the box, I said “Welcome back, Carl. We missed you.” He calmly replied “What’s up, man” and just sat down with a glazed look in his eyes.  He had given up.

This season, I have seen many of the opponents sitting in the box late in the game having that glazed look. I guess taking a punishing by the Redhawks does that to you.