Post-Hockey Game Musings

I got back from the Flyers vs Blackhawks game just a little while ago. I took extensive notes while there, and I plan to write up a long blog post soon (probably tomorrow) detailing the entire experience.

It was educational, I’ll give you that.

Since the “scene” will be written tomorrow, I want to use this blog post to reflect on my own experiences as a researcher, compared to my museum trip and my bookstore practice research. Self-reflection is an important part of the learning experience with this research project, and I feel like it’ll be helpful for me to get my thoughts down now while they’re fresh.

In my previous research posts, I mentioned more than once that I didn’t interact with enough people, or observe enough about their behavior. Well, during the hockey game, I spent the majority time observing nothing but the people. I spent about the first hour just wandering around, checking the lay of the land, studying the stadium and watching the fans as they mingled before the game. Then the next four hours after that was focused almost entirely on personal interaction, dialogue, body language, and everything I could learn about sports culture.

My primary focus in studying the language and behavior I observed was to try to understand what made sports so important to all the people attending the game (19,932 of them, according to an announcement made over the JumboTron). In the book “Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes,” the authors said that the purpose of an ethnographer is to “understand and write about what [the culture’s] experiences and activities mean to them” (emphasis theirs) (p. 16). Therefore I attempted, to the best of my ability, to do as the book said and “capture and preserve indigenous meanings.” I did this by recording everything I could about each event (say, the moment when the Flyers or the Blackhawks scored), the fans’ reaction to that event (cheering or booing, accordingly), and what happened in the following moments (when people near me discussed the play that just took place).

Some of it was, frankly, difficult and nearly impossible for me to understand. There were quite literally moments when the fans around me cheered or booed and I looked around in confusion thinking, What happened? The moments that I thought would prompt a reaction rarely did (for example, several times the players got close to the goal in what I would have thought was a tense moment, and the crowd was silent). Then, the crowd would cheer for something I couldn’t understand or process (such as when a player hit the puck all the way across the rink . . . and it just hit the wall and nothing happened). Since I couldn’t understand the meaning behind the reactions, I simply recorded them to the best of my ability.

Another point worth noting is that I talked to several people, asking questions about their team-clothes (such as one player’s autographed jersey), their team affiliation (one woman was wearing a Philadelphia Phillies (baseball) cap and a Chicago Blackhawks (hockey) jersey), the rules of the game (there are three periods of 20 minutes each, as opposed to basketball which as four periods of 15 minutes each), and the significance of the players activities on the rink before the game (a warm-up session which was followed by the Zambonis then by the actual game starting). I learned a lot of information just by asking questions, which is something I noted as a serious weakness of mine in my previous research outings.

All in all, it was an enlightening experience. I’ll be posting more details about it soon. Oh, and the Flyers won 3-2 with 4.2 seconds left in overtime (which I was told makes this a “good game” because it “makes for better drama,” and “there is nothing like it“).

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8 thoughts on “Post-Hockey Game Musings”

  1. Sounds like you had an enjoyable evening. Live in person hockey games are fun, it’s the excitement and the energy of the fans that adds to the “electricity” of the moment. (The game’s good too ;-)) I look forward for the complete experience. 🙂

      1. I’m a people watcher/observer, (creepy, I know) but that’s what I enjoy more. Experiencing something through reactions and emotions.
        Hope your team won, btw. 🙂

      2. They did. I was “rooting for” the Flyers.

        Though I should clarify: I have no idea if the Flyers are a remotely good team. I was simply conditioned from a young age to root for the Philly teams, because my part of New Jersey is Philly suburbs.

      3. Awesome on your team attaining victory.
        I know what you mean, just because I’m Canadian, I’m to favor the Canadian teams. But, I’m a rooter for the game. (Tho if I were to choose one fav team, it’d be the New York Rangers)

  2. You should try going to an Eagles game. Talk about PASSION! I know it doesn’t fall under our time frame, but from what you picked up on from the Flyers game, you would have such a fun time observing at an Eagles game 🙂 I’ve been to two and they have been tremendous fun. AND I have to say, Philly fans represented themselves well.

    1. I couldn’t say that I had “fun” at the game in the way most people do. I spent more time studying the people than I did watching what was happening in the game. It was, however, an enlightening experience.

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