This was originally written for the Dartmouth men's hockey program
used for this past weekend's games against Yale and Brown at Thompson Arena.
By Pat Salvas
You've just walked through the front doors, passed by the ticket office and taken in the complete view of Thompson Arena. Presumably you've picked up this program from one of the boxes along the railings in the west end of the building and are now seated, waiting for tonight's contest to begin.
Soon you will hear the warm-up selection of sophomore Tyler Sikura playing through the speakers overhead followed by in-house music while the team returns to the locker room and the Zamboni resurfaces the ice in preparation.
The referees and linesmen will return first. A minute later, to the building crescendo of the familiar "Where the Streets have No Name" by U2, the Dartmouth men's hockey team will be led on to the ice by a banner bearing the iconic 'D' emblem of the Big Green. Tonight's opponent follows 10 seconds later.
The voice of public address announcer John Cameron will welcome you to Thompson Arena and provide both teams' starters and introduce our national anthem.
Six players in Green and White will line up opposite a team from the New York Capital District and tonight's official will drop the puck.
All that you know. You've seen it before. It's guaranteed to happen. It's what happens before getting to the arena and the things you don't see that make tonight's game possible.
But every game day starts much earlier than the 6 p.m. opening of the doors to fans. Dartmouth takes to the ice for a morning skate before noon as a means to have players get their legs moving. It's much like a regular practice with fine-tuning for the upcoming opponent, but shorter and on a less physically-taxing level.
Head coach Bob Gaudet and his staff go over face offs, the finer nuances of the power play and things they've implemented into the week's planning one final time before the game.
Once the coaches are off the ice, players are free to continue skating themselves, working on certain skills or honing their shootout techniques against teammates.
When they finally are off and back in the locker room, equipment manager Brian Corcoran wheels in a cart for practice jerseys, socks and other clothes to make their way to the laundry. Some members of the team will stretch, others will leave and a few will make their way into the adjacent room to see head athletic trainer Jeff Frechette, currently in his 30th season with the men's hockey team.
With the building seemingly empty, the ice will once again be resurfaced, just one of a handful of times the machine will scrape away the top layer and lay down a fresh coating of hot water.
Support staff start making their way back into the building around 3 p.m. on a normal game day. The press box will be restocked with game notes and line charts for the night's contest, making coverage of the game easier for media members.
The Dartmouth marketing staff led by Stephanie Bambury will meet and do one final sweep of Thompson to insure that events planned for tonight will go off without a hiccup.
Perhaps the most important aspect of preparation for fans would be the Dartmouth Dining Services' set up of concession stands, a job that seemingly takes longer than any other as it readies for the throngs of Big Green supporters through the front doors.
Players return to Thompson dressed in suits around 4 p.m. after having enjoyed a pre-game meal at EBA's in town. By this time, Corcoran has laid out that night's attire, hanging the white jerseys you see tonight in each dressing player's stall. At the foot of the lockers, players find their skates sharpened to the exact specifications they request, something Corcoran has already memorized this season.
Wearing grey sweat suits, the entire team heads to the concourse level roughly an hour and a half before puck drop to play soccer, tape sticks and meet with The Holekamp Family Strength and Conditioning Coach Bob Miller for a regular pregame routine of stretching and exercises to get ready.
Tonight's opponent is doing the same at this point in the area behind the press box.
Dartmouth players might mill around the concourse for a bit before heading down to the locker room to dress.
Frechette will take care of some last-minute business by stretching players. If it's a Saturday night, you can bet that a college football game will be playing in the background as he follows the action of seemingly two different teams every week.
The 5 o'clock hour is a period of fine-tuning as Corcoran will touch up skates one last time or cut a new stick to just the right length for a player making a late request of a man in his 10th year with the program.
With roughly 45 minutes on the scoreboard counting down to game time, Gaudet emerges from his office across from the locker room, followed closely by associate head coach Dave Peters and assistant coach John Rose.
The three go over the gameplan one more time, illustrating their wants on the whiteboard at one end of the room before leaving minutes after coming in. Gaudet makes his way to the ice's entrance while his team anxiously lines up according to their jersey number.
Tonight's starting goaltender walks alone down the hallway, stopping in front of the "Our House" sign that hangs as a reminder to the current team that Thompson Arena should not be a place teams go to lightly. It is dinged and nicked by years of Big Green players tapping just before leaving the dark lower level of the arena.
Gaudet announces how much time remains until the clock finally hits 38:00, sending 18 skaters and three goalies into a sort-of sprint up a small ramp and onto the ice.
Now you see them.