At a ten o’clock on a Saturday night, Google Maps directed me onto a dark, tree-lined road and abruptly told me I’d arrived at my destination: a huge sportsplex utterly devoid of cars or any other signs of life. My roommates and I, clad in sweaters and thick socks and giddy with excitement, tumbled out of my car and walked up to the building, realized we were in the wrong place, walked around the building, and found ourselves at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland, and just in the nick of time. In our confused ramblings we’d wasted 15 minutes, and the game was set to start soon. We flashed our IDs at an attendant who stamped our hands and ushered us through glass doors, where we were hit by a wave of cold that signaled our arrival to our first ever UCF Knights Hockey game.
On that night, the Knights played the University of Tampa Spartans. I yelled, I cursed, I stomped my feet—but all with the giddy enthusiasm I’ve never managed to summon for any sport other than hockey. From our seats almost right behind the glass, you could hear the rasp on skate blades on ice, hear the hoarse calls for the puck between teammates, and see the clouds of air ballooning in front of each player’s face. Most of all, you could feel the cold of all that ice, being carved up beneath the players’ feet.
During that matchup, the Knights tied the UT Spartans at overtime, the first of their games up to that point that they hadn’t pulled out a clear win. Despite this, the Knights have had a great season thus far, and they’ve only just begun. In the eight games they’ve played to date, they’ve lost only one game and tied another. They’re a consistently cohesive and productive team, and their efforts make for almost frustratingly good games. During the game I attended, my roommates and I watched as the Knights rushed toward the net in possession of the puck and made not one, but three successive shots on goal while Tampa’s goalie frantically blocked them with whichever extremity was immediately available. The iceplex descended into madness when the goalie finally covered the puck, taking it out of play. I’m sure I uttered a choice word that would have been heard clear across the ice, had not everyone else in the crowd been screaming too. Though the Knights didn’t manage to capitalize on that opportunity, it was clear that the team was full of promise, and it reignited my passion for the sport the way Knights football never managed to.
Don’t get me wrong here—I’m sure football’s great. But the combination of my hesitance given our not-so-stellar pigskin record from last year, my strong dislike for the crush of crowds, and the fact that I have no intention of watching anything other than Netflix for three hours, all point to Knight Football being a resounding ‘no’ for me. But hey: if football’s your thing, good for you! All I offer you diehard football fans is yet another amazing UCF team to support. And if you’ve never found a team to support and find yourself nodding along to my aforementioned preferences, then have I got news for you:
UCF Knights Hockey is free with your UCF ID, the RDV Ice Den is less than thirty minutes from both UCF’s Main and Rosen Campuses, and you won’t be fighting a stadium full of people just to buy an overpriced pretzel when you’ve got the munchies.