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Mystery solved: ad breaks in pro hockey

I recently solved one of life’s great mysteries. How does TV slip in commercials during an ice hockey game?
First of all, you have to understand that ice hockey is a constant-movement, constant-action sport. It stops only when a whistle blows for a penalty, an offsides call or a fight. Gawd forbid if they took a TV commercial break during a fight. Many fans only go for the fights. If a hockey game breaks out, so be it.
Second, hockey players switch places on the ice on the fly. As one line of players tires and comes off, another line comes out. It is a highly coordinated “fire drill,” and there is no slowing down in the action.
So how in the world can they have TV commercials while the game is still under way?
I found out recently when my oldest son, Eric, invited me to a Minnesota Wild game in downtown St. Paul. His friend works at U.S. Bank and had tickets for the bank’s suite.
I’m retired, so why not? The last time I saw a professional hockey game was in 1973 at the old Met Center in Bloomington. Then the Minnesota team was called the North Stars.
I mentioned that to Eric, and he said: “You don’t get out much, do you?”
Umm, not much I guess.
As we got to the Xcel Center and were about to walk into the arena, I spotted someone I knew. With about 19,000 Wild fans pouring into the arena, here was a guy I recognized … from Iowa! What are the odds?
“What the (blank) are you doing here?” we said about the same time. It was my sister-in-law’s son. He is a regional manager for Pizza Ranch and was in the region working.
“So this is what you call working?” I asked him.
I was shocked to see him. I knew he was a Green Bay Packer fan (another mystery), but I never thought he liked hockey. He doesn’t. This was his first hockey game.
I learned something from my earlier experience at the Vikings stadium. Don’t buy anything. The $5.50 bottle of water is still freshly etched into my mind. Anyway, the suite had free food and beverages. I can get used to that!
The Wild fans are just as crazy as Vikings fans. In the arena, there was a lot of noise, a lot of flashing lights and electronic displays and a lot of unusual people.
Hockey fans are a bit strange, anyway, but having the game on Halloween night added to the entertainment. There was one guy getting on the elevator dressed up as a banana. Yup. I looked at him and his girlfriend (wife) and without saying a word understood she made him do it. My sympathy, fella.
There were the two M&Ms in the deck below us dancing to all the tunes during the many TV breaks. With as many adult beverages they were consuming, I predicted they couldn’t keep it up. I was right. They disappeared before the third period began. I think they melted.
But I digress. Back to the TV commercials.
It seems professional hockey sold their souls like all other professional sports: advertising dollars pay the bills. Play stopped every so often so the team owners could make more money. It stopped after each penalty, or offsides whistle or just in the middle of a period to squeeze in a commercial. So much for game momentum.
During that 21⁄2-minute break, a small army of pretty ice skaters, with long-handled scrapers, quickly cleaned the ice surface. They skated with great precision and promptly left the ice at one end of the rink when done. Then the game proceeded.
In my days along the Canadian border we called them “rink rats.” The Wild girls were a lot prettier than those rough, delinquent-looking guys.
Now with one mystery solved, I began wondering about NASCAR races. Maybe TV bigwigs can force all the cars to come to a screeching halt every few laps to get a TV commercial in. That might induce a few more crashes. After all, many NASCAR fans come to see some crashes, and are disappointed when a race breaks out.
Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014.