As a rule, I don’t enjoy watching sports, but professional hockey is in a league of its own. If baseball’s too slow-paced and football, too complex, hockey is the perfect balance. It’s rapid-fire action combined with fascinating plays — that’s just what the Cottonmouths bring to Columbus.
The Snakes are currently in their 15th season, which lasts through March 26. If you haven’t been to see them at the Civic Center, you need to go.
There is nothing like a home game: the adrenaline, the 2,000 plus screaming fans, the obvious bias of everyone in the room toward the local — and better — team.
The enthusiasm is contagious. You find yourself chanting “let’s go, Snakes,” jumping from your seat as they score and wanting to high-five their mascot, Boomer.
The Cottonmouths are part of the Southern Professional Hockey League. As a minor league team, they recruit their own players
So what will you see if you go to a game? Part of the Southern Professional Hockey League, the Cottonmouths are made up of 18 team members hailing from well above the Mason-Dixon line — 15 are Canadian.
They whiz across the ice at speeds upwards of 20 mph with one mission: to make a goal. And the process is like a live-action pinball machine.
Surprisingly, part of what makes seeing the Cottonmouths unlike any other entertainment venue in Columbus has nothing to do with watching the puck fly through the air. It’s everything else designed to delight even the shortest attention span. There’s the Kiss Cam, the Chuck-a-Puck, the blimp that drops freebies on clamoring crowds — audience participation at its best.
During intermission, there’s often a special show, such as the dog races held during their last two home games Jan. 7 and 8. With breaks between each of the three periods, there’s enough time to leave the Snake Pit to grab a bite to eat from the concessions to make the experience complete.
And of course, there are the fights. It’s the only place where pushing and shoving seem to fit in with good sportsmanship. But it’s all in fun and ultimately, part of the atmosphere and energy that is hockey. And whether they win or lose, you’re guaranteed a good time.
Catch the Cottonmouths next home game Jan. 21 or check out the schedule above to find out when they’re playing.
Tickets are available in four sections: upper, lower, ice level and rinkside. The closer seats let you feel like you’re in the middle of the action while the ones higher up can be had at bargain prices — $12 per person or $9 for active-duty military.
For team stats, merchandise, bios and more, visit www.cottonmouths.com.
Boom Boom’s box
Jerome “Boom Boom” Bechard is the head coach and general manager of the Columbus Cottonmouths and the only person who’s been with the Snakes every year since the beginning in 1996. A player for seven years, Bechard became head coach for the 2004-05 season — a memorable one for the Cottonmouths since it marked their second hockey championship. The first was in ’97-’98.
“When you retire from playing, more times than not you don’t get the opportunity to be involved in the game you’ve been playing your whole life,” he said. “Probably what I enjoy most is preparing these guys to go into a game with a game plan and seeing the accomplishment of them winning that game or getting close.”
Even though it’s always great to win, Bechard said he gets more out of seeing his players grow and learn as professionals.
Another source of inspiration is the audience itself. “The fans are great,” Bechard said. “When they get going, we get going, and when we get going, they get going even more.”
The military appreciation nights, where Soldiers come out on the ice to hold a giant American flag for the national anthem, is another fan favorite, he said, and a small way to say thanks to individuals who “put their lives on the line for us to live.”
And what about his nickname? Bechard said he received that back in his days as a “rough and tumble” hockey player.
“I answer to ‘Boom Boom’ more than I do ‘Jerome,’” he said. “Boom Boom” hopes to bring up the seasons record of 13 wins to 16 losses. “If we keep playing the way we have been, we’ll be in playoffs,” he said, and regarding a championship — “we have what it takes; it’s just a matter of it all coming together at the right time.”
*Fayetteville vs. Columbus 7:30 p.m. Friday *Louisiana vs. Columbus 7:30 p.m. Saturday *Augusta vs. Columbus 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Columbus vs. Huntsville 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 Columbus vs. Huntsville 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 Columbus vs. Knoxville 7:35 p.m. Feb. 3 Columbus vs. Augusta 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 Columbus vs. Fayetteville 7:35 p.m. Feb. 5 *Knoxville vs. Columbus 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 *Pensacola vs. Columbus 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 *All home games are at the Columbus Civic Center.