Stars fall from the heavens. Lasers slice the air like swords. A pulsating beat shakes the entire ground while the smoke masks the potential doom.
And those are just the pre-game introductions. The Lincoln IceBox has gained a reputation as one of the more intimidating yet awe-inspiring places to play in the entire United States Hockey League over the last decade.
No arena saw more fans go through its turnstiles than the IceBox, which had the league’s highest attendance with 117,879 fans this year. Nearly 4,000 fans show up to every game adding to the Ice Box’s image as potentially the most intimidating arena in the USHL.
Attempting to conquer the IceBox is something few have done but the Fargo Force will look to do tonight when it opens its best of five series against the Lincoln Stars.
“At the beginning of the game you get a lot of ‘boos’ when you get on the ice,” said Force forward Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), about playing at the Ice Box. “It’s not a comforting place to play.”
Brodzinski, who is in his second season in the league, said compared to Scheels Arena, the spacious home of the Force, the IceBox is a smaller place to play putting the fans right on top of the ice.
He said the closer, more intimate feel really allows Lincoln’s fans to get more into the game than the average arena in the USHL.
If anyone would know, it’d be Tim Sattler. Sattler is a longtime Stars fan who is the author of “Black and Blue”, a Stars fan blog which is one of the more consumed fan sites among USHL clubs.
“I’ve been to hundreds of games at the IceBox, and the pre-game introductions/light-show never gets old,” Sattler said. “To this day it still gives me the chills. It has changed a bit over the years, but it still gets the fans off their feet. If you talk to any of the players who have suited up for the Stars over the years, many will say that the atmosphere at the IceBox on gameday is second to none. These same kids went on to play college and pro hockey, and they still think the atmosphere is tops.”
Like Sattler said, there have been changes over the years but here’s what makes fans such as Sattler appreciative of the pre-game introductions.
The opposing team is usually ushered out to a song you would hear at a ‘Babies R Us’, something soft and melodic. It is a move the Force have used for its pre-game introductions.
Once that is over the opening 30 seconds to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is played with a mix of loud clapping setting the soundtrack accompanied with all sorts of graphics on the ice such as a skull. In previous years, Marilyn Manson’s ‘The Beautiful People’ is then played as the Stars’ logo, a star with a hockey stick for one of its ends, is lowered near the ice.
And it is at that point where players come through smoke as they are announced onto the ice.
“For some players, it definitely can be a pressure cooker,” Sattler said. “It’s a smaller building, but the Stars can pack 4,000+ in. The low ceilings amplify the crowd. Unlike in Waterloo or Cedar Rapids where they need cowbells to make noise, we do it the old fashioned way – we get rowdy and yell. A lot.”