When I moved to India in July 2004, I knew I was going there during the monsoon. It was sort of the way you were demonstrating that you were really going for work and not just on a jolly if you went during the monsoon. I’ve gone back and realised that although I have a post entitled Monsoon, I never quite described what the monsoon in Mumbai was like. I’ll do so now, as to my complete surprise, I’m living through very similar weather here in Texas right now.
People imagine monsoon to be constant never ending rain. It wasn’t like that in 2004 in India, it was more like constant never ending cloud cover. As a Brit, I should be used to that, but in the monsoon time, the clouds are a lot lower than over the UK and a lot darker, as well as the general air temperature being a lot warmer than I’d associated with cloud at home. It always felt like it a was about to pour with rain, but in reality there was no way of predicting when the power-shower would switch on or off. I had been correctly advised not to bother with an umbrella as it would be useless against the water falling from the sky. The weather in Houston is a bit like that at the moment, although not as warm as Mumbai had been.
The unfavourable weather has made my usual weekend pass-time of skydiving impossible, so I explored other activities including watching others at their sport. US sports teams all have names which don’t really explain their sport. Houston has teams called the Texans and the Rockets; the sports leagues they compete in is not directly obvious to me (it is American Football and Basketball respectively). When I first heard the name of the Ice Hockey team, I wasn’t sure whether they were the Houston Arrows or the Houston Aeros – the pronunciation of both those words in a Texan accent sounds the same to my British ears. As it happens, they are named after a chocolate bar with bubbles of air inside not high speed dart propelled by the release of tension on a string. And yes, you’ve guessed it, we went to see a game of Ice Hockey yesterday.
The Aeros play in the American Hockey League rather than the National Hockey League. I believe the AHL is a level below the NHL, but I haven’t investigated promotion mechanisms between the leagues in detail. The AHL website talks about who is in the playoffs and I’m assuming that’s with regard to promotion to the NHL. The AHL is split into two, the Western and Eastern conference and yes, you’ve guessed right, the Houston Aeros are in the Western conference. Texas is a bit confused at times as to whether it’s in the east or west of the US, often categorising itself as being on the ‘Third Coast’ ie that of the Gulf of Mexico rather than Atlantic or Pacific. I still think of it as being on the eastern side as you don’t need to go through the Panama Canal to get here by ship from Europe, but Western Conference it is for the Houston Aeros in the AHL. Having looked down the list of the other teams in the Western Conference, I get the sense that the AHL doesn’t have any teams west of Chicago and it includes teams from Canada as well as the USA.
The Houston Texans were also playing that day in a play-off game which was televised locally, so the hockey stadium was rather empty – lots of families with children. Considering the level of possible injury in a hockey game I was a little surprised until I remembered the number of children taken to rugby matches in the UK. And, despite the adage that you go to see a boxing fight and a hockey game broke out, there wasn’t much fighting on the ice. The only fight was at the end of the second third and it seemed that the penalties that were handed out where ‘served’ during the break between thirds so didn’t have an impact on the game play. I had done a little research on the rules of the game before we went as I had no idea how it worked and it wasn’t until I saw the constant swapping in and out of players did I understand that rule. Although how the substitutions are communicated between players remains a mystery to me.
Unfortunately the Aeros lost their game against the Charlotte Checkers (who are at the top of the standings in their conference) in an overtime sudden-death goal scored only with only 34 seconds to go in over time. However I thoroughly enjoyed the game – it is fast and clearly requires skill, strength and intelligence to play, if the opportunity arose again I would definitely go again!