Glacier Ice Rink, home of the Missoula Maulers hockey team, is an intimate, bare-bones space that amplifies like nowhere else in town the live experience of watching sports. The Maulers players are mostly kids ranging from 16 to 20 years old who come from as far away as Sweden, Saskatchewan and California to play in an amateur league that offers them a blueline slapshot’s chance of going on to a collegiate or professional career. The stakes are at once very low and very high, and the atmosphere inside GIR is at once relaxed and charged.
This is no more true than in the corner stands farthest from GIR’s main entrance, where the cheap seats are situated. There, in metal bleachers like what you might find on the sideline of a high school football field, the crowd is a potent mix of diehard Maulers fans and the diehard fans of whatever team is visiting. It’s where you can bang on the glass, spill your beer, trash-talk the opposing team’s goalie and have the father of the opposing team’s goalie heckle you back. (Sorry again, Mr. Wackerley.)