BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – The way we view hockey games isn’t all that dissimilar from the way we view life. It’s not as much about our vantage points as it is about how we look at things.
It really comes down to perspective, demeanor and personal preferences.
There are almost 11,000 seats in Hershey’s Giant Center and each affords its viewer a unique look at the Hershey Bears’ brand of AHL hockey. And because there’s really no bad seat in the house, those views are only good, better and best.
“You know there’s probably only one bad seat in the house,” said Bill Werner, a resident of Lebanon who’s had season tickets in section 123 for the past four seasons, “and that’s the seat right next to the other team’s goalie. He’s usually standing up, so if you’re sitting there it’s tough to see. You end up looking at the scoreboard all game and your neck gets to hurting.”
“If I could go anywhere else, I’d go to the front row behind the Bears’ bench,” said Ralph Mase, a Lebanon resident who owns season tickets in section 108. “You’re right in the action and you get to hear what the coach is saying, and the guys yelling. You can get into it a little more.”
Lebanon County residents comprise a good portion of Hershey Bears’ season-ticket holders at Giant Center. And what determines where local residents sit seems to be how close they want to be to the action – or how much they want to be a part of it.
“We were down below years before,” explained Dan Trimble, a graduate of Annville-Cleona High School who has set up shop in Section 119. “But we kind of sat here by accident one time and the people in this section are awesome. We definitely wanted to stay at center ice. That was important. And it’s easy in and easy out, so you can beat the crowd at the end of games. Behind the Bears’ bench, being on the blue line, you can’t beat these seats.”
“We used to like the lower seats because you felt close to the action,” said Werner. “If we didn’t sit here, we’d probably go over to where the benches are. Or you could sit up high and watch the play develop.”
Action in and around the net also seems to be a motivating factor. Joyce Mazur and Mary Shaak are two Lebanon residents who favor the east end of Giant Center.
“I like it here because the Bears shoot twice here,” said Shaak, who’s been a Bears’ season-ticket holder for 64 years. “In the old arena (Hersheypark), I sat in Section 17 where the Bears shot twice. Maybe that’s why I sit here. I don’t know.
“A girl I worked with got me to go to Bears’ games,” Shaak added. “I thought I’d stop, but I just kept going. I still like the old arena better. There were a lot of memories there.”
“Years ago, I was down in Row F and I was tired of going up and down the steps,” said Mazur. “I can see everything here (Section 125). The reason I picked this one is because of the nets (behind the goal). I really wouldn’t consider going anywhere else. I like this seat.”
Then there are those who enjoy exercising their necks. Those fans sit as close to center ice as possible so they don’t miss any of the back-and-forth action.
“It’s a great view right in the middle,” said Lebanon resident Jeff Marks, a season-ticket holder in Section 108. “It’s close to the beer. But anything in the lower section is good.”
“We like the club-box section,” said Mase. “We usually end up standing more than we sit. But the neatest thing about this place is that there’s not a bad seat in the house.”
Hershey offers four different season-ticket plans – a full 38-game plan, a 22-game plan, a 12-game plan and a ten-game flex plan. Plans range in price from $160 per seat to $600 per seat, depending upon the length and the stadium’s level, either 100 or 200.
“I always want to sit at the end where the Bears shoot twice,” said Werner. “I’ve been coming up here for years. I’ve been coming to games since the (19)80s. And it’s convenient, so we can stand. It’s right near the concession stands, the bathrooms and the exits. But the main thing is standing because that’s what I like to do when I’m watching the game.”
So where’s the best seat at Giant Center? The one you’re sitting in.