A Great Night Out– No Bull. Sorry. Last Pun, I promise.

Being a passionate fan of the National Hockey League can often feel like being in an abusive relationship. Gary Bettman and the NHLPA know damn well that whenever they end their foolish lockout that the fans will be back. We always come back.

As puck season approaches, true hockey loyalists feel that familiar tug on their heartstrings. The void that only pucks of vulcanized rubber and grown men with nicknames like “Buster” and “Pickles” can fill. But thanks to Pat Curcio and the San Francisco Bulls, professional men’s ice hockey has returned to the Bay Area.

President. General Manager. Owner. Head Coach. (Usher? Bathroom attendant?) Mr. Curcio is obviously a man of many hats and passionate about this fledgling franchise. Will the Bulls be able to win over Sharks fans, and sports fans in general, in a market already rife with so many choices available for one’s sporting dollar?

The tentative answer is a resounding yes. ECHL hockey is two notches below the level of the NHL (think AA baseball) but the action is still fast and furious. From the first drop of the puck, both teams competed hard and there was plenty of action. The Bulls dropped the game 4-3 to the Bakersfield Condors (a team name so stupid I wince just typing it) but the crowd was cheering and into the game from start to finish.

The Bulls and Condors about to face off in the offensive zone. Photo courtesy of Sara Razavi, and by courtesy I mean I stole it off her Facebook wall.

The mascot Rawhide was a huge hit with both kids and adults. The much maligned idea (in the uber-progressive land of Northern California anyway) of ice girls, or in this case the Cow Belles, was adorable. Having spent years watching a portly middle-aged man with a thick mustache and mop of curly fry hair clean up the ice at San Jose Arena, seeing cute girls in perfectly appropriate attire performing the task quicker and more efficiently was a welcome change of pace. $14.25 will get you in the building and fairly premium seating is available for $26.

It was a near-perfect night out with friends. My father is going through hockey withdrawl himself, and during the second intermission I purchased us a pair of tickets to attend Saturday’s contest. I highly encourage you to do the same, if for no other reason than the Bulls will be on the road until mid-November thanks to the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock show taking over the Cow Palace for the next few weeks. HP Pavilion gets Lady Gaga, the Cow Palace gets teenage boys in bolo ties breeding goats. Still a few differences between the minors and “The Show”.

Though security rebuffed my attempts at interacting with the team’s cheerleaders the Cow Belles, I was able to get a picture with the Bulls’ mascot Rawhide. Not only that, he didn’t make nearly the fuss about my hand on his ass that the girls did.