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Growing up in New York, I went to plenty of hockey games. It was something that I looked forward to and it is something that I wanted to pass along to my children. While NHL hockey is two hours away in Tampa, Orlando is home of the Solar Bears, a minor league hockey team and Tampa Bay affiliate in the ECHL. It’s not quite the level of hockey that is on TV, but it is a great time.

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  • Tickets are cheap. You can pay over $40 to sit center ice, but for less than $15, you can sit in the corner or behind the goal and be close to the action. There are also open seats – games rarely sell out – and you can move to a better section during the game. For the money, the sightlines are great. You can sit about 10 rows from the ice for under $20.
  • It’s a great way to introduce kids to hockey. Because you can sit so close, it’s more exciting and easier to follow. We could see the puck going into the net a lot more easily (especially because we were sitting right on the goal line).
  • Free food and discounts. The Solar Bears have several promotional partners so when they win, score first, have more than 35 shots on goal, or score more than 3 goals in a game, there are great deals. Just keep in mind that all of these deals have a short expiration date (two days at the most). You can go to a game in the afternoon and get a good deal on pizza for dinner and breakfast the next morning.
  • You can see future NHL stars and say “I knew him when…”. Not everyone on the ice is going to make it on the Lightning roster, but the Solar Bears have put several players in the NHL in their short history (the team only started play in 2012). Getting autographs now is going to be a lot easier than when they end up in Tampa and it will be a lot more exciting for your kids when they do make it.
  • Shades the Bear! He’s a white bear wearing sunglasses. I’m not saying that meeting him is better than meeting Mickey, but … meeting him is definitely better than meeting Mickey.

So if you’re ready to go (and let’s be realistic, who isn’t), here are a few tips.

  • The Solar Bears come out from in front of Section 117 and they come out of a large inflatable bear. If you are sitting in that section, your view of the entrance may be limited.
  • The Solar Bears shoot twice towards Section 101.
  • Not all concessions are open. The ones that are mostly serve meals but there is also nachos and popcorn.
  • Go up to the glass during warm-ups and you may be able to get a puck before the game. When we went, every kid got one.
  • There are some good deals on souvenirs and they had a t-shirt special as well. We got a foam paw for $10.
  • Move to the center for the t-shirt tosses. Because of the netting behind the goals, you are a lot more likely to get a free shirt if you are closer to center ice.

Hockey is the coolest game on ice and the Solar Bears are a great way to watch it. Whether you’re a new fan or you want to share your love of the game with your children, this is a great way to watch the game.