Who says “Austin Ain’t no Hockey Town?”

On Friday evening, I got a message via Twitter that said, “Are you still at Third Base? What’s my chances of watching my Sharks eat some Yotes?” If this sounds foreign to you, you are not alone. My friend was asking if there was a chance he could watch his hometown San Jose Sharks take on the Phoenix Coyotes in a game of hockey that would determine whether the Coyotes clinched a playoff spot this year. I responded that although I was not at the bar, he should ask them to put the game on for him. About an hour later I received this message, “You win. My games on with sound, the bartender’s cute/nice, drinks are good. Should have been here all along.” I had to resist the urge to say, “I told you so!”

With the Stanley Cup playoffs starting on Wednesday, hockey fans will likely be hard-pressed to find Austin-area bars that offer NHL Center Ice, Versus and the NHL Network. With the Dallas Stars just narrowly missing the playoffs this season, it will be even more difficult to find a place to watch your team, whether it is the Vancouver Canucks or the Buffalo Sabres. Throw in the NBA playoffs and you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to watching hockey. However, you get a group of your hockey-loving friends together, meet up at Third Base and cheer to your heart’s desire. I would also recommend wearing your favorite team’s sweater – easier for other hockey fans to find you that way! I spent the entire first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season at the downtown Third Base bar with 3-4 friends watching every game, as the President’s Cup winning Washington Capitals completely blew it against the Montreal Canadiens. During the final series? Downtown’s game room was split between Flyers and Blackhawks fans.

Hockey fans from all over have found a safe haven at Austin-area Third Base locations. Although they may not have your game on when you arrive, if you call ahead or just ask them when you come in the door, the staff is happy to accommodate your wishes. I can not tell you how many times this season we had random fans from Toronto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and even Anaheim come in to catch a game at the bar. There is a local Dallas Stars fan group that even organized a formal watch party at the downtown location and raised a couple hundred dollars for the Dallas Stars Foundation earlier this year.

In case you were not aware, Austin also has it’s own hockey team. These guys are not the Ice Bats of old. The team plays at the Cedar Park Center and is a part of the American Hockey League, just one step below the NHL. The Texas Stars, Dallas’ AHL affiliate are getting ready to make their second Calder Cup run this week. Last year’s Cinderella story, the unlikely first-year team from Texas hung the Western Conference Champions banner from their rafters and battled their way all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. Will this year’s team be able to repeat?

As the playoffs kick off this week, we hope you will join us for some hard-hitting, fast-skating hockey action. If you are a hockey fan, post here and let us know who you are cheering for in the race for Stanley!