Love on ice during Illini hockey’s final home game

By Sean Neumann

For two Illini hockey fans, Saturday night’s 6-3 win over Indiana won’t be the first thing to come to mind when remembering the date Feb. 15, 2014. It will be their engagement.

Kara Miller and Craig Moffett, of Arthur, Ill., walked onto the Big Pond in front of 1,078 fans to participate in WPGU’s Shoot the Puck challenge — a regular occurrence during the first intermission of Illini home games.

Miller had outscored her boyfriend 1-0 after their final shots were taken and said she was surprised when she turned around to see zero pucks in the back of Moffett’s net. But what she turned around to see next was one of the biggest surprises of her life.

Down on one knee, Moffett held up an engagement ring and asked her the question to the soundtrack of over 1,000 cheering fans. Her answer was yes.

It seemed strange to some fans that Moffett would choose an Illini hockey game as the place to propose, but the junior high social studies teacher said the Big Pond held special significance to their relationship’s history.

Four years ago, the couple had their first date on the Big Pond — a double-date skate with Miller’s brother Mike and his then-girlfriend. A short while later, the two returned to the arena for an Illini hockey game on Valentine’s Day. Little did they know their relationship would take the next step on the very same ice, a little over four years later.

“I’m still in shock,” said Miller, a second grade teacher at Lovington grade school. She had spent most of the game’s second period calling family, telling them the good news.

“I talked to everybody beforehand to give them a heads up. ‘It’s about time!’ I got that one a lot,” Moffett said with a smile. “I’m a procrastinator, so I held out as long as I could.”

Moffett is the head coach of the Arthur-Lovington girls’ varsity basketball team. Two days prior to the proposal, his team lost its regional championship game in double-overtime to Sullivan high school,84-77. Moffett lost his voice during the close contest, but managed to find enough strength to pop the question Saturday night in front of the biggest Illini home crowd of the season.

“I haven’t really slept much since then,” Moffett said. “I’ve been getting ready for this, but I’m going to sleep good tonight.”

Illini head coach Nick Fabbrini said the news of the on-ice engagement quickly traveled to the locker room, where players were getting ready to come back out on the ice for the second period. 

“Stuff like that just adds to the experience,” Fabbrini said after the game. “It just adds to the mystique. This place has been around a long time, and there’s been a lot of cool stuff that’s happened here, from our games and championships being won here to Bonnie Blair training for four Olympics here. Illini hockey games are about great experiences, and stuff like that makes it just that much more special.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and @Neumannthehuman.