Getting it

The hype, that is. About the ACC, about the Leafs, about what it is to sit four rows from the ice (!). KM’s ever lovely, ever charming aunt was able to get us tickets for my birthday this past Thursday (19 Jan) — Platinum Club tickets. I owe this wonderful woman more than just blogging flattery, although it’s a good start.

The first/last time I saw an NHL game, TW took KM and I to Buffalo, for the Bruins’ last regular season game (this against the Philadelphia Flyers). It was exciting, it was Fan Appreciation day, it was vertigo (good lord!). I wouldn’t change that experience for anything: no fights, great game, Buffalo won, securing itself a playoff spot. It’s hard to beat that, especially when you throw in a road trip with my hockey duo, complete with border hijinks.

This was an altogether different experience. First, no travel — except a short and pleasant subway stint. Second, exceptional staff. KM and I had never seen the Leafs before, so finding our seats was adorably clownish, but the ushers were super sweet. We had in-seat bar service, access to a large and lux bathroom just down from us, and FOURTH ROW SEATS! I saw Reimer, in his warm-up, shake the ice of his stick. Unbelievable.

Being that close makes everything clearer: the speed, the grace, the skill (thankfully, not the brutality). I kept trying to catch one of their eyes during warm-up to show off our sign (best. sign. ever.), but the only eyes I caught were those of the FoxSports reporter. He gamely motioned to see the sign and gave us the thumbs-up. (Pictures of said sign forthcoming.)

I almost lost our sign (concept–mine, design–KM), but for the aforementioned amazing staff.

Several observations. There are too many people with tickets to the Leafs who clearly care nothing about hockey. I can’t even being to describe how much this bothers me, but the two Frenchmen in our row (Paris French, methinks), were on their blackberries or gesturing elegantly at other things the whole game. People were wandering in up to 10 minutes into the first period, and leaving before halfway through the third.

In order to get your image on the in-house camera (and thus, on the big centre-ice screen), you need to be one of three things: 1. baby in hockey outfit. 2. crazy fan with blue hair and facepaint. 3. young, blonde, and gyrating/lifting top up. Despite our very best efforts to get our sign (not so much me, although I think KM would have loved to see us up there) captured by camera, we fit into none of these categories.

It is ridiculously hard to pay attention to the game when you’re guzzling Smirnoff Ice coolers. I feel as though the third period just did not get my full attention.

Finally, I miss the commentary. Hugely. It’s the one/only thing that would get me in front of a tv screen rather than at the ice every time.

In other hockey news:

I have got to figure out access. I’ve got a new web browser running, Opera, which may help with the live-streaming tv online (last night’s attempts to get the Leafs-Canadiens game through HNIC were hopeless). If there were a way to subscribe to four (and only four, in total) tv channels, I would: TSN, HBO, Food Network, Home and Garden. Well, five, including CBC. But that’s all I want or will have here. Ordering cable package is a big black hole of 50 channels, and that big black hole represents a huge time suck that I don’t always have the will-power to avoid. We’ve done well chez nous without tv of any kind, but the hockey is a must. Watching in pubs is amusing (if you can keep the server from switching to the jukebox at every commercial — seriously?!?!?!), but expensive. Watching at friends-who-own-large-tvs-and-have-cable is even better, but has to be spread out, lest you dry out the well. I’d be happy to pay the cable bill for those four channels (even call it $100/month — which, if I’m being honest, is about two pub nights [with dinner] for KM and I), but only those four.

The next step is to look into online packages through TSN or NHL, some of which, I’ve heard, have older games you can access as well. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Cable has got to shift its mandate.

In the “things that give me joy” category, I’ve had my first hockey article accepted at insidehockey.com; you can access the article here. They’ve been kind enough to set me up as a regular contributor, so I’m working on my next piece for publication.

I also just finished reading Gare Joyce’s Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm (the second half of that title has to be read in the uber dramatic voice, complete with ! at the end), which is an intriguing read. I’ve learned a ton about pre-professional hockey, from peewee to major junior in Canada — and a ton about Sid. Definitely worth the time if you have an interest in either, although Joyce does hit the sycophantic mode a bit too often for my liking. Love the player, sure — but the person/persona can only be so available for lavish praise.

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