Monday, May 01, 2017

Brad & Brodie's Excellent Hockey Adventure

So, my second last post spoke of a great hockey adventure in the future tense, and my last post hinted that it didn’t quite start as expected, but then I left it hanging – sorry!  This time of year just doesn’t lend itself to my sitting at a computer as much in my spare time.  Go Oilers!

March 22
Well, to pick up the story I left hanging, we’d made it to the Toronto airport, and I’d learned that car rental companies frown on expired drivers’ licenses.  So, we were standing at the car rental counter fairly late at night with no car.  It was clear that I wouldn’t be able to solve the problem there that night, so we thought we’d head to the hotel.  I’d known we were getting in late, so I’d had the forethought to book a hotel near the airport.  I assumed there’d be a shuttle, so we headed to the shuttle pick-up area.  That’s when I learned that there were three Hilton Garden Inns near the airport, two of which had shuttles.  Guess which one we were at?  OK, a ten minute cab ride and $45 later, we got to the hotel.  Of course, through all of this, we hadn’t had supper, so that was our next project.  Well, by this time room service and nearby restaurants were all closed.  There was a McDonald’s across the street, but at this time of night it was drive-through only.  Fortunately, after a few tries, we were able to get in touch with a pizza joint that would still deliver to us.  Eventually, around 3 AM we got to bed.

March 23
I got up at 8:00 AM to start working out the logistics for the rest of the trip, letting Brodie try to catch up on a little more sleep.  We had tickets to a game in Ottawa that evening, so getting to Ottawa was our first priority.  We had an empty day between Ottawa and Montreal that would hopefully give us opportunity to resolve the issues.  With Sue looking into things in Alberta, we were able to determine that there was no option for a temporary license in Ontario, and that license renewal in Alberta had to be done in person.  In keeping with our first priority of getting to the Ottawa game, I figured out that if Brodie and I left our hotel by 11 AM-ish, we should be able to make a 1:20 PM train that would get us to Ottawa in time.  That would consist of a bus ride to the subway, and then the subway to the train.  That was about all I had time to figure out before getting Brodie up and heading for the bus.  Fortunately, the bus stop was just across the street.  We headed downstairs and out the door.

The first thing we saw upon exiting the hotel was a television news crew.  The next thing we saw was miles of yellow police tape.  It turns out there had been a shooting involving vehicles at the intersection in front of our hotel.  I guess the sound proofing in the hotel was very good, because we hadn’t heard a thing (gun shots, sirens, etc.).  OK, fine, so we can’t cross the street as planned – there must be another solution.  I went back and asked the guy at the front desk in the hotel.  Sure, there’s another way:  a 20-minute walk to another bus stop.  We started heading down the road, knowing that the extra time put our plan in jeopardy.  However, given that the cab ride from the airport to the hotel had been $45, I assumed it would be cheaper to buy a car than take a cab all the way to Union Station.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, but we didn’t get far until the guy from the front desk came running after us and offered us a ride to the bus stop.  Yep, he gave us a ride in his personal vehicle, so a great review for that hotel/employee!  Next, of course, we ran into one of the other problems caused by the shutdown of the artery in front of the hotel:  gridlock.  We inched through traffic for a while, eventually got close enough to see the stop, and walked the rest of the way.  Good news:  the bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for another eleven minutes.  We waited patiently, watching the electronic countdown to our bus, and noting that there were no busses of any kind going in any direction.  The sign continued to count down the time to our expected bus:  11 minutes, 5 minutes, 0 minutes, 23 minutes.  OK, next plan.

In Calgary, Uber has been in a fight with our city council, but they’re running in Toronto.  Let’s give that a try.  I created an Uber account and found that we could get picked up quite quickly.  Unfortunately, without knowing it, I’d picked some kind of premium Uber plan, so it seemed quite expensive.  Still, hopefully we’d get to the subway.  Well, once the driver mentioned I’d asked for a premium plan, I had to ask:  how much to Union Station on the cheap plan?  Great news:  he’d get us all the way there for $45.  Given that our subway ride was already in jeopardy, we went for it.  Sure enough, he got us to Union Station by about 1:05 – fifteen minutes to get our ticket and get on the train.  Despite all the construction in Union Station, we were able to find the appropriate ticket office and train platform and we made the train!

Toronto's Union Station

As we were walking to the train, I noticed that the train had free Wi-Fi.  That was good news, because I had a lot of trip planning to do.  So, how could we get around without a car?  Well, maybe train/bus/plane would work.  The more I thought that through, given all of the tight connections, etc., and the fact that we’d packed expecting to have a vehicle (i.e. two large bags), that just didn’t seem practical.  It might be reasonable to take a train between cities, but then either hauling our bags with us to the arenas or getting rides from the train to the hotel, to the arena, to food, back to the hotel, etc., etc., it just seemed both impractical and cost prohibitive.  The longer I thought, the more obvious it became to me that we needed a car!  OK, what does an unplanned trip back and forth to Calgary look like?  It meant changes to our Ottawa hotel plans, transportation back and forth to the Ottawa arena, redoing the car rental, and booking a last-minute, extremely over-priced flight.  No problem – sure it would be costly, but I had a few hours on the train to work it out.  That’s when I learned just how spoiled I’d become with high-speed internet!  I guess you get what you pay for.  Sadly, my phone’s reception was spotty, so I was stuck with what felt like dial-up internet.  It’s AMAZING how frustrating it is to try to make all those plans on such a slow connection.  I spent the entire 4+ hour trip making travel plans.  We’d planned on meeting one of my nephews (Brodie’s cousin) in Kingston for lunch, but sadly our travel plan changes meant we could only wave as we passed by.

When it came to last-minute flights, I was very happy West Jet existed.  They were substantially cheaper than Air Canada for a last-minute flight, and the times worked out.  I’d leave Ottawa at 6:00 AM, arrive in Calgary around 8:00 AM, leave Calgary around 6:00 PM, and get back to Ottawa around 12:30 AM.  Yeah, it would make for a long day, but maybe I’d catch a bit of sleep on the plane.  The flight was the same price if I booked through West Jet directly or went through Expedia.  I decided to go through Expedia because I’d get their points in addition to the ones West Jet would give me.  After booking the flight, I noticed the “add a car” option.  Absent-mindedly (forgetting that the fact that I was making the trip was due to my inability to rent a car) I thought perhaps I could let Sue sleep a little longer.  I clicked on the button and, for $30, I could rent a car for the day.  Just before I remembered I couldn’t rent a car anyway, I noticed that by adding a $30 car rental, the cost of the “package” (flight plus car rental) went down by over $300!?!  Well, that’s a valuable travel tip – look into it if you ever need to make a last-minute flight!

OK, back to focusing on Ottawa.  The arena in Ottawa is WAY out of town.  Public transit would take just over an hour if everything went right, and we’d be hauling our bags with us.  Fortunately, we have some very good friends in Ottawa, and when Sue described our predicament, she offered to pick us up and drive us to the arena.  That worked out really well, because she could also drive by the hotel so that we could drop our bags off.  Well, it would have worked out if we could find our hotel!  The GPS took us to a construction site.  We eventually got them on the phone and found out our “hotel” was actually a college residence, which we were then able to locate.  As we were driving from the station to the hotel, and back to the freeway, we learned there’d been a traffic disruption (accident and debris), and the freeway was at a stand-still.  Well, there are advantages to riding with a local.  She knew an excellent back road route, and she managed to get us there in plenty of time for the puck drop.  Thank-you Julene!!!

Hockey highlights in Ottawa:
  • We had FANTASTIC seats – close enough to recognize the players by their faces even without seeing jersey numbers!
  • The anthem was sung by a very young-looking kid (10, maybe) with amazing pipes!
  • It was an absolute delight to watch Crosby play, even though he didn’t have his greatest game.
  • The game, especially the first period, was quite physical, with lots of good hits.
  • The “fiddle along” contest, with the big screen showing people with super-imposed violins playing along to a live fiddler, was entertaining.
  • T-shirt guns, by now, are common-place, but Ottawa had a t-shirt MACHINE gun!!!  (We saw more on our trip, but I think this was a first.)
  • The snow clearing crew was all guys, and they used a very different pattern from Calgary.
  • The game went into overtime and then into a shoot-out.  Ottawa’s goalie (Anderson) made a SICK save in OT.
  • All three goals were scored from basically the same spot.
  • At one point the crowd was booing Crosby, and a guy behind me piped up with “don’t boo him – he’s a great player”.  I agree!
  • Traffic patterns around the Ottawa arena are RIDICULOUS (even mentioned by Don Cherry and Ron Maclean on “Hockey Night In Canada” this week).  The bus, if/when we could catch it, would take an hour and a half.  We tried to take Uber back from the game, but it took our driver nearly an hour just to get TO us from just outside the arena traffic (i.e. he was very close when he started)!
Anyway, we finally got to bed at 2:00 AM, and at 4:00 AM I was hailing Uber for a ride to the airport.
March 24
Yes, I got an Uber ride at 4:00 AM and got to the airport in plenty of time for my 6:00 AM flight.  By the time the flight left, the weather in Ottawa had turned into a blizzard.  It was so bad that I could see nothing from the airplane window besides the runway lights.  I was fascinated by the vortices in the snow created by the engines.  Anyway, it was an uneventful flight to Calgary.  I have a class 2 driver’s license, so in order to renew my license, I needed a medical.  Sue picked me up at the airport, and had already done some research.  She’d found a walk-in clinic that would do the medical that opened at 9:00 AM.  It was perfect timing.  She dropped me off at the clinic almost exactly at 9:00.  However, when I got into the clinic and told them what I needed, they told me they could do it, but the doctor wasn’t there yet and wouldn’t be until 11:00.  (Don't ask me why they'd open two hours before a doctor arrived.)  Fine, we managed to find another clinic, and I got it done.  As expected, my eyesight was borderline without glasses, but I got the renewal.

Given the trouble and hassle I’d had so far, and given the fact that I was scheduled to arrive back in Ottawa at 12:30 AM, I wanted to make absolutely certain that everything was going to work when I got there.  There was plenty of money available on the credit card, but I called to confirm anyway.  Having been very pleased with Budget’s Fast-Break option in the past (e.g. when I was commuting to California), I made the new rental booking with Budget.  They took my credit card and gave me verbal assurance that all was well.  I finally felt a little relief, and I finished that up just as my brother and sister-in-law arrived.  This, it turns out, was an unexpected benefit of my having to come home.  My brother was in Calgary for a wedding that weekend, and I thought I’d miss him, but it worked out that we got a bit of time together and then he drove me back to the airport.

The flight was uneventful, and I got back to Ottawa.  I headed confidently to the Budget booth, but when I got there, my Fast Break wasn’t ready.  I asked what was going on and they said “Your credit card didn’t work and we won’t take debit”.  I was speechless.  I’d had assurances from both the credit card company and the car rental company that everything was set.  OK, I got on the phone with the credit card company.  They said “oh, yes, we have all your payments, but they haven’t been posted yet.”  Believe it or not, I managed to maintain my composure, but both the credit card company and the car rental company eventually understood that I was not happy. Also, the Budget guy, I think, was realizing that whereas they were supposed to close at 1:00 AM, I wasn’t going anywhere without a vehicle.  Anyway, while I was “discussing” the situation on the phone, the guy from Budget finally suggested that I just rent for a shorter time and work it out later.  He guaranteed me the same rate.  To make a long story at least a little shorter, that eventually worked out, and, at around 1:10 AM, they handed me a set of keys.  My thought at that point was “You’ll be prying these keys from my cold dead hands!”  I made it out the door with the keys and headed for the hotel.  When I got to the hotel, I couldn’t find a parking spot close by, so I had to trudge through at least six inches of new snow for a couple of hundred yards.  Oh, well, a bed was waiting.

March 25
The nice thing about our college residence room is that it had two bedrooms with closable doors.  That meant Brodie got a decent sleep without my snoring interrupting his sleep.  But, cheaper hotels have scratchier towels.  (Ten points if you get that movie reference.)

Our drive to Montreal was very nice, with the best part being that it was uneventful.  I had hoped to get to Montreal, scope out the parking, and then show Brodie around the city a little (Expo site, big O, etc.).  However, by the time we got there, hockey excitement was already surrounding the rink.  We found a parking spot and wandered around the area for a while.  We found a pub and grabbed some (delicious) supper.  Then we headed to the Bell Centre. We had the time to wander around a bit before the game, and also learned that, once again, we’d scored some awesome seats.  Also, both of us were really looking forward to this game because it was a regional rivalry (vs. Ottawa), and both teams were fighting for playoff spots/positioning.  The excitement in the building was palpable.

When we were planning the trip, I’d basically decided that, since this might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my son, we would not skimp on tickets.  I also decided that, even if it cost a slight premium, I’d buy all our tickets via “official” channels. Yes, Ticketmaster now has a scalping division where people can resell their tickets at whatever price they want, but the tickets are essentially guaranteed to be legitimate.  I’d done this everywhere except Montreal.  Montreal has their own system, and from what I could discover, they didn’t really have a legitimate resale process.  I’d heard good things about Stub Hub (a friend of mine with season tickets sells all his that way), so that’s what I used in Montreal.  Well, before the first period started, some people came along and said we were sitting in their season ticket seats.  OK, we moved to some nearby empty seats and thought we'd sort it out later if we had to.  Well, with about five minutes left in the first period, we were kicked out of those seats as well.  I told the attendant about the situation, and we watched the rest of the first period from the entry-way.

At the period break, the security people took both us and the supposed season ticket holders to the box office for a chat.  Initially it looked like our tickets were good, but eventually the ruling went against us.  We were out.  I’m guessing this is a common problem in Montreal, because as they were escorting us out, they gave us a slip of paper with Stub Hub’s number on it.  Well, whereas I wanted to sort it all out as quickly as possible, my first priority was to get back into the arena to enjoy our most anticipated game.  Fortunately, we were able to buy two tickets to get us back in the doors.  They were nosebleed seats, and they weren’t even together, but we were in the building.  I spent the next what seemed like an eternity trying to work things out with Stub Hub.  It was a mixture of watching from various entrances and wandering halls talking to Stub Hub.  I kept getting put on hold and then eventually the call would drop.  Finally, on my third attempt, I got through to someone who could handle the problem.  By the time that was all settled, I’d essentially watched three of the four goals to be scored in that game that night on TV!  When all was said and done, I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad with Stub Hub.  Obviously they could do nothing about the Montreal game, but they gave us all our money back plus 50%, so I probably shouldn’t be too angry with them. The Montreal organization, on the other hand, needs to do more straightening out.  How could both we and the season ticket holders even get into the building?!?!  Anyway, that problem was behind us, and we enjoyed a fantastic game!!!

Hockey highlights in Montreal:
  • Banners everywhere!
  • Numbers and players' pictures on the wall in the nosebleeds.
  • A woman with a beautiful voice sang the anthem.
  • Felt like a playoff game because of the regional rivalry and because they were battling for first place in their division.
  • The guys scraping the snow at TV breaks looked like a bunch of older, maybe even retired, men.  They did a lazy circle around the ice with no passion nor enthusiasm nor plan – they really didn’t do a great job.
  • Karlson got booed every time he touched the puck.
  • Carey Price was magic.
  • Shaw was a bit of a jerk.
  • At one point, in the game, Weber was on the point.  Brodie just finished saying “he scores a lot of goals from there” when the puck came to him and he slapped it in.
  • There was a performance (karaoke, dancing, whatever) contest on the big screen.  It got narrowed down to two contestants:  a busty woman and an Elvis impersonator.  Elvis eventually won.
  • The announcing and much of the entertainment was in French, with some English songs thrown in, which was to be expected but still took some getting used to.
  • It was entertaining when, with two minutes left, Ottawa pulled their goalie and Montreal fans starting singing “Ole Ole Ole…”.  There are a number of recordings of the crowd singing it on YouTube.
  • The stairwells had acoustics that lent themselves very well to singing.
  • We made the mistake of exiting the building thinking we could get back in to buy souvenirs.  We were wrong, but with some sweet-talking we were let back in.
  • Brodie:  “everything about it was sick”.
Right after the game we made it through the very muddy parking lot, got into the car, and headed for Detroit.

March 26
At some point between our putting together our schedule and game day, the Detroit game had changed from an evening game to an afternoon game.  We got out of the arena in Montreal around 10:00 PM and the game in Detroit was scheduled for 12:30 PM the next afternoon and the GPS said it would take us about 9.5 hours to get there.  Well, that saved us a hotel room!  I drove through the night, thoroughly enjoying the stars and pondering G.K. Chesterton’s quote “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.”

We arrived in Detroit at approximately 8:00 AM and drove straight into the Joe Louis Arena parking garage.  I climbed into the back seat and got a better sleep than I’d expected.  We woke up at 11:30 and walked over to the arena.  Whereas it was quite an old building, I actually thought it was much more fan-friendly than the newer arenas.  It was basically one big bowl with all the suites around the top.  It didn’t give the same feel as newer arenas that tend to separate the rich and the fanatic – it felt more like a united fan front.

Hockey highlights in Detroit:
  • It soon seemed appropriate that the arena was named after a boxer.  The fans were bloodthirsty!  Any time there was even a hint of a scrum or anything, the crowd got into it.  They even showed a video of a greasy, bench clearing brawl from 1980 that had included the goalies.  At one point in the fight they were showing a Detroit player pounding on a guy from the opposing team that was just covering up.  They then showed a guy in attendance at the game (i.e. the day we were there) holding a sign that said “Happy 20th Beat A Turtle Day” and the crowd went wild.  I also saw a hat in the crowd saying “Make hockey violent again”.
  • The game went into overtime and the crowd went wild, despite the team not being in playoff contention.  A Detroit player scored a highlight reel goal to win the game, and the arena lost its mind.  I described it as pandemonium.
  • I asked about the octopus-throwing, but apparently that's more of a playoff thing.
  • The arena only had one concourse and two exits.  It took forever to get out of the building.
  • On the way between the arena and the car we encountered two separate, very enthusiastic, street musicians making surprisingly good music by drumming on empty plastic buckets.  They both put on a pretty good show.
  • The walkway back to the car was more of a traffic jam and took longer to navigate than the drive out of the parking lot.

Because it was an afternoon game, we did a bit of driving afterwards.  We were headed for Buffalo, but only made it as far as Cleveland before tiredness started to get the better of me.  However, I was able to do a bit of driving around Cleveland before collapsing into the hotel bed, and was actually somewhat impressed.  There’s a huge chandelier that is a highlight of the downtown area and what's called their theater district.  The downtown, the waterfront, and my reason for wanting to drive a bit that night (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) were entrancing at night.  It was probably good that I didn’t have my good camera, or I might have been there all night!  In my driving I happened on a woman who’d run out of gas on one of the freeway bridges.  I gave her a ride to a gas station, bought her a gallon of gas, and took her back to her car.  Unlike the rest of Cleveland, that neighborhood didn’t feel particularly welcoming.

March 27
In the morning I left Brodie to sleep some more, and headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It was an unexpected treat that I got to go – I’d thought of it, but really hadn’t expected it would work out.  I left a note for Brodie asking him to call me when he was up and ready to go.  Unfortunately, he’d left his SIM in the car (so that he wouldn’t run up unexpected phone charges in the U.S.).  Well, I was enjoying the museum so much that I lost track of time.  Brodie eventually called me from the hotel room and I hurried back.  Fortunately, Brodie had managed to stay in the room until 2:00 PM, and I got there around 2:30.

I did want to share one observation from the R&RHOF.  Yes, I admit that I enjoy a lot of the music – probably more than I should – but I couldn’t help but be left with a sobering thought.  Near the beginning of the museum there was a display showing old TV clips, newspaper stories, etc., about the opposition to R&R in the earlier days.  I honestly thought that the museum did a reasonably good job of displaying it neutrally, but given the context of the location, I assumed that most people going through would see the opposition and dismiss it or laugh at it.  However, I found it very interesting that the opposition is juxtaposed with many displays of musicians who had, either accidentally or intentionally, overdosed on drugs or committed suicide.  Yes, it seems that artists in many fields are troubled, but the proportion in R&R does, to me, seem higher than in the rest of the community.  Hmmm…. worth some thought.

So, off to Buffalo.  It was quite foggy in Buffalo when we got there.  Interestingly, a large part of the city, especially around the arena, smells, according to Brodie, like Lucky Charms.  We were driving around with the windows open, and we think we saw a large General Mills factory that might explain it.

Hockey highlights in Buffalo:
  • The entrance area is huge and wide open, similar to the new Edmonton arena.  It was probably the best laid-out arena we went to on our trip.
  • There were suites separating the upper and lower bowls, but they didn’t seem to break up the bowls as much as some arenas (e.g. Edmonton).
  • There was more than one concourse.  They were the most open and least crowded of the ones we encountered, with a very good variety of restaurants/food venues.
  • The merchandise was disappointing.
  • They sang the Canadian national anthem even though no Canadian team was playing.
  • Tickets were much cheaper that the places we’d been to so far.
  • Probably due to lower ticket prices, there were a higher percentage of kids and younger people in attendance.
  • The arena didn’t look full, even though they said there were 18,000 people in attendance.
  • Energy in the arena was pretty much non-existent.  There was no cheering the team coming onto the ice, and when there was chanting going on, it was quite lackluster.  This may have been due to the fact that it was a meaningless game from a post-season perspective.
  • It was Gionta’s 1000th game, so they did a presentation for him.
  • The energy ramped up a bit in the third when, in quick succession, there was a fight, a goal that was called back, and a penalty that the crowd disagreed with.
  • The power of suggestion was at work:  when the lady beside us got ice cream, it didn’t take long until a number of people in our area did, too.
  • The building seemed quite empty half way through the third.
  • They scraped the snow off the ice with metal scrapers, which did a much better job than plastic scrapers do.

We made the short jaunt from Buffalo to Toronto after the game.

March 28
This was the day we’d planned on going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  We slept in a bit and then headed downtown.  Before entering the HHOF, we had lunch in the downtown mall attached to the HHOF.  It was one of those restaurants that have different stations with different kinds of food and you can go in and pick what you want from the various different spots.  Well, Brodie has just found a new favorite restaurant.  He absolutely LOVED it!  We spent a few glorious hours touring the HHOF, and then it was off to the Air Canada Centre.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Hockey highlights in Toronto:
  • Anthem sung by a teenager with an amazing voice.
  • Ice scraping was the same as Calgary.
  • The screen was almost as big as Edmonton’s, and like Edmonton, they didn’t play very many replays.
  • The fans were awesome.  We spent a lot of time standing.
  • Austin Matthews scored the first goal of the game, which brought him into a tie for the rookie scoring record for Toronto (still far behind the league record).
  • Jagr scored a goal.  I’ve seen Florida in person at least four times this season, and the old guy doesn’t disappoint.

March 29
Next stop:  Pittsburgh.

Hockey highlights in Pittsburgh:
  • We didn’t know it when we bought the tickets (I just bought what looked like good seats), but we were in a VIP section – we had to show our tickets to get into the section.  The seats were nicer and wider, there was a separate bar/canteen, and there was a separate washroom.
  • This turned out to be the first game we attended where the home team lost.  Pittsburgh basically didn’t show up – Chicago owned them.


If you know me at all, you’ll know that one of the things I absolutely LOVE doing is driving around cities late at night (see earlier reference in Cleveland).  Pittsburgh was interesting for this.  I hadn’t looked at a map much before going out driving, and I didn’t get a very good overview on my small phone GPS anyway.  I spent quite a while, initially, feeling lost (which I really don’t mind – maybe even enjoy on these late night drives) and confused.  It seemed like at every turn I crossed yet another bridge over the river.  I finally took the time to look at a map and discovered that there were essentially three different rivers that I’d been crossing over in different directions.  I eventually found my way up Mount Washington (really just a hill on one side of the river – I’m not sure why they call it a “mount”) and got a beautiful night view of the city, including the various rivers I’d been crisscrossing.

March 30
When we wandered out of the hotel, we discovered two things:  our first rain on the trip and a flat tire on the car.  Fortunately, by now Brodie is quite adept at changing tires.  I felt just a bit guilty making him do it because of the rain, but it worked out better that way, giving me opportunity to get on the phone with the car rental agency.  They said it would be quite a while before they could get someone out to us.  I said “It’s only a tire – I’ve changed tires before.”  They said “Ok, then go to the airport to switch cars.”  I said “That’s too far out of our way.  How about if I just get the tire fixed?”  They said “Fine, but we won’t promise to pay for it.”  So, we headed to a tire shop.  The first one we got to was too busy, but they directed us to another one.  The second one had the time, so Brodie went out to the car to bring in the tire while I started the paperwork.  On his way in, Brodie found the source of the problem:  we’d picked up a piece of metal right at the point where the tread starts to curve up to meet the sidewall.  Well, the tire guy was determined to play it safe, and wouldn’t fix it because he considered the hole to be in the sidewall.  Budget said “Sure, get a new tire, but we don’t promise to pay for it.”  OK, so off to the airport we went to exchange cars.  Yeah, it was a bit of a hassle, but no big deal compared with what we’d already faced.  We still managed to make it to Chicago.

March 31
We hadn’t actually scheduled anything between the Pittsburgh game on March 29 and the Columbus game on April 2.  I was going to play that stretch by ear.  However, when Brodie learned that one of the options was to take in a game in Chicago, he was all over it.  It was an added bonus that I got to take him to my favorite pizza place:  Giordano’s Pizza.  Note to self:  Giordano’s is AMAZING, but don’t get the personal-sized pizzas.  The proportions just aren’t as good as the bigger pizzas.

Hockey highlights in Chicago:
  • There was a lot of cheering during the anthem.
  • Pandemonium and singing after the first goal.
  • They did something I loved with the scoreboard:  most of the time, in addition to the live action, they were showing the names and numbers of players presently on the ice.  Why don’t all NHL teams do that?
  • The “bubble thought” cameras were entertaining.  They’d show a fan and then put a bubble-thought on the screen.  Sadly, I only noted the fact, not any examples, and by now I’ve forgotten.


April 1
I got to do a bit of driving in Columbus during the day and into the evening.  Broad Street in Columbus is impressive (at least to me), with its old stone buildings and stretches of mansions set well off from the street.

April 2
Hockey highlights in Columbus:
  • Beautiful arena and surroundings.
  • Tickets were cheap.
  • Fans were more into it than I expected, even if the noise didn’t always make sense.
  • They shortened the team name to CBJ so that it would fit into chants.
  • The cannon is both impressive and loud.  I was happy Columbus scored a few so that we got a chance to hear it.
  • At one point Columbus scored a goal, which was promptly followed by a fight.  There was a mixture of cheering and booing and I couldn’t make out what for and/or against.


April 3
Amy happened to be in Toronto at the same time as we were, and we were lucky enough to connect with her.  We had a meal with her at Brodie’s new favorite restaurant (outside the HHOF).  This was followed by an uneventful flight back to Calgary.

Now Brodie and I have a great man cave displaying our loot.  It's a fantastic place to watch the playoffs!  Come and join us sometime.  :-)

The Man Cave

There are a lot more (mostly crappy, taken on a phone) pictures and even some videos available at  Enjoy!

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