Kingston, ON I woke up on Friday morning with nothing to do, and, to me, that was outrageous. I only have a guaranteed two weeks of North American hockey to look forward to this season, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make the most of it. So, I decided to get my ass out to an uncharted OHL rink, which meant, as you may have guessed, that I did not have time to do anything other than throw on some clothes, grab my overnight bag (that was luckily still loaded with unused Pittsburgh stuff), and run out the front door like a grotesque and unshowered bat out of Hell.
Hours and hours and hours later, I pulled into Kingston. The traffic all the way down the 401 was brutal, and I have absolutely no idea why! I think there was some severe rubbernecking going on. Unfortunately for the patrons of the K-Rock Centre that night, namely the quiet old man sitting next to me who yelled, “Shit” periodically throughout the game, I didn’t have any time to get cleaned up before heading to the rink as you can tell from my game day shot. Sorry!
The temperature was well into the negative that night, and Kingston had turned into a virtual skating rink. I had to glide all the way to the arena at the pace of a speed skater to avoid losing some of my extremities to the cold. I sought shelter in the first deserted entrance I saw to wait for the gates to open. An usher with a strangely familiar face was pacing around the doorway. I couldn’t shake the fact that I knew him from somewhere. Finally, after racking my brain for the 15 minutes prior to the doors opening, I handed him my ticket and asked, “You didn’t happen to work for Maple Leaf Sports, did you?” Sure enough he WAS one of my old work colleagues from waaaay back in my MLSE days. We weren’t in the same department, and he had facial hair now, which explains why I struggled to place him with confidence at first.
We spent the entirety of the second period shooting the shit, which was fine because neither the Frontenacs nor the Generals scored a single goal in the period, so I didn’t miss anything other than some young boys skating around with a dangerous amount of facial hair for their own good. Anyway, he told me several interesting legends from his time working with the Leafs. Back during the 2003 playoffs he set the ice at the Air Canada Centre with two lucky pennies. One penny was dated 1967 and the other was 2003. He hid each penny under the goal posts in the Leafs zone. For each of the three games hosted in Toronto, NO ONE scored on that net. Now that’s not to say Toronto was never scored upon, just that no one was able to score on that end of the ice. Unfortunately, management found out about the pennies, and made him take them out. He also noted that since he stopped doing the ice at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs haven’t made the postseason. Interesting… and here’s hoping that his curse is finally lifted this year!
While we were swapping stories, the Fronts mascot, Henry, interrupted us by rubbing my back in a manner that can only be described as somewhere in the realm of post-coital sensuality. I have quite the storied history with mascots doing bizarre things to me. Most notably Griff in Grand Rapids (AHL). He used to attack me ALL the time; every time I went to Van Andel Arena, or if he showed up at another rink that I was also at. He’d always BITE me, or just lurk in my general vicinity with his menacing presence. Then there was Tex in KItchener (OHL) who was most famous for messing up my hair, and that damn Phlex in Philadelphia (AHL) who thought he was better than me! Actually, the most disturbing mascot of all wasn’t even a hockey mascot. Back during one of the Halloween Haunts at Canada’s Wonderland, one of the monsters kept following me around saying, “Yeaaahhh, let’s make a baby.” What I found most uncomfortable about that whole incident, as well as with my Henry encounter, was that the mascot was shorter than me. I don’t know. There’s just something severely off-putting about shortness in mascots.
Despite a loss for the home team, and the fact that the arena poutine made me feel sick (don’t freak out or anything. I think the problem was not the poutine itself, but rather the fact that I crushed not one, but TWO A&W Papa Burgers prior to the game…don’t judge me!), it was an overall great experience to finally get down to the “controversial” K-Rock Centre. Kingston has been #1 on my OHL hit list for a couple seasons now, so it’s a great feeling to finally add this one to my repertoire of episodes of hockey related insanity. Sadly, according to the people of Kingston, the K-Rock Centre raised a lot of eyebrows when it was being built – something to do with the fact that the mayor owns the land that it’s built on. Anyway, the bottom line is that a lot of hockey fans in Kingston refused to support the Fronts as a means of protest against the whole scandal. Hmm makes me wonder if the 67’s and Bulls had a spike in ticket sales since the new rink was built. You really have to feel for the kids in all of this, though. It must be tough to play in front of an empty barn at such and impressionable (and vulnerable) age.
And now I leave you with a rare photo of former Frontenac, Mike Zigomanis, with his pants ON! Sean Avery is also pictured.