March, 2012

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Canes@Leafs: Leafs fans are rolling over and taking it no more…

Toronto, ON I seem to be experiencing “reverse” culture shock a lot more this time around than I did during my NHL Land visit back in December. Lynxie, my beloved steed, overwhelmed me for those first couple days with his massive size. He’s a little coupe by the way, but compared with my Japanese car, Paul Kariya, he’s an absolute tank. I also noticed that I’ve started getting excited every time I see someone on the street, “Oooh look a foreigner!!” I live in a little town in rural Japan. If I see a gaijin that isn’t me it’s pretty much a news worthy event. Unfortunately, not so much in Canada.

Driving back to Toronto after my Sting experience in Sarnia, I had another bizarre incident of me not being properly adjusted to life in Canada. Did I ever tell you about my experience getting my Japanese Driver’s Licence? Well… hmm… In Japan my personal motto has become, “It makes sense to them,” because I often encounter a lot of things that don’t seem to make much sense in the realm of basic logic. Oh, I could tell you stories alright, but for the purpose of keeping this blog post as short as possible, I’ll stick to the Driver’s Licence one.

For SOME reason in Japan it is only legal to use an International Driver’s Permit for one year. After that you must obtain a Japanese Driver’s Licence, which is pretty difficult to get if you are American, for example. For me, however, all I had to do was provide “proof” that I lived in Canada for “3 months” after my Ontario Driver’s Licence was issued. Why we need to give this proof doesn’t make much sense. I mean, what does it suggest if we left the country after obtaining a licence? Why does it matter? Anyway, I actually could not truthfully prove this, as I renewed my current licence just before I moved to Korea – you know, so it wouldn’t expire while I was overseas. Insanity.

So, I gave them a copy of my driving record, which they decided wasn’t good enough because it didn’t look official enough to them. But, being nice and all, they decided to make me a deal. Since I had only been driving in Canada for 9 months, (yes, you read that correctly), they would give me the licence if I agreed to put the new driver’s decals on my car for a period of nearly 3 months (until May 8th). In Japan new drivers must drive with a green magnet (or sticker) on their car to make other drivers aware of them for one year. I finally agreed to it once I determined that having said decals wouldn’t impede on my rights as a driver. The whole thing is insane. If I’m safe enough to be on the road with an IDP for a year, why would I magically stop being safe once that year is up?! And as for this whole 9 months thing… Yeah, I understand if my 11 year driving record wasn’t usable proof by their standards, but where the @#$% are they getting 9 months from?! I mean even my most recent issue is 2 years old now, so WTF?! Yeah, don’t get me started. Oh, and by the way, my IDP doesn’t actually expire until June 9th, so they basically made me put those decals on my car to validate a licence (until May 8th) that I don’t legally have to present because of my permit until June 10th. HA! Yeah, as you may have already deduced, those magnets are sitting in the bottom of my glove box now.

Due to my misadventure at the Driver’s Licensing Center in Mito, I am now very familiar with all the Japanese car decals, like the green arrow for new drivers, or the green, orange, and gold clover-like decal for old people. Anyway, driving back to Toronto for the Leafs/Canes match up on Tuesday afternoon, I got into my usual bulldozer game day mode. Trust me, you don’t want to be the unfortunate driver that gets in my way when I’m racing toward a puck drop. So, as I’m barreling down the 401 Eastbound, that familiar clover-like decal caught my attention.

“God damn it! It’s an old man!” I cursed as I raced passed the old Japanese man doing about 80 on the freeway. Perhaps, it was the jet lag, or the exhaustion after my adventure in Chemical Valley, or maybe it was the fact that I was listening to my Asia Fucks My Life playlist at the time, but it didn’t actually occur to me for a good 5 minutes that the elderly driver decal that I had seen was out of place since I was in Canada and not Japan. Oh it’s funny how the fatigued brain works, but I can guarantee that I was probably the only person driving on the 401 that day that was able to react based on the information attached to that little magnet.

And if I wasn’t brain dead enough already that day, I made sure to kill off the remaining few of my functional brain cells by drinking waaaaaaay too much in the Platinum Club at the Air Canada Centre. I just knew that the game was going to be horrible one. It was do or die for playoff hopes for both the Hurricanes and the Maple Leafs, but I knew, based on my foul history of Leafs games, that the game wouldn’t be as exciting as you may have convinced yourself it would be with all that was at stake. I have a long history with the Maple Leafs, and in my 47 visits to the Air Canada Centre, I can probably count on one hand how many of those games have been great ones.

It’s hard to pin down whether the Leafs or the Leafs fans were actually to blame for all my horrible ACC experiences, but whatever the reason, the atmosphere at the Leafs office has almost always been brutal. I remember one particular game against the Flames where I could actually hear someone talking on the other side of the ice – it was THAT quiet! However, Tuesday night, after the Leafs failed to even show up to the game, the Leafs fans did something I’ve never heard them do before – they booed, and they booed loudly. The loud boos and chants of, “Fire Burke,” took the Air Canada Centre to decibel levels I had never heard before.

I couldn’t have been more proud of them. Leafs fans have had such a terrible reputation for being foolishly loyal. While I see the merits in sticking by your team through think and thin, the problem was that there was never any public outpouring of rage when the Leafs continued to play like shit. Instead of being outwardly disgusted, Leafs fans kept quiet (as they do most of the game anyway), and happily paid through the nose for tickets. As a result, many people have called Toronto fans idiots, and perhaps they weren’t entirely wrong in that – though, I’m not sure I respect most bandwagon fans that only show up when the team does well either. But now Leafs fans have decided to make their voices heard. Yeah, they probably will still roll over and take it game after game, but now they are much more likely to cry, “Rape,” in the process. I call that progress.

I won’t lie. Due to mass alcohol consumption, the entire first period of the Leafs/Canes game is a bit of a blur. Imagine my surprise when the second period began and I realized that the Leafs had let in not one but two goals (I only remembered one of the goals LOL). I also remember a periodic puff of smoke coming from the crowd. Some fan was apparently smoking some sort of device used for people trying to quit. It reminded me of a date I was on back in university. I took this guy to see his hometown team play at the ACC. It was all part of my master plan to get into his pants. But I remember being absolutely horrified when he attempted to light up in our seats. Could you imagine if I had been thrown out or BANNED from the ACC back in 2003-04 for that?! Ack! I wonder what my life would have been like then. Anyway, let’s just say I’ve never even considered dating a smoker since, and I never will!

After the game, I stumbled out of the Air Canada Centre and headed to one of my favourite Front Street pubs where I continued to drink while watching the end of the Habs/Cats game that was on at the bar. All in all it was a predictable return to the ACC. The Leafs played like shit. Then I drank. The end. Still… Part of me wishes I went to the Flyers game instead. The only reason I didn’t was because the ONLY seat I could get was the one next to that creeper that was ALL OVER ME last season, and I couldn’t remember if he owned the seats next to it, or shared them. Either way, didn’t want to take the chance… Especially since I’ve been living in Japan for 9.5 months and probably would have gone for it this time around with extremely unpleasant results.

Top Photo: Honey, I’m hooommeeeee!

Bottom Photo: Random girl loitering in my section during warm up. Premium game sign!

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Friday, March 30th, 2012

Spirit@Sting (Game 3): Steven Stamkos & the fall of the stripper heels…

Sarnia, ON I know that I am probably the queen of unfortunate and unpleasant incidences at the border, but the first time I was “harassed” on a hockey road trip will always stick with me. I guess it’s true what they say. You never forget your first time.

Now this wasn’t the first time I had crossed the border, but it was the first time I was met with a bizarre line of questioning prior to a hockey game. Looking back now this was a relatively painless experience. Hell, I wish all my dealings at immigration would go this smoothly. But, at the time, I was quite thrown off, yet strangely impressed, when the American I was dealing with at the Blue Water Bridge started questioning me on my motives for heading down to Milwaukee to see the Admirals play. Naturally, he found it suspicious that I (we) needed to go all the way to Wisconsin to see a little hockey. After all, we were Canadians, and, therefore, from the land of plenty. This is actually a question I get quite regularly, but what amazed me about this guy was that he began naming off teams that would be better suited to me.

“Why are you going all the way to Milwaukee? Why aren’t you going to watch the Sarnia Sting play instead?” Although I was impressed that this guy had any sort of understanding that the Ontario Hockey League existed, I was also horrified at the thought of being thought of as an OHL type.

When the NHL Lock Out turned my hockey world upside down, I had no choice but to seek sanctuary in the American Hockey League – specifically with the Milwaukee Admirals. This was largely because, at the age of 19, I had decided that I was “too old” for the OHL, and had no interest in anything it had to offer anymore. Back then the puck bunny culture was far, far, far more prevalent than it is today, and going to a live game was, at least for me, a rattling experience with all the leers and angry girls. Besides, as a 19 year old, I found it creepy that injured 16 and 17 year old hockey players would stalk me around the arena. LOL Oh God! To think how large a gap a two year age difference used to be! And yeah… Let’s not reminisce too much on things that happened last season. I told you I did a lot of things I said I’d never do in 2011! Eep. Blame Korea! I know I do.

Anyway… The Lock Out marked the first season of many of my OHL hiatus. I only started to get back into the swing of things a couple seasons ago, and I must say, I can’t believe that I let a few horny teenage boys keep me away from it for so long. It is almost a guarantee that any OHL game you see will be a great one, a guarantee the likes of the Maple Leafs definitely can’t make (more to come on that later). So, I knew that I would need to make some OHL time on my last hockey vacation of the 2011-12 season, and decided I would be productive and hit some of my unexplored rinks: Sarnia, Windsor, and Belleville.

Sarnia was first on the agenda, so I guess I finally took the advice that border guard gave me seven years ago. On the short two hour jaunt between Kitchener and Chemical Valley, it finally dawned on me that I was going to a playoff game, and that I may have an indefinite amount of overtime to deal with if the boys couldn’t get it done in regulation. Normally I welcome as many extra minutes of play as possible, but with the jet lag, and a drive back to K-W to look forward to, not to mention a Leafs game in Toronto to prepare for the following night, I was dreading how exhausted I’d be if I was stuck in Sarnia longer than anticipated. I have a policy that I never leave a hockey game early, so if the Sting and Spirit were planning to fight it out over three periods of OT, then I would have been there battling through the exhaustion right along with them. Of course, the game DID go into overtime, but luckily the hometown heroes were able to put the puck away a few minutes shy of the buzzer that would have ushered in a second period of overtime, so I wasn’t too exhausted.

Sarnia fans are apparently the jilted lovers of the OHL. They have allegedly been disappointed so many times by their team, that many of the fans are afraid to show up at the RBC Centre out of fear of enduring another broken heart. Many of them are waiting out the storm that is the first round of the OHL playoffs to see if they will survive to make it to the second. They also have difficulty cutting the Stamkos cord. During the game, the in game announcer informed us that the former king of Sting country had scored his 53rd goal of the season, and had made history in Tampa for the most goals scored by a Bolt in a single season. The news was met with wild cheers throughout the building, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few tears shed in the stands. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the career of the greatest player in their franchise history, but I personally had never seen anything like this around the OHL before that night.

Although it has only been a few short months since my last visit to OHL land, it felt like it had been far too long since my last pregame Boston Pizza visit, and in game mound of nasty poutine. The RBC Centre had great poutine by the way. They use that really dark gravy that your high school cafeteria lady probably got you hooked on. And if that wasn’t good enough, the serving size is the very definition of ginormous!

On a more serious note, I have been faced with a very difficult wardrobe issue on this visit to hockey land. Living the better part of the last two years in Asia, I have become perhaps too much of a minimalist. When you have to pack your whole world into a suitcase there’s not much room for anything but the bare essentials. And, yeah, I was never really one for the shopping (understatement of the century), but my 7 jeans have long been traded in for those cheap $30 pairs that can be dragged through the mud. Footwear was the major problem on this trip to Sarnia. I realized that somewhere along the line I had reduced my “collection” to literally 4 pairs of shoes. Running shoes (as in shoes for actual running), a pair of multipurpose black boots that unfortunately needed to have the heels fixed, and 2 pairs of stripper heels that were once reserved solely for woman handling the (miniature) Stanley Cup last season (re: 2011), and are now probably collecting dust in a box somewhere as I no longer have a desire to handle said mini Stanley… or the trophy for that matter. SNAP! So, I guess my problem is that I’ve allowed my world traveling to turn me into a slob, which means I will no longer be perceived as a threat by those little angry puck bunnies, and, therefore, will no longer endure any unnecessary and hilarious drama from said puck bunnies. Sad face. Guess I’ll just have to get my entertainment from watching the actual game like everybody else, huh?

Top Photo: Pregame. I have to face facts… I can no longer disguise myself as a 17 y/o for OHL creeping purposes.

Bottom Photo: Photo Fail. To be fair… From my perspective it’s a 53!

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