February, 2013

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Habs@Leafs: Rivalry games at the Air Canada Centre are always a pleasure…

Toronto, ON The best way to see a Habs game in Toronto is always from the nosebleed section at the Air Canada Centre. Up there the emotions flow as plentifully as the beer, and fights have been known to break out between the blues and reds more than they do on the ice. Some of my greatest ACC game experiences have been when the villainous Canadiens blow into town, however last night was definitely not one of my greatest moments at my most visited NHL facility.

Wednesday was definitely an off-night in Toronto. The streets were in a constant state of disarray due to blizzard like conditions in above freezing temperatures. All week people had been in a state of panic over the predicted 20 cm snowfall we were to get Tuesday night. While taking my 5 year old cousin to the salon for his hair appointment that day, I noticed the phones were ringing off the hook with patrons frantically hoping to move their appointments up in advance of the storm. Even my chiropractor called to warn me of the likelihood that the office may be closed on Wednesday.

But the horrible weather wasn’t the only thing wrong with Rivalry Night at the Air Canada Centre this week. The rivalry itself seemed to be played out more on the street than it was up in the stands. There was definitely more game day congestion at all of my usual pre-game meal spots, which forced me to eat up in the bleeds. Of course, one can’t exactly complain if they are consuming a Southwestern BBQ Burkie Dog. By the way, they are obviously NOT called Burkie Dogs anymore, but I will continue to use this term in lieu of calling it a hotdog with pulled pork and coleslaw a.k.a. Heaven in your mouth!

Usually, when Montreal is in the house, there is almost a 1 to 1 ratio of red jerseys and blue jerseys in the sea of 18,000+ that is The Hangar. Of course, both the weather and the fact that this classic match up faced off on a work night is likely to blame for the lack of “out of town” fans making an appearance. So, while it is understandable that supporters in the tri-coloured camp were not in attendance in overwhelming numbers, their absence definitely took a toll on the overall atmosphere. I didn’t see a single fight in the bleeds, and even the fan on fan chirping was kept to a minimum. And the game itself was pretty horrible no matter what side of the fence you were on despite the Leafs getting a penalty shot and everything!

Now, I have seen some pretty snooze-inducing games at the Air Canada Centre in my day, but you generally don’t expect those games to happen when a major rival is taking to the ice – especially Montreal! So, like any red blooded fan, I attempted to overcompensate for the lack of on (and off) ice dramatics by hitting the booze. But, since everything seemed to be going wrong that night, getting my “game face” on was no easy feat.

The ACC and Crown Royal was giving out samples that night. I have actually been dying to try the new Maple flavour, so I made sure to head straight there during the second intermission to avoid the line up. That night the ACC had employed an overly anal woman who refused to give me the sample for 20 minutes. They ID everyone who looks “under 30,” so just like when I bought my first and only beer of the night at the first intermission, I knew I would be whipping out my driver’s licence again. However, this time the woman began insisting that my licence was a fake. Which apparently, in her infinite wisdom, she was able to discern by merely glancing at the front of the card. Naturally, I didn’t have a passport on me since I didn’t need to cross any borders on the 10 minute drive from my house to the rink, but when I attempted to produce other items that also listed my full name and birthdate, you know, to substantiate the validity of my LEGAL government issued, in-province driver’s licence, she refused to even look at them even after the security told her they were valid.

After going to both the service manager and the security manager, one of them had to physically walk over and tell her to serve me. Everyone was telling me to take it as a compliment, but this whole situation is a little more than ridiculous. Let’s be real for a minute. I’ll be 28 years old in 3 months, and I would *hope* that I continue to get carded at the ACC with their “under 30” policy for awhile longer. That being said, I’m pretty damn sure I don’t look like a 17 year old, who needs to carry around a fake ID, which is essentially what this woman is suggesting by causing the scene that she did. And, I mean, think about it, she was carrying on like this over an eighth of a shot of whiskey! So, I’m not quite sure if this person was just purposely trying to be a bitch, or if she is just incredibly stupid. Either way, you can bet your ass I sent the ACC a nice little email especially given how much money I have dropped in all of their VIP bars over the seasons!

Do I look 17 to you?!?!

The funny thing is that this is only the second time I have ever made a complaint to an NHL facility. The first time was after a Flyers 2008 playoff game in Philly also versus the Habs (Hmm.. Do I smell a conspiracy???). That night I encountered more than a few incredibly rude Wells Fargo Center staff members. One was even singing a derogatory version of O Canada while scanning tickets at the gate. Despite the fact that I was dressed in orange and black that night, there was no way in Hell I was about to tolerate that! Even after I told the guy that I was Canadian and had driven 8 hours to support the Flyers, his response was, “Well, I still hate you.” Good thing no Canadians play for the Flyers, eh? Yeah, email sent.

Anyway, if my terrible experience sampling the Maple Crown Royal, which, in fairness, is actually pretty @#$%ing incredible shit, the lifeless game that was going on down at ice level, and the weather weren’t enough factors to make my day more or less unpleasant, then leaving Front Street that night certainly didn’t help things either. I had the genius idea to park in the underground York Street parking lot just off of Front. The parking there is $6 on a weeknight if you get there after 5PM, and parking in the lots a block away at Bay/Front usually run you $20+ on game day. When my friend and I got back to the car that night there was a massive queue trying to exit. At first this didn’t seem odd, I mean, the Leafs game did just end, right? But, we became aware quite quickly that the there was something wrong. We’re still not quite sure what happened, but the going theory is that the credit card machine must have malfunctioned, and we were all trapped. It was 11:30 before we got out of there, and by that point the roads were a death trap, as the second snowstorm had finally started with a vengeance. Definitely a bizarre night to say the least!

Attempting to shake up the dramz by crushing some heads!

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Sunday, February 17th, 2013

A brief note on the Ottawa Senators and ticket hoarding practices…

Toronto, ON Since outrage over ridiculous sales practices around the NHL is pretty much my thing this season, I now turn my attention away from the Winnipeg Jets and toward the Ottawa Senators. Recently, the Sens notified the fans in their email database that they were making changes to their ticket sales practices. Evidently, the Senators organization is upset that there is a visibly large presence of “visiting” fans in attendance at their games, and it appears as though they believe that unfairly puts their team at a disadvantage. Good thing NHL players aren’t being paid big bucks to perform well under adversity, eh? Oh wait…

It has been a few seasons since I have been to Scotiabank Place, but the last time I was at a Sens home game, the organization already had a graduated pricing system (as many teams do) that would see fans being charged higher prices for games versus major rivals. That would be the appropriate way to keep visiting fans “out,” as they would really need to put down the cash in order to come all the way to town to support their team – supply and demand, and all that.  The higher ticket prices significantly raises the costs of the trip since REAL visiting fans are also paying big money for hotels, gas/flights, and food. Unfortunately, the Sens believe that higher prices for rival games is not enough, and are now withholding tickets from the public by implementing a “restricted” pre-sale system. The email reads, “The only restriction with this offer is that we are asking you to ensure that the tickets are being used by Senators fans and not re-sold to the general public. Any seats being re-sold will be subject to cancellation and loss of privileges with respect to future pre-sales.”

Maybe this just irritates me as a traveling fan, who is often not making appearances at NHL arenas with the intention of actually supporting EITHER team. My life would definitely be a lot harder if all 30 NHL teams were preventing out-of-towners from taking in a game. However, is it really the traveling fans that are suffering from this kind of ticket hoarding practice, or is it the fine citizens of our Nation’s capital that are going to feel the most uneasy about these changes?

Let’s be realistic for a minute. In their current embodiment, the Ottawa Senators have been active in the NHL since 1992. Therefore, true “lifelong” Sens fans are currently in their late teens and early 20’s (at the oldest). Does that mean that hockey fans didn’t exist in Ottawa prior to 1992? Obviously not. What this does suggest, however, is that there are probably a lot of locals who are actually lifelong Leafs, Habs, Bruins, or etc fans, who support the Sens 38 games of the season, but can’t wait for the chance to switch their jersey 3 times a year.   Although, I’m sure not much will change for these people, but I for one would feel a lot less comfortable wearing an opposing jersey or bringing a friend, who is a fan of the visiting team, to a game with this new system. On the other hand, I can totally see shit disturbers being even more motivated to show up as the ultimate fan of the OTHER team. Anyway, the main question here is, are the fans they are attempting to keep away actually from out of town, or are they simply locals whose only sin is supporting the NHL in a non-Sens capacity prior to 1992 (or for whatever reason)? Team allegiances die hard, after all.

Of course, this new system is flawed. Most people are in the Sens database if they have ever bought a ticket to a Sens game, and if it is true that those people are “visiting” fans, then they are not at any less of a disadvantage than they were before. Now, if the Sens decide to systematically remove people not in that 613 area code from their database, then they will be entering a whole new level of crazy and douche baggery. At the end of the day, all NHL teams should be thankful that ANY fans fill their building night in and night out, and not be in the habit of discriminating against paying customers based on where they are from or what colour their sweater is. I know Sens season ticket holders who are located in Toronto. Do you think the Leafs are barring the gates when they try to see their favourite team take to the ice at the ACC? No. Maybe the Sens should show the same courtesy. And to think I was actually rooting for the Sens to do well this season, but I suppose my 416 ass won’t be scoring any playoff tickets if they did make the postseason anyway. Oh well…

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