A lot has changed at the old Guelph Sports & Entertainment Centre, like its name, for starters. The shady looking arena has changed sponsorship and has, thus, been renamed the Sleeman Centre. As I noticed at the Kitchener Aud for the Rangers/Storm game on the 18th, their uniforms have changed too! Instead of black, maroon, and grey, the Guelph players were beginning to resemble the Phoenix Coyotes from a distance! Also, parking wasn’t free anymore – $2 my ass! But maybe the biggest change of all was the change in ticket availability!
By some miracle I remembered my way back to the rink. I haven’t been there since the end of 2004. Instead of Google Mapping the directions, I thought it would be more fun to see if I could get us there by memory. I’m telling you, I was 80% positive that we weren’t going to be seeing any hockey that night. If you’ve never been to Guelph, then you probably can’t quite grasp the difficulty of this mission. See, Guelph is known for having six-way intersections without even a HINT of a grid system. The first time I went there, I got so lost that I had to follow the visiting team’s bus in order to actually find the arena! Anyway, I’m not really sure what happened this time, I must have gone into some type of subconscious cruise control mode, because as soon as I saw a strange hidden intersection, I knew I had to turn (and by “turn” I mean “reckless swerve.”) Of course, The Co-Operators, a.k.a. the only office building in Guelph (I’m pretty sure), did help to guide my way after I made that turn. Once I saw their logo glowing in the distant night sky, I knew that we were close and hockey would be on the agenda after all.
But the victory of our successful twenty minute journey was short-lived when the ticket agent told us we were limited to two options for the game against the London Knights that night – standing room, or pimp suite. Umm, we’ll take pimp suite for 200, Alex! The suites were actually reasonably priced at $29 a head, but the downside is that you’re paying extra to share closed quarters with God knows who else. Our suite, number 27, was already occupied with a family of blondes with a major attitude problem – perfect! They gave us a nice stare down when we walked in like we had no right to be there. Apparently, they didn’t grasp the magnitude of my BMF cowgirl shirt. We knew we’d have a hard time dealing with these beasts without the assistance of our good friend, the cocktail bar.
The bar wasn’t in the suite or “stee” as I was calling it based on the letters STE printed on the ticket. It was a bit of a hike to get to that shining beacon of safety. They had a custom drink menu! My drink was boldly revolting in a strangely tolerable and almost enjoyable way. How fitting that my drink of choice was named, The Hockey Star. While watching the warm ups from the bar area, I had my most resilient idea of the night. Instead of going back to Stee 27, we’d sneak into 26 and lay low. It was pure luck that Stee 26 was the ONLY stee that was completely empty for the entire game. However, what seemed like a lucky break at first (a whole suite to ourselves), would soon turn out to be a nuisance which added more than a little stress to the game experience.
Half way through the first period an argument began to brew outside our door. Some type of suite manager (West Witch) was yelling at one of the security guards on account of the fact that there were only two people in our stee. My friend kept turning around and watching them, “Stop it. Stop it. Don’t do that.” I whispered while not taking my eyes off the game, “Don’t make it look like we’re not supposed to be in here.” What was hilarious about the argument was that the West Witch seemed to think that the box office was to blame for our presence in Stee 26. Apparently, they dropped the ball and gave us tickets they shouldn’t have. First of all, why was the security guard getting shit on for this, and, come on, did they not even CONSIDER that we may have just snuck in there, like we ACTUALLY did!? Despite that being mildly hilarious, the incident set an uneasy tone for the rest of the game. You can probably imagine that we were constantly looking over our shoulder whenever we sensed motion in the hallway.
And it didn’t help our paranoia that, Stormy, the new second mascot of the team behind Spyke, was stalking us. I’ve had several “incidences” with mascots in my day, but, given that the West Witch was on the prowl during the game, this one was far more startling. Originally, Stormy came into our stee and hugged us, etc, photo op, you know the drill – no big deal. Later on in the game, my hair stood on end when I began to sense movement in the room. Was it the West Witch? We didn’t want to turn around and look suspicious, so we kept our eyes on the ice. Then the heavy breathing started, but still we froze in our game watching position. Then it grabbed us! Fucking STORMY! Then he laughed and laughed in his mute mascot manner. I quickly theorized that we shouldn’t be fooled by his super cute and lovable exterior, he was probably working for the West Witch, and sent to spy on us and capture incriminating dialogue confessing to sneaking into Stee 26. Well, we didn’t give him the satisfaction – HA!
By the time the buzzer sounded to end the game, we still had not had a showdown with the West Witch. The shit storm never came, but that wasn’t the only thing that didn’t bother to show up. As I kept exclaiming throughout the game in an exasperated tone, “WHERE DEM BLONDES AT?” There were almost no puck bunnies at this game, and I only got to say, “Did you leave your red lollipop at home?” once! Were puck bunnies becoming extinct? Do I need to do another field study? In the last six years, Guelph, London, and Kitchener (twice) have all won the J. Ross Robertson trophy. Tickets became scarce in this puck bunny hot bed. Did the bunnies go extinct with the tickets? And what does this mean for not only their future, but this new generation of hockey players as well? Such questions need answers!
The last time I was in Guelph for a Storm game, I was eighteen years old. Coincidentally, the Storm were playing the London Knights that night as well for the 2004 OHL playoffs. Back then the teams looked very different. Instead of watching “LIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTLE BOOOYYYYYYYS” (my cheer of the game), NHL stars like Daniel Paille (Bruins), Ryan Callahan (Rangers), Daniel Girardi (Rangers), Kevin Klein (Predators), Cam Janssen (Blues), Ryan Parent (Flyers), faced off against Brandon Prust (Flames), David Bolland (Blackhawks), Corey Perry (Ducks), Rob Schremp (Islanders), Dennis Wideman (Bruins), and Danny Syvret (Flyers). The players seemed so much older back then. It’s hard to believe that some of the liiiiiiiiiiiitttttle booooooyssss skating around that night will someday join the ranks of those listed above. Oh, P.S. one of the London Knights’ players is named, Knight! HAHA! Small things amuse me.
Anyway, that does it for my final game of 2009! I’ll be kicking off the 2010 half of the season by turning over a new leaf on Saturday when I retrace my steps along Lake Michigan for the first time since 2005! I’m more than done with the old (Coyotes), and waiting with open arms to welcome all the new year has to offer! Happy New Year, hockey fans!
Roll the credits…
(This was my jam when I was 17. I hate it when there are too many rookies, and not enough pros… P.S. Explicit Lyrics Warning!)