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Tag: AHL

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Why AHL players continue to leave me unsatisfied…

Peterborough/Hamilton, ON Perhaps it’s the fact that I had been living in the NHL-less cocoon that was Japan that the NHL Lockout took several weeks to really “hit” me, but boy has it ever sunk in now. I guess at first I didn’t care so much. For the past 15 months I had been stranded in a place that made streaming a live game a rarity. Hockey was just not a part of my life for a long time, so I suppose it was only natural that I wouldn’t immediately notice the absence of NHL hockey now that I’m back.

The weird thing is that in a normal season I always make time for OHL and AHL games, but now that the Marlies are the hottest ticket in town, and that all the TVs at my favourite bars are set to baseball,I find myself longing for one of my epic NHL road trips of old. Plus, the next new arena I venture to will be my 60th, and it would have really been nice to celebrate that milestone at MTS Centre where a certain Steven Stamkos also celebrated his 60th last season. Alas, I wanted to be able to hit Winterpeg before the snow flies, but it doesn’t look like the NHL/PA are going to allow that to happen. Currently, my back up plan is to mark the occasion with my first game and first arena in a new and unexplored league, the QMJHL. Look out, Gatineau!

Anyway… Since I’ve been back, I’ve only managed to attend two games. It’s hard to justify these trips lately since my attention is better spent trying to get things going in my personal life, so that I’m not immediately forced to get on yet another gigantic plane bound for the other side of the world. But enough about my crap…

My first game back was a rather uneventful one. Peterborough Memorial Centre, home of the Petes, became my 59th arena visited. I found the place to be a bit depressing. It has been a long time since the Petes have been a great team, and the fans seem to have lost a bit of faith. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, the attendant said in a heartbreaking sort of whimper that he hoped that “maybe” the team could win one that night. “Well they are playing Kingston,” I had said to try to look on the bright side even though Kingston isn’t exactly the *worst* team either. However, sure enough the Petes fell to the Fronts in OT.

My enjoyment of sudden death hockey was also stifled due to my unfortunate seating location. Ahh the youth of a small town! I was seated next to a gaggle of what I can only assume were 16 year old boys. Say what you want about the attention span of female hockey fans yappin’ away there, Don Cherry, but all these boys did during the game was gossip about people they knew and girls that used to hook up with [enter Petes name here]. They did have some pretty deep insights though, such as, “If I was a dime of a girl, I wouldn’t even go to school, I’d just be a gold-digger.” Yeah, good luck with that in Peterborough. I’m sure there are plenty of millionaires hanging around in those parts. And what’s more is that these “dimes” they were referring to were the sickly looking ice girls, which probably shouldn’t exist in junior hockey to begin with since they are usually 15 and getting leered at by all the borderline pedophiles in the crowd. And by sickly, I mean sickly. One of them had thighs the size of my wrist, and she was actually struggling to lift the weight of her skates as she tried to clean the ice. I’m sorry, but why is this attractive? Oh, and just as a side note: have you ever noticed that “dimes” all look the same. I know you mean to call them 10’s, but really dimes is much more fitting since they are a dime a dozen.

So that was Peterborough. Next stop: Hamilton. Oh, Hamilton, what can I say about you. It has been a couple seasons since I’ve been to Copps Coliseum, and nothing eventful really took place this time around either, despite the fact that I tried to stir the pot and shake things up before game day. I’m a sucker for drama. I’ve often lamented about how I miss that dramatic element that seemed to be so prevalent in my former road trips. So when all my old contacts magically reappeared on my new iPhone, how could I resist the opportunity to add some hilarity to the game? Sadly, the end game wasn’t so epic, and basically just resulted in a few more “looks” and a few more pucks being shot at me than usual. That stuff is so boring it hardly even counts as usable drama anymore. I guess the bar had been set too high by the predecessors LOL. So I sort of had to settle for just enjoying the game for what it was like every other civilian in the joint. Sad face.

There is definitely one thing that should be noted about the Marlies/Bulldogs game, though. During the 2004 Lockout the Marlies didn’t exist. Toronto’s AHL affiliate was still out in St. John’s for their final season. I went to Copps Coliseum several times that year – usually for Milwaukee games, but also when the Baby Leafs were in town. The Bulldogs did really well that year attendance wise, and I’m pretty sure that they were sold out for every game that I saw there. That year being sold out meant that both the upper and lower bowls were full. For those of you not familiar with Hamilton, the arena was built to host an NHL team, and has a seating capacity of 17,383.

This time around the Marlies/Bulldogs game was allegedly sold out, and the team was actually struggling to keep up with the demand. My tickets hadn’t even been printed yet when I went to pick them up an hour before the gates opened! Anyway, I was excited to see Copps Coliseum at full capacity again for the first time in 7 years. Imagine my disappointed when I first laid eyes upon the ugly black drapes covering the multicoloured seats of the upper bowl. The game wasn’t sold out, they only made half the tickets available. So what does this tell us? Either no one is interested in the Bulldogs now that the Marlies moved in just down the road, or the senseless Lockout of 2012 has made hockey fans simply despise the game at every level. I guess the answer will reveal itself in time…

Top Photo: Peterborough Memorial Centre, Arena #59. If NHL players are on strike, then so is my hair. Enjoy that, gentlemen WINK!

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Monday, September 3rd, 2012

NHL Lockout 2012: Back to the Minors?

Countdown to September 29th: 26 days

Somewhere on the Eastern shore of Japan, but not for very much longer… With my return to Toronto quickly approaching, it seems my body has just decided to flip over to the local time in my homeland. Well… not totally, but i’m definitely half way there. It seems I can’t fall asleep before 6AM these days, which would be 5PM Toronto time. Weird. And definitely not a good thing for travel day, as I have an unfortunate connection at LAX, and will likely be too exhausted to deal with all the *phonies* in a polite (read: quiet) way. Also, I won’t even land in Toronto until after 11PM – another bonus.

Anyway… It’s currently 4AM, so I’ve got some time here. So… How about that lockout? I’ve got a bad feeling about it – kind of. My day today was very reminiscent of 2004-05, or as the more hardcore fans know it, The Year of the AHL. The Curse of Grand Rapids returned today when my precious foster car, Paul Kariya, got his first flat tire. I know, I know – It’s obviously NOT the Curse of Grand Rapids, as it had nothing to do with the Griffins OR hockey, but it still reminded me of it.

During the last lockout, my first born vehicle, Boysie (Brad Boyes is the father), got a flat after some a-hole slammed into us the morning after a Milwaukee Admirals game at Van Andel Arena. Months later the same thing would happen again, except this time the tire simply imploded while driving to yet another Griffins/Ads tilt in Michigan. Luckily, punctuality is one of my strongest virtues. My mother always said that people who are late think they are the centre of the universe, and more important than the people waiting for them, so I have always made a point to NEVER be late for anything. And because of this virtue, I didn’t miss a second of the action in that game that night, even after getting pulled over within 10 minutes of being released from the Canadian Tire where my tire had been changed. Yeah…. I got stopped at 140km/h, which was lucky since I was pushing 180km/h just moments before. Shhhh…. This was before they implemented the automatic seizure of licences and vehicles for 50km/h over the speed limit (on highways) in Ontario.

So you’re probably wondering why getting a flat tire didn’t ruin my day today. Well… I WAS on my way to one of my business classes, but due to my aforementioned over-punctualness, I had given myself an extra 90 minutes to get to the laboratory. You would, too, if you knew the horror that is the Japanese National Route 6. So, no problems there. And obviously, a seasoned road trip veteran, such as I am, would know a thing or two about changing tires after (what feels like) a thousand road trips across NHL, AHL, and OHL country. Besides, it’s not fucking hard. All I have to do is squeeze my tits together, and the thing magically gets done. God bless the universal language of cleavage!

I suppose today’s incident did put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as it reminded me of those Milwaukee incidents all those years ago, and I started to wonder, if hockey does get cancelled, if things will be as they were back then. It’s been 8 years. I was a teenager during the last NHL Lockout, and I was clearly using hockey as away to assert my independence. Back then completing a hockey road trip felt like a major accomplishment, and since Toronto to Milwaukee was my first cross-border roadie during that 04-05 non-season, I sure was proud of not dying on that one.

I still remember that feeling I used to get on those first few trips while waiting in line at the border, and absolutely freaking out for no reason at all. I remember my friend saying to me, “I don’t know what it is, but I feel really nervous.” And me trying to brush it off like it was nothing, even though I was also freaking out, “Just let me do all the talking.” Yeah, you’d think we were trafficking or something, but we were just two young hockey fans against the world and patronizing border guards, “Does your daddddddy know you’re here?” Eww. Rapist.

Once I was over the border, I always felt like I was stealthily cutting through the night with Boysie, my trusted steed. I’m one of those weird people that prefer to drive at night, and I’m sure I picked up this habit while trying to survive on the mean streets of America as a rookie during the Lockout. As a young Canadian, it was really off putting to see all those billboards for lawyers trying to tempt you into suing the ass off of any and everyone. As an innocent (road trip) virgin these ads were terrifying, and I suppose I thought traveling at night was one way to keep the “heat” off my back.

Aside from all the unknown foes that lurked along the sides of the Interstates, the Lockout season was really one of the best hockey seasons I have ever had. The AHL was incredible that year, and the Leafs‘ indefinite hiatus from my life, opened me up to a whole new world of hockey I likely would never have explored otherwise. I suppose the last lockout made me the Psycho fan you know and love (or hate), so I guess that’s a plus.

I just can’t help but wondering what will happen now. Like you, I don’t believe we will lose an entire hockey season if the NHL does lockout, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I guess I’m a bit saddened because I don’t think I will be able to relive the magic that was the AHL season of 2004-05. In the years following the Lockout, the American Hockey League really began to depress me. Every time I dragged myself to a game, I would feel really uncomfortable. Half empty arenas are like my kryptonite, they absolutely KILL me. And the players. Oh, the players! Half the roster is kissing the sky that they get ice time in the A, while the other half is pissed off because they think they deserve to be in the big show. I don’t know. AHL games make me feel sad and lonely these days, but maybe things will change if some NHL guys trickle into the system. Fingers crossed for that.

Am I making any sense here? I have to clear out my liquor cabinet before the big move, and I’ve been quite dedicated to the cause, if you know what I’m sayingrynnignnshfm FIVE DOLLARS get out of here… (bonus points if you understood that).

Anyway, don’t think I haven’t noticed that my unlucky streak continues with my return to Canada coming just as the NHL is about to lockout. My return to Canada could not be avoided, but it is unlikely to be a permanent thing. Although I will likely be in Canada for the entire hockey season, I will likely be gone again in 2013. I have already been offered a job (next year) teaching at a women’s university in Saudi Arabia, and I would very, very, very much like to be able to contribute to the education of Saudi women. I don’t know, but I consider that to be a significant thing, and I am very thankful and excited for the opportunity. Of course, many things can change in 11 months. Perhaps, my North American life will change in a monumental way, and I’d be a fool to leave again, but for now the compass in my crystal ball is pointing me toward the Middle East. The clock is ticking, as they say.

I WAS hoping to be able to finally knock those last 4 NHL rinks off my list this season before I leave again, but with only 12 days until the 15th, that is looking less and less likely. Perhaps, I am not meant to visit all the NHL rinks. Hockey has taught me some pretty harsh lessons in my lifetime; lessons like learning to value men that don’t regard me as their entitlement, like certain men with skates are prone to doing, for example. Perhaps, my four missing hockey rinks are another lesson that I have yet to grasp… Learning to walk away without “closure.”

Top Photo: Still proud of that tattoo, “Bokensha.” From lockout to (possible) lockout, it has been an adventure…

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