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!