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Tag: Carolina Hurricanes

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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Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The NHL Comeback: Who’s your Daddy, Pittsburgh?!

Pittsburgh, PA “Oh God!! What if I’m PREGNANT!?!?!” I cried, whined, and screamed as I slammed down my third empty glass of cherry flavoured Pepsi at a Kings location just off of the I-79 in Pennsylvania. “I can’t stop drinking this stuff! What if this is a CRAVING?! I DON’T EVEN LIKE CHERRY COKE!!!”

It was the tail end of the 08-09 NHL season, and I was heading home from my first (and extremely epic) Penguins hockey experience at the now abandoned Mellon Arena. I was your textbook panicky 23 year old/ball of paranoia after making a few too many “bad judgement calls” on a previous hockey roadie to see the Phoenix Coyotes take on the Anaheim Ducks in sunny Southern California. “Fuuuuuuck, Mal!! What am I going to do? What if I’ve been knocked up by a stupid douche bag guy and his stupid douche bag baby?!” I was sure of it. The cherry cola craving was the icing on a proverbial cake that was rife with other symptoms. I always knew that hockey would find a way of really screwing me over in the end, and, well, it seemed like the Apocalypse had finally arrived.

I won’t keep you in suspense, if you are, in fact, in suspense. I know you are probably well aware that I have not been toting a baby around over the past few hockey seasons. Yes, the pregnancy test was obviously a glorious single line of negativity and celebration, and so, as far as I know, my womb had not been compromised in Anaheim. As I would discover a few months later in Las Vegas, the Cherry Coke thing was indeed a craving, but it seems to be something my body craves when its in some sort of distress, such as extreme dehydration in the desert heat, or after a night of unintentionally sloppy intoxication on the streets of Pittsburgh. Why do I crave Cherry Coke specifically? I still have no idea.

Fast forward to the 2011-12 hockey season, and I found myself ordering breakfast from that very same Kings location after my first Pens game in the new and spiffy CONSOL Energy Center. I wasn’t hung over (or pregnant), but for old times’ sake I ordered a glass of cherry flavoured Pepsi to go with my food and Frownie. My friend and I (partners in crime since the 2001-02 OHL season) had both been back to Pittsburgh since our now legendary inaugural trip, but not together. “Oh man,” I remarked after a reminiscent sip of my cherry beverage, “Do you remember my pregnancy scare the last time we were here?” I laughed as I took another sip, but truthfully I had nearly forgotten the whole thing. It’s funny how time can make us forget the lethal consequences of our bad behaviour, and I’d definitely be lying if I said I actually learned my lesson (for long) back then.

“Oh, do I ever,” she said, as I suspected she would. You see, over the past 3 years she has been my only source of information for filling in the holes of our first night out in Pittsburgh. A night that involved epic hair disasters, obnoxious rink side manner, mysterious appearing and disappearing nachos, Sidney Crosby autographs, Britney Spears tour buses, and merciless post game attacks on the manhood of certain Penguins players while under the influence of A LOT of various types of alcohol. What’s funny is that 3 years later, I am still learning new things about that first game. This time around I learned that we had taken a cab both to and from the bar after my friend had acquired the much sought after Sid the Kid autograph. I only remember walking away from the gathering of Crosby fans, and stumbling out of the bar while yelling, “Go home, Teenstache!” so I had always just assumed that the bar must have been close to the Igloo, and that we had walked. Not the case, apparently. The bar is actually quite far away, and what I don’t remember from that night could probably fill the pages of a sassy best selling novel.

I wish I could tell you that my first game day experience at the CONSOL Energy Center was just as insane as my first at Mellon Arena, but I can’t. Asia to North America jet lag is a serious bitch. For those of you that have never ventured to the far East, try to imagine the jet lag you get from flying between New York and LA, or Toronto and Vancouver, and then multiple it by a zillion. I am tired ALL. THE. TIME. In fact it was an effort for me NOT to fall asleep during the third period of the Pens/Canes game that night. They say it takes the body one day for every one hour of time difference to adjust from the jet lag, which means that for the 14 hour difference between Toronto and Tokyo, I’ll be adjusted to Eastern Time just as I’m boarding my flight back to Japan on January 8th. Perfect.

The hockey gods saw to it that I was properly welcomed back to the NHL by making me earn my seat at the rink only after conquering the extreme winter weather driving conditions they threw my way. I’m not going to lie, there were definitely some scary situations. We even saw a pick up truck spin out and go into the ditch. Surprisingly, despite being conditioned to cars built for driving on the opposite side of the road, I handled all challenges with, dare I say it, impressive ease. Unfortunately, the horrible weather resulted in a veto on a visit to the Primanti Bros. Strip location, and so, I was forced to get my Pittsburgher cheese steak fix at the rink that night instead. Sadly, it just wasn’t the same.

The post game experience also wasn’t even remotely epic, as a combination of jet lag and an incompetent driver that we swiped from the Marriott across the street from the Pittsburgh arenas by pretending to be guests. Take that, Penguins fans waiting in taxi stands like suckers! Instead of run ins with boys from the team (and obviously there was no babe-o-rama Hal Gill encounter this time either), or adult beverages of any kind, we wound up at your everyday, run of the mill McDonald’s. And if you really want to know, I ordered a caramel sundae as the caramel option is quite scarce in Japan. Exciting, I know.

Anyway, the morning after I was awake bright and early, as the jet lag sees to it that I don’t sleep when I’m supposed to, so I killed some time chewing on a Zagnut bar and manimal watching in the lobby of the same haunted hotel from my 09-10 season opener and double header extravaganza. I’m happy to report that nothing eerie happened this time around. There was one moment where we heard a strange noise that made our hair stand on end for a second, and the room was always a touch too cold, but who knows if that’s anything of importance. The important thing was that there was nothing flying around my hotel room this time!

The drive back to Leafs Nation that day was a little less stressful, and overall an invigorating experience. On my flight home from Narita, Japan on Christmas Eve, I felt like I had just awoken from a very bizarre dream. It was like I had never gone to Japan, and that the last 6+ months had been the product of a psychotic mind as she napped on her flight back from Tampa during the second round of last season’s playoffs. The problem was the reality of my imminent return to the other side of the planet hit me quite hard when I checked my emails from the comfort of my hotel bed the previous evening, and saw that I had a new prospective client back in Japan, and that soon I would return to that life for another 80 days at least.

I had actually been toying with the idea of staying in Japan for an extended period of time. Life over there can’t really be described as anything other than comfortable. It seemed like a waste not to try to make it work for a while, enjoy the world’s most authentic sushi, and learn all there is to know about the Asia League. However, SOME of you will be happy to know that after being back home, albeit for only a few days at this point, I’m not so sure that I can handle much more than the 80 days I have left on my prison sentence, I mean, contract. I think there is a very good chance that I will actually get on that flight on March 31st, and return to the NHL for the second time this season. Besides I feel like a terrible Canadian. After my Pens/Canes match up at CONSOL Energy Center, I have officially checked off ALL the US based NHL arenas from my hit list. How unpatriotic of me to have left Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg (though I don’t feel so bad about that one since it’s new and all) until the very end. Rectifying this situation is now my sole priority! Look out, Western Canada!

Traditional Consumption Figures for Pittsburgh:

Rockstar Energy Drinks: 2
Slim Jims: 3
Overpriced Arena Beer: 1 (Blame the jet lag.)
Primanti Bros: 1

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