Tag: Erie Otters

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Arena #63: The road to Erie Insurance Arena was a 12 year journey…

Erie, PA I can still picture it in my head – the way I had envisioned my first trip to Erie as a 16 year old innocent, in love with a certain Brad Boyes. At that point in my life I had basically been to three OHL arenas: Kitchener, Toronto, and the old London Ice House, where I had witnessed the Otters eliminate Rick Nash and the Knights on their road to the 2002 Memorial Cup. So, really, going to see an Otters game in their home barn was not much more than a pie in the sky fantasy. I mean, I just got my G2 licence at the end of that OHL season, and was, therefore, only JUST barely allowed to operate a motor vehicle unsupervised. Sure, a trip across the border with my partner-in-crime seemed thrilling, but deep down we knew it was not a trip we were ever going to take.

I can still see it, though, the Erie I had imagined all those years ago. I had imagined Erie to be a bit like Guelph, with nice parts, and then other parts that were more or less Hamilton. I can still see it now. My trusted first car, Boysie (ahem), was descending upon the darkened Guelphiltonesque ghost town of Erie, as street lights swayed, and I dare say a tumbleweed or two blew by. Erie represented the unknown other. Erie was one of only two OHL teams that was located on the other side of the tracks (Saginaw joined the league the following year), and this up and coming puck bunny anthropologist couldn’t help but wonder how those poor boys in Erie and Plymouth were getting on without puck horny Canadian women. I mean, it was hard to imagine Americans liking junior hockey since NHL hockey was having such a hard time. Hockey in America seemed like it might not be at all unlike a horrible science experiment performed by Dr. Frankenstein.

The dream of experiencing Erie died not long after that 01-02 OHL season. I consider the moment the Otters phase of my life passed was when the Brad Boyes jersey that I ordered never arrived in the mail! Back then online ordering technology wasn’t so great in the OHL, and was not unlike Mrs. Carrier ordering her son, Roch, a new hockey sweater from Eaton’s. Plus, I suppose there was that whole being robbed of my innocence by a Kitchener Ranger to distract me, too. My motivation to experience OHL hockey over the border was dormant for many years, until the day I decided to begin my hockey explorations all over the world. Eleven years later, I would finally go to Erie.

My journey to Erie seemed doomed from the start. I hit a nasty patch of weather on my way to Buffalo that afternoon, and I was beginning to wonder if it was a wise decision to jump back in the car for a 90 minute commute to Erie, Pennsylvania. I call this, ‘maturity.’ I decided to set up shop in Buffalo, as I was planning to see the Sabres game the following afternoon. As I checked in, the woman working the front desk informed me that the snowstorm was heading north, and that I probably wouldn’t have much to worry about. WRONG.

Oh, and speaking of checking in. I had clearly made the mistake of wearing a Leafs shirt to Buffalo that day. The shirt had a purpose, as did the hockey paraphernalia I randomly sprinkled around the backseat of my car, Lynxie, and that was for a smoother confrontation at the border. Luckily, no problems this time. However, the problems came when I drove up to my hotel and the Toronto Rock NLL team was checking in at the same time. Yeah, they each had no less than four team logos plastered all over themselves, and most of them were carrying around their LAX sticks, so they were kind of hard to miss. However, they saw me waltz in with my Leafs shirt and there was immediate silence as all eyes were fixed on me with puppy dog desperation. I’m not sure what they wanted me to do… Ask for an autograph on my boob? A friendly fellating? What?!?!

Anyway, the road to Erie was a treacherous one, and by the time I had descended upon the strangely Guelphiltonesque town, it was clear that they had already been severely ravaged by old man winter. I thought the worst must have been over, but it was yet to come. As I left Erie Insurance Arena after the Otters 7-2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, there was a full on blizzard happening. I drove all the way back to Buffalo in whiteout conditions, and there were long stretches of highway that were essentially three inch thick sheets of unblemished snow. I also almost died when a snow plow changed lanes unannounced as I was about to pass him. Burned rubber surviving that one…

Sadly, I didn’t pick a very good time to finally make my trip to Erie. Sure, Connor McDavid and the future of hockey is alive and well, but the arena itself is undergoing a major (much needed) facelift. Whole sections of seats were hidden behind tarp, and other areas were totally gutted. So, it was hard for me to get a sense of what the place was like back in the sellout days of Brad Boyes and Memorial Cup dreams, or what it will be like next season when the renovations are complete. I suppose I will have to come back to Erie someday, if the Otters are still around. Rumour around the rink is that the Otters might be on the move… TO HAMILTON?!

What I can say for certain about Erie is that the fans are definitely different than they are in the Canadian OHL markets. They remind me of AHL fans, but since OHL rinks are smaller, the numbers make for a better and more powerful dynamic. I’ve never seen so much banging on the glass in my entire life. In fact, the entire row behind the visitors bench has been barred off due to fans constantly harassing the opposition. My section was particularly rowdy (in a good way), and I found that these people might even be more dedicated to the team than the fans in the Canadian cities. When they weren’t discussing the presence of Bobby Orr at the game the night before, I heard people talking about altering their work schedules to sync with the Otters schedule. Quite frankly, that’s Psycho Lady-esque fandom right there.

I feel like I should stop there since I really believe that another trip to Erie is necessary to do the team and the rink justice. That said, can I make a suggestion, Erie Otters? Please put in a nice big mural to honour Thebradboyes so that I might stroke it… I mean, take a picture in front of it upon my return. Thanks in advance. The end.

Top Photo: Shooter and the tarp…


Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Otters@67’s: The designer handbag theory.

Exactly one week after my trek beyond the outer limits of the 401 East, and by that I mean, Montreal, I found myself retracing my steps and bound for our nation’s capital. Of course, Scotiabank Place is quiet these days with the NHL on hiatus for the Olympics and all, so this time around I was headed to the previously unexplored Urbandale Centre, home of the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. Fun times.

Back in the day, I had this notion that there was a heavy puck bunny scene down in Ottawa, and the locals, who were around during this reign of terror, confirmed that I wasn’t off in my assumptions. Back then I had based this idea on those puck bunny rumour sites that I mentioned a few weeks ago. Not only was there a lot of activity coming directly from the puck bunny sites dedicated to the 67’s, but there was a lot of inquiries made about gals spotted rink side on the players’ moderated sites as well. If players from around the O were so intrigued by the puck bunny caliber in Ottawa that they had to find out who these girls were at all costs, then obviously these O-Town bunnies were, at one time, a force to be reckoned with. This high puck quality suggests a higher puck quantity as well…you know…seeing as most hockey players will attempt to nail practically anything that moves. Anyway…

However, the old days appeared to be long gone (once again) as I walked into yet another OHL rink with a virtually extinct puck bunny population. Aside from the odd cluster here and there, and rumours that some of the ice girls were partial to hanging around the locker rooms a little longer than they should, there was almost no sign that these girls ever existed. Since the game against the Erie Otters and the trip itself were so uneventful (the highlights being running into the team bus after I finished pumping gas in Brockville, and discovering that the Urbandale Centre had its very own BeaverTails stand), I had more than enough time to reexamine some of my going theories about the disappearance of the puck bunny.

To begin the brainstorming process, I had to take a trip back in time to my teen years, and start identifying some of the things that have changed socially since this golden era when the puck bunny reigned supreme from their junior hockey rink thrones across the country. The easiest thing to identify was the physical change; teen girls today look a lot different from the teens roaming this side of the planet less than ten years ago. Girls are aging (aesthetically) at a faster pace, for starters. You can blame the trendsetters in Hollywood for trying to convince the world that we’re unhealthy if we don’t have skin damage from the sun. And let’s not forget that fake is in: fake tans, fake boobs, fake nails, fake hair, fake personality; women today are starting to look like a page aggressively ripped from the binding of the latest Us Weekly – the SAME page no less.

Naturally, this started to make me question to state of desire, and what was now considered desirable to the young, contemporary female who subscribed to these ideals. My major jumping off point was the designer handbag, sunglasses, and pretty much everything uprising. See, about fifteen years ago (I’d say), lower end designers came on in full force with that whole “brand name” rage that swept the impressionable youth of its day. You remember when brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, etc started becoming the it-designers for the middle class for the simple reason that they started splashing their name across the chest of every shirt they shipped to the department store nearest you. This began the designer obsession on the sole basis that now other people would be able to know how much you could afford to spend on material things, and how well you dressed just by simply reading the logo stamped in bold on the clothing item itself. Now, I’m not saying people never cared about fashion before that, but labels had never really been seen on the outside of a dress or a shirt, or, or, or before. Let’s just say keeping up appearances suddenly got a whole lot easier.

It took the upscale designers a surprisingly long time to get on board with this concept. Well, I shouldn’t say “surprisingly,” I’m sure the upper crust was not about to start begging for mass consumption as the likes of Tommy and Calvin were so eager to do. So, it wasn’t until I was in university, and long estranged from the junior hockey realm that the designer handbag fever swept the western world. What a brilliant idea. High end designers like Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel, all began producing purses in mass with their logo as the very pattern of the fabric. Without lowering the cost of the product, the designer handbag brigade began making purses that could be identified visually as being an icon of the upper class. Sure, before this era began, you COULD have spent all your hard earned money on a black Chanel purse that no one would know was Chanel except for the fashion obsessed (and even still, they’d probably just assume it was fake), but I think you can all see how much more appealing it would be to acquire this status item, if most people could identify it as such, and, therefore, you can also see how people would be all the more willing to throw down a cool grand if they can fake having this lifestyle for whatever reason or whatever pleasure they derive from doing so.

At first I complicated my theory unnecessarily. I started looking at the bigger picture of what such consumerism and such materialism was doing to the motivation of a young and impressionable society. Perhaps, this new age suggested that more and more women were signing up for the life of a gold-digger, and, perhaps, junior hockey players were small fish to fry in the grander scheme of NHL players and investment bankers. I decided, however, that, if there was something to this designer handbag theory, the cause could be found in the simplistic. These young pucks, running around with their Coach bags and Armani sunglasses, are, quite simply, TOO BROKE to afford hockey tickets. Sure, OHL games are cheap, but if you’re in high school, and either have no job or, if you do, you work at McDonald’s, you likely can’t afford to have your cake and eat it too. Especially when you consider that the designer purses, shoes, jeans also have to be constantly maintained with hair dye and trips to the tanning salon. And let me tell you, it used to cost me $250 a month just to maintain blonde hair – that’s a car payment for some people! Anyway, in the bigger picture, most puck bunnies realize that hockey players are hard birds to cage, and, therefore, attempting to impress the rest of the world becomes a much more lucrative investment.

Of course, not ALL puck bunnies play their games while rink side. Many junior level puck bunnies use the high school campus as a much more accessible hunting ground. However, that’s another story for another day. Stay tuned for more of my crazy theories, as Puck Bunny Month draws to a close.

Taken before I made an A&W pit stop. With attractions like these, are you surprised that this is the home town of Avril Lavigne?

Roll the credits…

(I like this video because Avril_Bambi and Avril_Carmen are in it.)

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