FYI: This post is a must read for any dedicated hockey fans planning to cross borders this season to experience a game in another NHL rink.
Toronto, ON The NHL schedule is to be released this weekend, and in normal seasons this is something to celebrate. Being a psycho, I normally can’t wait to get my grubby little mitts on the schedule, so that I can start to formulate a drama packed schedule of my own – a schedule that largely consists of hockey ports all over the United States. Last season, however, I finally checked off my last unvisited US based NHL arena from list. My final American destination was a return to Pittsburgh last December to witness the splendor of the new CONSOL Energy Center. Let’s just say, after that historic game between the Pens and the Canes, I breathed a great sigh of relief for no longer *needing* to attend another NHL game south of the border again (until new rinks enter the NHL, of course) – not to say I won’t, naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t LOVE the American rinks. Most of my favourite arenas are on the other side of the tracks. What I don’t like, however, is being treated like a terrorist by US Border Services just because I am a woman who also likes hockey.
On the Canadian side of the border, attending hockey games doesn’t typically raise a red flag with any gender. Whether you think it’s a Canadian stereotype or not, the fact remains – we are a hockey loving people, and we understand if others are, too. Most Americans, however, do not understand this passion, and impose outdated sexist notions of women, and their propensity to genuinely enjoy sports, on any woman daring to enter their borders for the purpose of sport fandom.
I need to pause a moment and say that writing this post makes me uncomfortable. There are many of you, both American and Canadian, who cross the borders at will for football games, Black Friday shopping, casinos, lower drinking age, and etc without a care in the world. Crossing the border to you is probably just a formality and a waste of your time. It’s not. Period.
FACT: When you cross the border you are ASKING permission to enter a “foreign” country. You do not automatically have permission to enter the country because you booked hotel rooms, or have centre ice seats.
FACT: You can be denied access to the “foreign” country for unjustifiable reasons. In other words, the border guards don’t need to have a tangible reason, like finding drugs in your car and/or ass. They could simply not like your cocky attitude.
FACT: If you are denied access to the “foreign” country for any reason (re: attitude), good luck trying to ever get across again. Note: Being turned away from the border is different than being banned.
FACT: I changed my mind about what I wrote here due to paranoia. Let me just say, think twice about a Celine Dion in-car karaoke session or having an intimate/embarrassing conversation while waiting in your car at the border…
FACT: If you are sent for secondary inspection even once, you will be inspected perpetually, until finally you will be inspected EVERY time you cross, despite never having illegal or suspicious materials in your car.
Now, I’m sure some of you think I’m being over dramatic, but I’m not. Just ask that young UK couple, who were arrested at LAX and promptly shipped back home last year, after Homeland Security misinterpreted something they tweeted prior to their arrival in the United States. The USA has the scariest Immigration out of everywhere I have been in the world, which includes places like Bangkok, where Airport Security interviews each and every person BEFORE check in (and before security) on the details of where their baggage has been and who packed it, or anywhere in China, where it can be quite terrifying to have a connecting flight without a Chinese visa and no boarding pass.
Maybe it’s the fact that as a traveling hockey fan, I have been held up at the border more times than most people ever will be in their lifetime. The last time I crossed the border for hockey was last April for a Florida/Detroit game. I was, of course, sent for secondary inspection because I’m an “Echo,” or at least that’s what they called me. An Echo is someone who is almost always inspected when they arrive at the border.
How did I earn this status you ask? Well, up until the 2008-09 season I was essentially just a fan of one team, but since my team was located 8 hours outside of Toronto, I used to travel to see my boys play whenever they were in Buffalo, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa – the local rinks. However, in 08-09 I started to get this crazy idea to visit ALL the rinks in the NHL. I started crossing the border more and more to go to hockey games, and that clearly raised a flag of suspicion.
Now, I’ve never done anything illegal. They just don’t believe that single women A) like sports, or B) are able to pay for trips without a husband or boyfriend. Pretty shitty, huh? I guess we should all stick to knitting in our parents’ basement until some prince charming rescues us. Anyway, just remember that until your prince charming rides in on his white horse, no traveling, life experiences, or enjoyment of any kind, OK? As the border inspector said last April, “Oh, you know, he sent you in here because you go to a lot of hockey games and you’ve been stopped a lot, and we need to check that out.” The fact of the matter is that every time I tell the truth and say I’m going to a hockey game, alone, as a poor defenseless female, I get sent in. Every time they let me proceed (*knock on wood*). The story never changes, not really sure why they think the inspection will. Surely, if I was up to something bad, illegal, or unsavoury, I would avoid using the whole hockey thing as my alias given my unsuccessful history with it, hmmm?
Anyway, because I typically get stopped any and every time I attempt to cross the border (I’ve been stopped a handful of times on the Canadian end for non-hockey related things, too, so don’t think I’m only complaining about the Americans), I can give you a helpful list of red flags to be aware of when crossing the borders no matter which side of the fence you’re on. Note: A red flag doesn’t mean you won’t be admitted into the country, it just means they will likely ask you more questions, or send you for inspection. No need to fabricate a story if these items apply to you.
PURPOSE OF TRAVEL:
WOMEN: Attending sporting events without a companion
MEN: Visiting Disney World without a woman.
WOMEN: You are single and traveling alone, and therefore can’t afford your trip, your car, or anything else you own.
WOMEN: You are not married and don’t live with your parents.
WOMEN: You didn’t do any shopping on your trip. Since we are all shopaholics *vomits,* then not shopping on a trip is suspicious.
BOTH: You are dating someone who lives in the “foreign” country. Naturally, your relationship is a sham and likely has something to do with obtaining visas or green cards.
BOTH: You are not born in the same country that you are currently a citizen of.
BOTH: You are unemployed and, therefore, you must be trying to work illegally on the other side of the border instead of, you know, enjoying a break from the workforce with a vacation.
WOMEN: Going to a hockey game is suspicious for any single woman, but generally the further you travel from your home city, the more likely it is that you’ll be hauled in. Border towns with NHL teams, like Detroit and Buffalo, are more likely to hassle you if you are going to see a team other than the Red Wings or the Sabres play. Like if you were to be crossing the border in Detroit, but were actually traveling to Minnesota, for example. Although, as you just read, that didn’t matter to the border guard I was dealing with in Detroit last April.
WOMEN: You aren’t dating someone on the team. Now, girls, don’t flatter yourselves because a border guard asked you if you were going to the game because you are dating someone on the team. This doesn’t mean they think you “pass” as one of those heinous beasts we call hockey wags. It simply means that they are sexist, and can’t understand why you, as a woman, would travel to a game for any other reason.
BOTH: You don’t have your hockey ticket on your person. Yeah, you’re probably saying, “But I usually just pick up my ticket from Will Call when I go to a hockey game.” Well, stop doing that. Having a hockey ticket on you is definitely not evidence enough for immigration NOT to send you for secondary inspection, but not having the ticket will insure that you suffer a far worse fate. I learned this on my way to Boston in 2009. My ticket never showed up in the mail, so I called the Bruins and they said they would print a new ticket for me, and that it would be waiting at Will Call on game day. Not only was I sent for inspection, but I was sent to an isolation room, and my car was put under lockdown!
Anyway, after four years worth of secondary inspections, and the stress associated with not knowing what will happen when I get to the border after booking a hockey trip to the States, you can understand why I would be overjoyed to only have Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver left on my list of unvisited NHL rinks. I’m not saying I’ll never go the States again for hockey, but after what happened to that UK couple, I think it’s safe to say that I will probably get banned after writing this post! I’m sure there will be a Sabres game in my future this season, so I guess we’ll see what happens to me at that time.
By the way, I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from traveling to NHL (or other hockey) games on the opposite side of the border this season or in the future. I just want you to be aware that this stuff is not to be taken lightly. For the record, while I have been stopped for secondary inspection 99.99% of times that I have crossed the border for hockey on my own, I have NEVER been stopped when traveling with a friend… Or if I LIE and say that I’m not going to a hockey game when I actually am – go figure!
Top Photo: Flyers@Bruins March 2, 2009. Still smiling after Lockdown!
Disclaimer: This article in no way condones or encourages the misrepresentation of one’s identity, objective, or belongings in the attempt to gain entry to Canada, the United States, or any other nation.