Tag: soo greyhounds

Monday, March 25th, 2013

OHL COMPLETE: Guys love being in my box in Sault Ste. Marie…

Been a pleasure, but the pleasure’s been mine, all mine…

Sault Ste. Marie, ON Well, I’ve finally done it. I have visited every rink in the Ontario Hockey League and lived to tell the tale. In the 12 years since I began getting my big O’s on the road (and by that, I mean, OHL games, of course) I have met the fans, eaten the poutines, and been molested by the mascots (among other things)! It feels so good to be able to comment with total certainty on the ins and outs of each and every rink and fan base in my favourite juniour league. Yes, hockey world, I am now an expert on the total OHL fan experience!

OK… Now, please don’t be THAT guy. You know, that asshole who can’t help but point out that next season North Bay will make their long awaited return to the O, and will, therefore, blemish my nice set (of rinks). Or the fact that Ottawa will be moving out of their temporary home at Scotiabank Place in a couple years, and that Erie may or may not be on the move to Hamilton! Yeah, guy, I know all of this, but right now, and in this moment, I have a perfect 20/20 OHL arena record, and you WILL NOT ruin my damn party! Got it? Thanks.

I’m not going to lie, Essar Centre (home of the Soo Greyhounds) was not my absolute favourite OHL arena, but I gotta tell ya – it’s definitely up there. Essar Centre lost points with me over the fact that the arena wasn’t THAT big for a newer facility, which is kind of odd because people go crazy for their Greyhounds up in those parts. In Sault Ste. Marie there isn’t one specific NHL team that the majority of the people worship. You walk into the Station Mall and it is a rainbow of NHL merchandise being sold in their shops, which, to me, was pretty striking. Despite the obvious passion for hockey in this Northern Ontario town, their passion for their local OHL team is only rivaled by a few other demographics in this league. Surely, they could fill a larger barn if they tried. Preferably one that serves poutine! I gave a -1 for that concessions omission, by the way!

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect on my trip to the Soo. The 8 hour drive from Toronto and very cold winter temperatures ensured that Sault Ste. Marie was the last OHL town I ended up visiting. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find up there, if anything, but I ended up having one of the best times since, hmm, Anaheim, if you know what I mean. The Essar Centre was across from the mall and down the road from a casino, so basically it was fun central! The only unpleasantness was that my phone kept trying to flip into roaming – border town problems, right? Oh, and I also made the mistake of finally trying the coconut flavoured Rockstar energy drink. Blahhh! Easily the worst thing I had in my mouth on this trip. Yeah, you’re welcome.

As for the game itself it was pretty intense. Technically, the game, which was also the last game of the regular season, didn’t matter, since playoff spots had been finalized. I noticed all weekend in Saginaw and Plymouth that the teams weren’t dressing their best players in preparation for the second season. It was no different in the Soo, but the boys were playing like everything they had was riding on that game. It was one of the most heavily penalized games I had seen in a LONG time, with a total of 64 minutes being served. I don’t know how many times throughout the night that there were 3 young men inside my box at the same time… Oh, I guess I should have mentioned that I was sitting next to the penalty box, eh? Anyway, there was definitely a lot of passion and emotion flying that night… On the ice, that is… Yep, I thoroughly enjoyed my Sault Ste. Marie experience, and I made sure to go out and celebrate my OHL completion that night in the only way I know how…

So, anyway, you’re probably wondering what my favourite OHL rink is, now that I have officially been to all of them, and can make an informed decision. Maybe I’m biased. Maybe my hometown Kitchener Aud will always hold more meaning for me than it does for anyone else. It was the rink that both corrupted me and turned me on to this game more than my Toronto Maple Leafs ever could, after all. Kitchener is one of those rare OHL cities that is large enough to, you know, have a life outside of jr. hockey, and yet that town has worshipped their Rangers for 50 years! The arena is large and pretty, since it undergoes a facelift regularly every couple of seasons. Yet, no matter how many renovations the Aud undergoes, that distinct smell of beer nuts and my threatened virginity always manages to linger in the air. If I ever had any doubt about Kitchener being my favourite rink, those doubts flew out the window Friday night during Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Aud was rockin’! Seriously, I think it was louder than MTS Centre on a good night, which only proves that Kitchener fans are some of the most intense in our beloved sport. I guess now you know where I get my crazy from, huh?  And I guess it’s true what they say. You can travel around the world, but you may find that you were always better off right where you started.

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Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Arena #62: 11 facts about OHL hockey…

Sudbury, ON Since it’s 2013 and all, I just realized that I have been doing this OHL song and dance for 12 long years! Although after checking the Sudbury Arena off my list of unvisited OHL rinks, I am still 4 rinks shy of completion – 5 if you consider that North Bay is making a comeback next season! However, despite the incompleteness of my rink collection, I think I have a pretty firm grasp of the OHL game experience after taking in 113 games in my lifetime.

I always think about that commercial for the Fan 590 that aired several years ago. You know the one where Bob McCown goes on a rant about how sports fans are the same no matter where you go? That line has successfully pissed me off for several years now. Fans are not exactly the same wherever you go – not even close. If they were, then I have basically been wasting my life. The only common thing they share with other fans in the league is that they are all a fan of the same sport. Fans in places like Phoenix are smaller in number, so they have a tighter bond with each other and their team, than those of us living in places where hockey tickets are considered status items. Fans in small markets in the NHL are quite similar to fans of junior hockey. They are more protective of their players, like we are protective of the kids lacing it up in the OHL. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Leafs fan get “protective” over anyone on their roster. We criticize our best players, and thirst for the blood of our worst.

The reason I love traveling around to different hockey rinks is to see how the game that I love is celebrated around the world. How do the other fans cheer? What do they eat? How tight is their community? How much do they pay for beer? These are just some of the few answers I seek every time I take to the road in hockey related exploration. That said, and in fairness to Mr. McCown, there are definitely a few common components to the game experience and fan community throughout the various ports of hockey around the world. So, in honour of my 62nd hockey rink, and my 18th OHL rink (2 are now inactive), here is a quick list of the 11 things you are sure to experience at any given OHL game.

#1 The stick boys or “equipment managers” are almost always short!

#2 You will always meet one old man that will talk your ear off about how he used to play junior hockey, and was “better than those kids out there [on the ice].”

#3 The fans mostly refer to the players by their first names and not their last names, “Goooo, Mikey!”

#4 You will always encounter a striking number of people that walk a fine line between “special” and “normie.” LOL! Sorry if that doesn’t sound very PC, but it is a fact of OHL hockey!

#5 The more Northern (and Eastern from Toronto) the hockey rink, the older, and more run down it is.

#6 If you are a lone female at the game you will ALWAYS be mistaken for one of the players’ girlfriends. I’m 27 and this still happens to me! I can’t remember the last time I went to Will Call, and the sales staff didn’t waste 20 minutes riffling through all the players tickets looking for mine.

#7 People like me just don’t exist. The OHL communities are so tight that they recognize outsiders instantly. Once they find out that you aren’t there in support of the visiting team, they will be more than extremely confused. “You came all the way from Toronto?!?!”

#8 The ladies room is always flooded with young puck bunnies who make a point to cast a judgmental eye on any other woman who attempts to apply a little lip gloss.

#9 The smaller the town, the likelier it is that the cute guy chatting you up in the stands is actually married.

#10 OHL poutine is far superior to NHL poutine! Take that, Ottawa Senators!

#11 There will always be one OBVIOUS 12 year old girl that fawns over the players, and one hockey player that clearly has no idea she’s 12.

Anyway, as for my trek up to Sudbury for the Wolves 2PM puck drop against the Greyhounds on Sunday, it was definitely one of my more interesting games. Sudbury itself seems like a pretty interesting place, although I didn’t have much time to roam around. I left Toronto at 8AM and got into town just after 11AM (don’t hate me for my time saving brilliance). The rink was OLD and in need of some love, but the fans were nice enough, but clearly came from a different universe than I did. I was asked by three different people if my phone was “THE iPhone.” This is how the conversation went every time:

Them: Is that THE iPhone?

Me: It’s the 4S.

Them: Oh, what’s that, a Samsung?

Me: No, it’s an iPhone.

Them: Oh, so thats THE iPhone?

Me: Yeah…

I didn’t quite know what to make of this. I haven’t seen such obliviousness toward the iPhone since I lived in Korea. No one had Apple products when I lived there, but perhaps things have changed.

As for the game itself it was an exciting one. It wasn’t what I expected to happen, but the Wolves made short work of the the Greyhounds. I also made sure to keep an eye on Wolves #27, Joshua Leivo, as he’s one of Toronto’s prospects. He is definitely a presence on the ice. He assisted on 2 of Sudbury’s 4 goals that night. If I had one criticism I’d say that he is easily knocked around and loses his footing, and will probably need time to bulk up in the minors. Better keep him away from all the vegans on the Marlies roster then!

While I was at the game, I started to get that old familiar tingle. I was suddenly taken back to March 2009 when a two day trip to Boston for a Bruins game turned into a two week, six game, four State adventure. I took a look with my newfangled iPhone, and saw that the Greyhounds had a home game the following afternoon. Sault Ste. Marie is the last of my Canadian unvisited OHL rinks, and it would have been so fun to just flip into survival mode, like I did nearly 4 years ago in Boston, and extend my adventure. I had fantasies of storming the Zellers that was up the road from the rink, and buying some underwear and deodorant so that I could actually be somewhat presentable the following day. I was creaming my jeans just thinking about having to book hotel rooms and hockey tickets on the fly with nothing but a phone. Sigh! My extended OHL adventure was sure to be a fun one, but then reality set in, and I remembered I had promised my little cousins to take them tobogganing the following day, and I didn’t want to be a fucking deadbeat. Clearly I’m making progress. I mean, back in ’09 the fact that I had exams and essays due while I was on the road, wasn’t even enough to bring me back home. All I have to say is thank fuck I didn’t fuck up my life too badly chasing that white rabbit all those years ago.

So, with a heavy heart I went back to Toronto that night. I had a lot of disappointments that day. A) I denied myself a super fun adventure! B) I didn’t see a damn moose in my travels! C) The spicy man chatting me up from the seat next to me was (obviously) married. UGH, I miss road trip scandals, especially now that I am officially back on the prowl after the Ginger Snape incident. Speaking of Ginger Snape, here’s a quick update. Evidently he read my post about him. I’m actually shocked he was making that much of an effort. Truthfully, I assess a man’s interest in me based on whether or not he has ventured to this site to half stalk me. Given everything that went down prior to the Marlies Boxing Day game, I definitely didn’t think he was an avid blog reader. Anyway, it seems that the only part of the post that he focused on was the “almost got laid” part. God… If you can still get it up for me after the stuff I wrote, you either have emotional problems, or a supercock… Hmm…

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