Tampa, FL I’ll try to gloss over the events following the Niagara IceDogs’ loss to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the OHL Eastern Conference Finals. Let’s just say the offseason hit me pretty damn hard this year. I can’t be sure why exactly, I mean the offseason is usually a bummer, but it’s never actually felt this awful before. I theorize that hockey was more than just a substitute for life in Korea, it was acting like a drug to repress everything that happened there. It was like suddenly the blinders had been pulled and I realized that nearly five months had flown past since I fled to Canada, and I was still living in the same uncertain, and unstable limbo. You could argue that Little Boy Hockey was more than just a distraction, it was actually giving me a purpose.
I would say that for the three days following the loss I was highly non-functional. Thank God there was some SCT action in there to snap me out of it a little bit (they always come back). But even lovingly fondling Mini Stanley wasn’t enough to pull me out of this, so I started giving into the urges and researching second round playoff tickets. Then I discovered that tickets in Tampa started at $27, and the demon seed had been planted. I tried to be a good girl. I so badly wanted to stay in Toronto and follow the Majors on their quest to the Memorial Cup. However, I realized that Owen Sound would end up being my 50th arena visited, and it just didn’t seem grand enough for such a milestone. And so, I was off to the Sunshine State.
I broke my own rules on this misadventure by traveling on game day. I usually keep to the NHL schedule and fly in the day before. Kind of wish I did that now, so I would have had some more time in the sun. Travel day was pretty uneventful. I booked myself on a 6:45AM flight g-e-n-i-o-u-s move now that I think about it. I had an hour layover in Philly where I naturally got myself a huuuuuuuuge cheesesteak for breakfast, which I managed to devour in 5 minutes flat. Boy do I miss that city! As for the flight into Tampa, I literally passed out for the ENTIRE flight, which is pretty amazing considering I never sleep on my long distance flights, soooo…. must have been the depression!
Tampa greeted me with beautiful 92 degree weather, sunshine, and a 2011 black Camaro. The new models are pretty hot I have to say. All weekend long people would gather around my car and actually wait for me to come out, so they could talk to me about it. It seems all of Florida has a personal Camaro story, and I heard at least a dozen of them over three days. I got into town with plenty of time to break in the black beauty on the Bayshore while shirtless males glistened as they jogged by. I also managed to squeeze in some kiwi frozen yogurt, and some much needed pool time before I had to shower up and head over to St. Pete Times Forum for Game 3 of the Lightning/Capitals series.
My previous Southern Market trips have not been as nice. I remember having nice weather for one day during my second trip to Anaheim, but other than that I always seem to bring the cold with me. I’ll never forget how it rained during my lone trip to Phoenix in 2008-09. I had even sprung for a convertible and everything. I learned my lesson on that trip – never go topless… while driving, that is. Anyway, the big 5-0, and by that, I mean, the Forum reminded me a lot of Staples Centre in LA, but with a different colour scheme, and a waaaaayy more impressive game presentation. I will say that with only a handful of NHL rinks left to visit, that Tampa steals the show in terms of visual effects and overall glitz than any other rink that I have under my belt. I strongly recommend that you catch a game the next time you’re in Florida on vacation from the harsh northern winters. You won’t regret it!
No offense to the Caps fans that read this blog (the non-haters, of course), but when I booked my trip I was kind of excited by the notion that I could be seeing a sweep while I was in Tampa, and part of me was really hoping for it. It was a really close game. I thought the Caps had them for a bit there, too, but the Bolts came away with the W in Game 3, and well, you all know what happens in Game 4. If it makes you feel any better I took a lot of heat for wearing my Team Canada jersey from my trip to the World Champs in ’09. Not because it was Canadian or anything, but because it wasn’t blue. People just saw red and decided to start taunting me about Washington, like I would somehow be upset by the loss. Blind dicks!
Speaking of shirts, the Bolts gave out blue rally shirts at the game, and I was pretty pumped about it. This was my first playoff shirt that wasn’t ORANGE! The only playoff games I’ve ever been fortunate enough to have attended during a t-shirt giveaway were in Philly, except for that one in San Jose during the first round last year, which also happened to be an orange shirt for unknown reasons. At one point during the game, I saw two people on the jumbotron wearing shirts that said, “Get Stanley.” Naturally, I became obsessed with finding this shirt due to my love of scaled down Stanley Cups, and I went to every store and kiosk I could find in the arena trying to get my hands on one, but sadly, no one knew what I was talking about. However, as I was stuck in traffic on my way home, fate intervened. I saw a guy wearing my precious, “Get Stanley” on the sidewalk. I stopped in the middle of the road, and stared at him, which apparently made him think that I wanted him, but this could have also been the Camaro effect. With the knowledge of the secret Stanley retailer acquired, I went back to my hotel room with a clear mission for Day 2.
Top Photo: The glorious St. Pete Times Forum!