The Curse of the Florida Panthers Returns

Buffalo, NY When I said that my up-coming road trip was going to be a lot like that ill-fated trip to BB&T Center all those years ago, I was referring to the fact that I was going to be spending the night at the airport in Thunder Bay much like I did in Baltimore after my flight back to Buffalo was grounded due to a snowstorm. Unfortunately, this trip ended up being a little TOO similar to that inaugural trip to South Florida, as once again I found myself dry heaving on the bathroom floor at a Florida Panthers game.

I don’t know what happened this time around, but in the minutes leading up to the gates of First Niagara Center opening for the 3PM puck drop, a wave of pain and nausea came over me. My body was shaking, and I very nearly fainted trying to get down to my seat before the warm up. It was so bad that I was quickly trying to throw together a survival plan, as I knew from experience just how bad things can get when you’re violently ill at a hockey arena.

“OK,” I thought to myself. “Winnipeg is the priority here. This is your seventh visit to First Niagara, so maybe bailing on the Sabres game should be done for the greater good. You need some recovery time between now and flying into Thunder Bay.” I did almost leave the rink before the warm up even started, but I decided that doing so might be a bad move. I imagined myself thrown into some sort of interrogation room at the border once I told them that I had come across the night before for the Sabres game that day, and then didn’t even bother staying to watch it. I decided to stay at First Niagara Center as long as I could possibly stand it. Conveniently, the doctor’s office was located next to my section.

I made it about three minutes into the warm up before running for the bathroom floor again. The first period was a challenge, and I decided to stay on the concourse for the first eight minutes of the second period. The good thing was that the usher in my section kept coming down to check on me, as did several of the fans in my section, so that was nice. I had told them about my trip to BB&T Center back in 07-08, and we all laughed about my apparently extreme allergic reaction to the Florida Panthers. Anyway, by the end of the second period it was like the wave of nausea had lifted, and I was fairly comfortable for the rest of the game, which ended up being the first road victory for the Panthers this season. Note: I know some of you are probably thinking it, but, no, I’m not pregnant!

After the game it was a race against time to make my flight out of Toronto Pearson International, as I began my epic journey to arena #64. I had another critical decision to make: do I risk the huge queues at the Peace Bridge, or do I risk being vilified at Queenston-Lewiston? I decided to go with the Peace Bridge. I had taken it on the way in, and the experience was fairly painless, but that also had to do with the fact that the border guard was a misinformed Sabres fan, who clearly thought I was just another bimbo who didn’t know which game she was going to. “Are you sure you’re not going to the Sabres game today?” he asked. “They have a game today? They are playing Florida tomorrow at 3.” Apparently, he didn’t realize that the the Sabres were in Montreal Saturday afternoon, and not hosting. You’d think the fact that there wasn’t a mass entry of Canadian season ticket holders that day should have tipped him off eh?

Anyway, all the Canadians were fleeing Buffalo after the Sabres loss, and I was stuck in line for a good 45 minutes. Naturally, that was not something I needed while trying to catch a flight. By the time I got up to the booth I was starting to feel ill again, and things didn’t start off well when the first question the guy asked me was, “Do you know what your licence plate is?” and I made the make of saying ZEE instead of ZED. No lie, he jumped down my throat for that. I have one of those licence plates that make saying zed sound awkward, so I always say zee instead. My old licence plate was ADZC and that made saying zee sound awkward – ADZedC. I had to explain to him that I had been abroad for nearly three years and that we were not permitted to teach the Queen’s English, and that saying zee was just a habit now. After that, things went much better. The guy was a Leafs fan and we started chatting about the Leafs game in Buffalo the other night. He was there, and gave me a play by play. After about 15 minutes I actually had to say, “So, uhh, I should probably get going now.” And that’s the end of that chapter.

I made my flight with plenty of time to spare, and much like that night in Baltimore, got to discover the joys of spending the night alone in a closed airport after hours. Luckily, there were plenty of vending machines, and since I was alone I could watch the latest episode of Spartacus without having to wear ear phones. There was only one awkward moment when the janitor walked by during a questionable nude scene. By 5:45 AM I was back on a puddle jumper bound for Winnipeg and arena #64.

Top Photo: Looking particularly evil despite being ill. Coincidentally, this is the 666th photo taken with my iPhone!

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