Friday, January 02, 2009

Frigid walks, goal judges, and tons of hockey.

New Year's '08-'09 was spent in our icy Nation's Capital, which was also conveniently the site of the World Junior hockey tournament. As mentioned before, the one-and-only Matt and the one-and-only I made the trip up to Ottawa for a few games, with tickets purchased from a guy on my baseball team this past summer who couldn't attend all the games.

We went up with tickets for four games: Russia/Finland and Sweden/Slovakia, both at the Ottawa Civic Centre (the arena under the stands of Lansdowne Field); Kazakhstan/USA and Kazakhstan/Czech Republic were both at the arena at which the Ottawa Senators play, out in Kanata.*

(*I refuse to call this building by any corporate name; it started off very briefly as The Palladium, then it became the Corel Centre for a decade. These days it's Scotiabank Place, and it will be for about another 13 years or so. But that building will always be on Palladium Drive, so it's the god damn Palladium as far as I'm concerned.)

Kazakhstan, of course, was the team that got blown out 9-0 by Germany and 15-0 by Canada, so those two games we were going to see promised to be, well, not exactly the most competitive hockey in the world. The US team also blew them out, 12-0 (and Matt dressed up as Borat, complete with a 'stache)... but they actually managed to score twice in their final game against the Czech Republic, while losing 10-2. Believe me, when Kazakhstan scored — the second time shorthanded, no less — that building just erupted.

However, during the intermissions of the Czech game, the ads on the scoreboard said that tickets were still available for the marquee matchup of the tournament, Canada vs. USA. After listening to the woman on the other end of the phone think out loud for a good ten minutes as she fumbled through the ticket system on her computer, we finally hit paydirt: two tickets together, against the glass, right behind the net in the front goddamn row.

This was, and will be, the best seat I will ever have for any sporting event in which I am not actually playing. To my immediate right on these comfy chairs was one of the goal judges, decked out in referee zebra-stripes with his finger on a buzzer; he was a young-looking hockey player from Russia (apparently he plays in the KHL, the new elite league in that part of the world) who, I suppose, did a little work for the IIHF on the side.

The Palladium went absolutely ballistic when the Canadian team came out on the ice, every time it scored, or every time an American player got creamed into the boards. We were so close to the action that my view was actually a bit obstructed by the goaltender standing about eight feet in front of me. ("Down in front," I felt like shouting.)

At any rate, it was a night and a game to remember, as Canada came back from a 3-0 deficit to win 7-4; it was actually much closer to that, as we scored two empty-net goals to seal the deal. John Tavares scored a hat trick, the Canadian goalie made the save of the tournament, and a drunken American fan (wearing a Rochester Americans jersey, wildly festooned with many gaudy stars and stripes) got cuffed and hauled out by the cops for picking fights with his neighbours. Well done, you moron! Have another Coors Light while you're at it.

In conclusion, it was a great way to end off a great few days of hockey immersion. Sure, it cost a bit, but really... when am I ever going to get the chance to see a game like that ever again?

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