End of season games are a crap shoot when you’re buying your tickets early: they can be a hard fought battle for a playoff spot, or turn out to be a meaningless game. This game was the latter as the Devils were officially eliminated from the post-season dance. The Habs were flirting with first place in the East, but it didn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things. But we were set on enjoying our trip regardless of the game’s importance or outcome.
We set out by car early on the Friday of the game, and were quickly at the border. Unfortunately, there were a lot of vehicles leaving for the Easter weekend, and it took us an hour to get through.Fortunately, we were waived through by the custom agent in mere seconds! Luck was on our side.
The drive through the Adirondacks is always nice because of the spectacular view, but as we’re sort of between winter and spring, it was more drab than usual. Oh well, good music and conversation passed the time. We made good time and arrived in Newark towards the end of the afternoon. I expected the area around the Prudential Center to be mostly office buildings, but driving along the river to get to downtown, we were shocked to see how run down the city is. There were a lot of dilapidated buildings, and general disrepair. It got slightly better as we approached the Prudential Center, but we had to go around a few blocks to get on the correct side of Broad Street to reach our hotel, and we drove through streets that didn’t look very safe. It’s clear that people aren’t rich in this area. Continue reading →
We weren’t even supposed to go to Buffalo this year. We had our eyes set on Philadelphia as the Habs were visiting in October, on a rare Saturday night away game. It also happened to be a 3 day weekend, which would give us time to visit the city without taking days off from work. But as I was exploring the options, and researching the various cities we still have to visit, I happened upon a killer deal on plane tickets for the November 28th game in Buffalo, so we switched gears and planned for this trip. Buffalo would be the 6th stop in our trek around the NHL.
But that plan started to look like a nightmare when the week before, Buffalo was hit by record breaking snow falls that reached 7 feet in some areas! For a few days, the area looked unreachable, and two Sabres games were postponed. And then temperatures went up above freezing, and the issue became flood warnings as the massive snowfall started to melt. It was starting to look like I’d have to waste the prepaid plane tickets and the game tickets.
But flooding never came to pass, and as more details emerged, it became obvious that downtown Buffalo had not been hit, a fact that was confirmed by emailing the Buffalo tourist center. And the weather forecast looked great, so it looked like we’d be set!
This was planned to be one of our shortest hockey trips yet. Fly in on Friday afternoon, fly out Saturday. The flight in went off without a hitch; I’d heard bad things about Delta Airlines, but I was really impressed by the service. The funny thing about this flight is that even though it cost me a little over one third of what I paid in March to go to Detroit, this flight had a connection in… Detroit. The airlines’ approach to pricing can be quite frustrating. Continue reading →
It was a night where the Montreal Canadiens did what they do best: celebrate a piece of their glorious past and wax nostalgic about a time where the Habs were outrageously dominating the NHL. This time, Guy Lapointe’s #5 jersey (incidentally, this is the third number to be retired twice) joined the crowded Bell Center rafters, and was reunited with Larry Robinson’s #19 and Serge Savard’s #18 to complete the Big 3, as these Hall of Fame defensemen were known.
The ceremony was simple but effective, with video tributes from former teammates (and even Chicago legend Stan Mikita) were shown. Pointu, as Lapointe was known, was a big prankster, and numerous tales of cut up skate laces, cancelled practices and Vaseline handshakes (he even pulled that one on then Prime Minister Pierre-Elliott Trudeau!) were told. Lapointe of course garnered praise for his great team spirit, leadership and legendary playing. Numerous highlight reels showed Lapointe in action, with his trademark devastating slap shot going past quite a few helpless goalies. And in a lucky stroke of symmetry, the first goal of the game was scored by Brendan Gallagher with a monster slap shot from the face off circle that mirrored many of Lapointe’s goals.
Even before I cooked up this crazy plan to visit every arena in the NHL, I’ve dreamed of attending a game in Detroit. I have nothing but admiration for the Red Wings organisation, who for the last 25 years have build a winning culture and established the closest thing to a dynasty we’ve had since the 80’s Oilers. And with all the new buildings popping up across the league, the Joe Louis Arena is one of the last old school arenas left (along with Madison Square Garden in New-York, Nassau Coliseum in Long Island and Rexall Place in Edmonton)
We bought our tickets way back in August, when they went on sale, expecting a late season game to have some importance. And it did. The Wings are fighting for a playoff spot, being in a 4 way tie for the last wildcard spot, and a victory in this game would have pushed back the hopes of the hated Maple a Leafs. The game was less crucial for the Habs, but they’re in a race to the finish with the Tampa Bay Lightning for home ice advantage, so those 2 points mattered too. Unfortunately the Wings were playing without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, their two biggest stars who are sidelined by injuries, most likely for the rest of the season.
We flew into Detroit the morning of the game and took a cab to our hotel, that was located by the river, a couple of blocks from the Joe Louis Arena. We’d of course heard horror stories about how Detroit was largely abandoned, and we saw some of that on our way over. A large numbers of suburban homes are either abandoned or in an advanced state of disrepair. The closer we got to downtown,the better it seemed, but clearly this is a city that has fallen on hard times. Even newer constructions are no frills affairs. We dropped our bags at the room and set out to walk around and explore the riverfront area. I had a few landmarks in mind and set out to find them. First up was Joe Louis’s fist statue, a monument to the famous boxer. (A more traditional tribute is also found inside the Cobo Center) Right across the street from it is the Spirit of Detroit statue, in front of the Seal of the state of Michigan. We kept walking around downtown, but it was surprisingly deserted. Google maps indicated that there was a Michigan Sport Hall of Fame nearby and we headed out to find it. It was supposed to be part of Cobo Center but no one at their own info booth knew about it. (As a side note, the tourist maps handed out at the airport and hotels are quite out of date, with many listed attractions that have gone out of business. Obviously even Google has trouble keeping up with Detroit’s downfall.) Continue reading →
I didn’t realize it at the time I booked this trip, but this game happened on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, an event that shaped the American people for decades to come. (and 10 days later the Capitol turned 150 years old!) Washington bears witness to a long and eventful history, and we used the opportunity to play tourist for a couple of days and see the various monuments and museum that are legion around the National Mall. We flew in from Montreal the day before the game so we had the entire game day available, as well as most of the day after. We would try to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
The Lincoln Memorial is stunning. Great tribute to a man who shaped his nation.
General Ulysses S. Grant. He led the Union’s army in the Civil War, defeating the Confederate forces led by Robert. E. Lee, and went on to become the 18th President of the United States.
James A. Garfield, one of four american presidents to be assassinated.
The Verizon Center is on the very edge of Chinatown.
Major restoration efforts are almost completed at the Washington Monument. It was damaged in an earthquake in 2011.
The Lincoln Memorial building.
Looking out from the Lincoln Memorial.
Korean War Memorial
The Old Post Office
The Capitol. Pictures don’t do justice to how impressive it is, overlooking the National Mall.
In the course of starting this blog, I was of course focused on my road trips. But recently it dawned on me that if I truly wanted to cover all 30 NHL arenas, I needed to write about my home base, Montreal. And what better way to cover the Habs’s home turf than with a season opener against perennial enemies, the Toronto Maple Leafs. And as an added bonus, the NHL Faceoff event took place in Montreal this year. Continue reading →
Local collectible experts Classic Auctions held an event today where fans could meet emerging star Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens.
Lars Eller was traded to Montreal before the 2010-11 season, in a controversial (at the time) move that sent beloved goalie Jaroslav Halak to the Blues. Halak had been the star of the previous playoffs, leading the Canadiens to upset wins over the Penguins and Capitals before the small Habs were pummeled by the bigger Philadelphia Flyers in the semi-finals. Continue reading →