Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Now That Was Cool
Cool and pretty damn cold, but still a helluva time. So where do I start ... hmmm, how about the start?
Thanks to a bulletin board post, someone pointed me to the NTFA-Metro bus service for a cheap ride (har har). It was a half hour, 45 minute bus ride, but it cost all of seven bucks so it definitely comes in cheaper than renting a car or shelling out for a hack. Granted, there was only one bus so I couldn't get there early to scope things out all that well.
From what I saw, there was a ton of tailgating and the league set up a little fairgrounds area with giant blow-up players and jerseys flanking a little stage with local acts.
There were also several merchandise stands around the outside of the stadium that were utterly mobbed. Me being me, I of course hit two of them and bought a bunch of hugely overpriced things: pucks, programs, shirts and a sweatshirt ... and I wanted several more but couldn't justify it, lol.
So after signing away a paycheck, I ventured inside Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was the first time I have ever been in a football stadium (despite eight years of covering both college and pro ball) so I have to say that the amenities are sparse. But I guess its understandable since they are only used once a week for a small part of the year. Metal bench seating, trough urinals, narrow concourses ... it wasn't comfy.
And everything of course was all wet because of the snow, but that I am not complaining about. The snow was awesome, it made for such an amazing scene that made the freezing temperatures and wet clothes entirely worthwhile.
The rink looked cool, but with the rush job of putting it up, there was little time spent for aesthetics on the rest of the field, with looked pretty nasty with churned, dirty snow and big plywood planks. The ice quality looked ok, but the puck was slowed by all of the accumulation and a big crack apparently opened which delayed the game twice. For those that watched on tv, if you have any idea what took so long to repair it, please tell me. Its freezing out, there is a crack, they have snow and water to fill it. The same with the issues on the Pen's goalpost. What took so damn long?
I went for a walk during the first intermission so I missed the entertainment but the second intermission I stayed put and listened to a band called the Sam Roberts Band ... quite likely the worse band I have ever seen live - and I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of groups over the years. The Winter Classic is the biggest game for the league this year, if not ever and that was all that they could come up with?
I stress that it was the biggest game for the NHL for several reasons:
1 - Over 70,000 people there, the most to attend a game.
2 - It was on New Year's Day with a national television audience and the league spent a ton to advertise that it was happening.
3 - Aside from a Rangers v. Canadiens or Rangers v. Blackhawks Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, there is no way the league could possibly have a situation that will draw more viewers.
4 - And that begets this: my guess is that the future of the NHL on television will be based on the ratings of this game. NBC and ESPN's interest will hinge on those numbers.
Well, back to the stadium. The people there were really cool, even though I was wearing a my Rangers hat and a Penguins jersey (mentioned in an earlier post). Funny moment - a Sabres fan asks me as I walk by why I don't have Crosby on the back so I reply "because he is a p***y!" and nearly a hundred people around start laughing. Guess I'm a comedian, don't forget to tip your waiter. ... And I was just bein' honest, lol.
Joke as I may, Cindy's skill is undeniable. She tried to split the Sabres defense once and the entire crowd when "Ohhhh!" And when she scored the game-winner in the shootout, not a single person was in their seat. It was pretty damn impressive.
The one disappointment, and it is very minor, but the Professional Hockey Writers Association named the three stars and decided to play it straight and narrow and named the two netminders and Cindy as one, two and three. Since they are a boring, stodgy old groups of fellas used to pandering to a niche sport and a niche sport's fans, I will offer up my three stars:
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres - for agreeing to be part of the game.
2-Dan Craig and his staff - they built a rink in the middle of a football field in Buffalo, 'nuff said.
1-The fans - simple. 71,217 people showed up to watch a hockey game in a football stadium while it was freezing cold and occasionally snowing.
So all in all, I give the league a big thumbs up for the event; I had a great time and I think that feeling was mutual for all of those stuck in the traffic jam on the way out of the Ralph parking lot. As one of the MCs said, "let's do this all again sometime soon, how about next week??"