Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Special Edition - Part I: Road Trip!

When the 2010-11 NHL schedule was released, Heather and I immediately scanned it to see what road games the Bruins were playing on Saturday nights.  Why, you ask?  Well, we always try to take in a road game or two every year.  And Saturdays make the most sense as far as being able to go somewhere without using vacation time.

We've done Madison Square Garden with the 307 crew a few years ago on St. Patrick's Day.  We sat in the last row of the blue seats at MSG with a partially obstucted view.  The Bruins were killed 7-0 by the Blueshirts.  It was horrible, but I look back at it fondly.  Besides, we got out of there alive.  So, we had that working for us.

Lately, that's meant taking a trip down to Long Island and seeing the B's take on the Islanders in Uniondale with our friend George, who just so happens to have season tickets down there.
As much as we enjoy making the trek down there (just over a 3 hour drive from the Four's) and hanging out with George, we've been itching for something a bit bigger: Hockey Night in Canada.

You see, for the past few years the scheduling gods at the NHL have not been kind to us.  Very few Saturday nights in Montreal or Toronto, nevermind Chicago.  And if there were games, they were usually very early in the season.

So when the schedule came out this year, one game stood out right away - Saturday, December 4 at Toronto.  My birthday.  We. Had. To. Go.

But it was not going to be easy.  Trying to get tickets to a Maple Leafs game is not a simple undertaking.  They are the hardest regular season tickets to get in the NHL.  The Leafs don't even publish single game ticket prices; Just about every ticket is sold before the season starts.  Very much like trying to get a Red Sox ticket back in 2005, except this has been the case since whenever.  The Leafs, despite their record, bang out the place night in, night out.  Getting tickets for a Tuesday night in October against the Blue Jackets is impossible. Getting tickets against the Bruins is harder.  On a Saturday night? Why even bother?  Oh, and it just so happened to be the national broadcast game on the CBC - Hockey Night in Canada.

In the States, we are accustomed to the aura of Monday Night Football. Granted, the Sunday night game is probably bigger now, but the concept of having a single game in primetime at the end of the week shown to a national audience created a must-see television event.  Being on MNF made the game into something bigger.  If you could get tickets to a MNF game, even better.  Well, that's what it's like in Canada, multiplied by a factor of 10.  Being in Toronto, the home of hockey, was just icing on the cake.

The closest I can compare this to is seeing a MNF game at Lambeau Field or a Sunday night game at Fenway or that place in the Bronx.  But even then it's a reach.

Where we ave the 'fastest three minutes in sports' during halftime, the CBC has "Coaches Corner" with Ron McLean and former Bruins coach/Canadian icon Don Cherry.  For those who don't know, McLean is the host and Cherry (aka Grapes) is the bombastic goof who offers up his take on all things hockey, often without regard for sensitivity or diplomacy.  He's been taken to task before for some of his off-color statements, but I think he's a riot.  And the fact that his custom tailored suits put anything Craig Sager wears to shame is just a bonus.

So it was decided - we must get tickets to this game.

But how?

We started way back in August.  Knowing that we'd have to pursue multiple avenues, we put feelers out with our friends who might have connections.  There were a couple of trump cards we were willing to play, but only in a last ditch effort.  Using them would have required some massive favors.

So we kept at it, but time kept moving by and we didn't have any leads.  All the while, I was checking the travel websites to see what kind of deals were out there for flight & hotel packages.  Because the game was on a Saturday, flying out on Friday night made the most sense as we would be able to take in the city and the Hall of Fame before the game.

As the end of November was rapidlly approaching, we still didn't have tickets.  Heather and I were just about ready to give up.  The dream was dying.

And then we got an email from a friend:

2 tickets.  In the balcony.  Face value plus shipping.

As the kids like to say nowadays, "OMFG"!

I called Heather, incredulous at the fortune that had just fallen into our laps. I made sure that she was still in for the trip. Duh.

Arrangements were made to procure the tickets.  As soon as we knew the deal was sealed, I booked our trip.  Admittedly, I was a bit giddy.

We were going to spend my birthday in Toronto watching the Bruins take on the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Hockey Night in Canada!

Up next: Part II - Take Off, to the Great White North.  Sorta.

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