Wednesday, January 02, 2008

AHF at the Ice Bowl: A Buffa-Road Trip!

Well, I'm back!

in the stands at the Winter Classic.
All photos by Ritch Duncan (except this one)

After flying back into New York from Buffalo with my buddy Jack Kukoda, (who was covering the game for Deadspin) being taken around the city on New Year's Eve, having my first tastes of authentic Beef on Weck, Pizza with spicy pepperoni, and Buffalo Wings, tailgating with the upstanding citizens over at Bflo blog and joining 72 thousand hockey fans into what was without exaggeration, a cathedral for hockey, I got back to New York City from the game and the first thought I had was, "Jesus, I can't wait to WATCH it!"

Our seats weren't great, is what I'm saying.

The view from section 121

Don't get me wrong, the actual hockey game was about 1/10th of the overall spectacularness of the event, and it was pretty spectacular.

We were seated about 19 rows behind the end zone, and from what I could see, it was pretty slow going out there. There weren't a lot of cross-ice passes getting through, and one dump in I saw sent an snow shower off a player's stick so high it looked like he came to an abrupt stop from a full on sprint. I could follow the action once I trained myself to shift my gaze constantly from the ice to the jumbotron, but I was so low to the ice, the boards blocked anything behind the net, I couldn't really see when a play was offside, and it was snowing so hard, I could barely make out George Laraque.

But it was a great, great time.

I started this site and called it American Hockey Fan, in part because I often felt alone in my love for this sport. Well, with 73,000 plus roaring their approval and bearing the elements to make it the largest American audience to ever watch an NHL game, it was as important that we were all there, as it was that the game was a nailbiter or not. And the TV ratings beat expectations too, which is fantastic. It was close game, (or at least It looked that way to me, scroll down for Ben's take) and it felt like anything could happen. We might not be able to tell you how it developed, but we were certainly ready for anything.

Hockey Fans. All of 'em.

Sure, there were some corporate VIP seats, there was a heated press box and there was a good chance that thanks to Jack's Deadspin and NHL connections, we might have been able to get in there. But honestly, what kind of jackass wants to watch an outdoor hockey game indoors? I didn't want to report on this game, I wanted to watch it, I wanted to experience it, I wanted to be a part of a community that cared about the game and was willing to stand out in the cold and witness history.

And I was even willing to go to fucking Buffalo to do it.

A good lookin' Sabres Fan strikes a pose

For example, you want to hear something that didn't really bother me that much?

I was in the stands with Jack and this other Buffalo fan, the photographer known as 289, or as I called him, "Matt." Making conversation, from time to time, I'd mention the snowfall, because you know, it was fucking snowing. When I brought it up, he'd he'd snap "It isn't snowing!"

What's that in the sky? Not snow, apparently

Right. OK, I get it, Crocodile Dundee, you're from Buffalo, and you've seen it snow harder than this, which I guess means I have a small dick.

Jesus, Christ.

But other than that, he was a nice enough guy, and the pics he took certainly looked great.

But obnoxious exceptions aside, the lesson I learned was that people from Buffalo are some of the nicest on earth. Provided, of course, that they think you are also from Buffalo. Once word gets out that you aren't a native of the "City of Good Neighbors" it can get a little frosty.

I know, because I wore my new Patriots winter hat to the game, mainly because I'd just bought it, the Patriots have been fun as hell to watch this year, and I wanted to make up for wearing that Buffalo shirt to the Isles game last year, in which I took a bunch of shit from drunk Isles fans.

I took my share of gibes, and shouts that I was "on the Bandwagon," but the focus was on hockey, and even among Penguins and Sabres fans, the overwhelming feeling was one of goodwill and love for the game. It was a great atmosphere to be in.

Jack might have said it best after the game, when we were solemnly trudging towards the car, depressed by the abruptness of Pittsburgh's shootout win, yet elated at the experience we had just been through.

As we strolled through the soggy Buffalo mud and wreckage of the parking lot tailgate he said to me- "This is a great thing for the game. I mean, if you had worn that fucking hat to a Bills game, they'd have set you on fire."

More thoughts tomorrow.

I'm going to go fire up the DVR.

I really want to watch this game.


Alec said...

fuck the critics I watched that game live, then I watched it again hung over. I don't think I want to watch every game that way, the delays were a bummer and slowed shit down, but what a great sound to hear 73,000 people screaming for hockey.


What if they did the game in a smaller stadium? the fans were a LONG way and low to the glass-

So where is the next outdoor game? My guess is Montreal vs. NY Rangers 01/01/09 why? because both teams are as lame as gary bettman.

I bet Jagr wears a fleece bra

just a hunch

twoeightnine said...

Hey now. As long as you didn't get your ass kicked for the Patriots toque, I think you can handle a little snow ribbing.

Now the snow that I drove through on the way home? That was real snow.

Ritch said...

Good point.

289 also drove us, which was super cool of him. Shoulda mentioned that.

Thanks, dude.