Thursday, February 22, 2024

Merry Grittmas!

It’s almost the end of February and we’re still celebrating Christmas around here. Not that I am complaining in the least, though the people who are still waiting for our Christmas cards have probably given up on us by now. Fear not! All will be made whole, possibly by summer.

Back on the Actual Christmas, Lauren and Oliver combined my Christmas present with my birthday present and got us all tickets to see my hometown Philadelphia Flyers play the Chicago Blackhawks, and a most lovely and fine gift that was!

Of course having all of us go together was part of the gift. Why would I have wanted to go by myself? I genuinely love the fact that we enjoy spending time and doing things together.

Yesterday was the game.

This of course took some planning. Oliver, Kim, and I had to leave work early and get the car ready. Lauren took the bus down to Our Little Town after her chemistry exam ended and we picked her up at the station before jumping onto the interstate and heading down to Chicago. We didn’t run into too much traffic, oddly enough – rush hour in Chicago generally starts at 6am and lasts for 23 hours, in my experience – but between the getting ready and the finding of a meal that all of us could actually eat (i.e. not something that would likely be served at the United Center, however fine their offerings might be) we got into the building about two minutes after the game had started, and then when we got to our level I made a wrong turn that ended up with us walking about 90% of the way around the stadium to get to our seats, but eventually we found our spots and settled in.

We were literally in the last row of seating, way up top, and the view was magnificent. Plus this way we could stand up without worrying about blocking anyone else’s view, which is more than could be said for some of the people in front of us. I’m looking at you, Beer Sales Guy. I know it’s your job and all, but yeah. Down in front.

The Flyers already had a 1-0 lead at that point – we heard them score about halfway through our walk around the stadium – but in the end it was a well-played game and we didn’t miss much.

We were, of course, decked out in our Black And Orange finery because you have to rep your team after all. You always wonder how you will be received by the home fans under those circumstances, but it has to be said that everyone was fine. It’s a game. You’re supposed to have fun. The Blackhawk fan next to us was happy to take our picture, which was nice of him.

The first period saw the Blackhawks get some quality breakaway chances and tie it up at 1, but the Flyers dominated the second period, scoring twice to take a 3-1 lead.

Perhaps the most interesting hockey move of the night actually came from Connor Bedard, the Next Young Phenom who plays for Chicago and is perhaps the only bright spot in their dismal season this year. There’s a move you see in soccer when a player has the ball down by the opponent’s goal and he’s trying to fake out the defender with dazzling footwork while not actually touching the ball at all, and Bedard tried that with his stick on a rush up the ice before finally pulling the puck back between his skates and then shooting. If Flyers goalie Sam Ersson hadn’t made a spectacular save it would have been on the highlight reels all night.

It’s always fun to see these things live. I’ve now been to four NHL games in my life as well as a few college and minor league games, and the energy in the building is something that never really translates to a small screen. Plus they play all sorts of silly games during the intermissions and timeouts. They had kids racing around the ice at one point and shooting pucks at tiny holes in a board in front of the goal at another. There was a song contest that ended up with the entire crowd singing Living On a Prayer long after the recorded music stopped. At one point they got someone to try to name all the NHL cities faster than a player could, which obviously didn’t work but the whole point was to get the rest of us to say that clearly we could have done that and to be honest that did work.

Of course not everyone found the intermissions so interesting.

The third period got a bit chippy as it became more obvious that the Flyers were going to win and Chicago tried to shake things up, but that's to be expected. As Garrison Keillor once noted, “The rules in hockey don’t say you can’t fight. They just say you have to sit down for a while when you’re done.” On the way out Lauren volunteered to take a photo for some Blackhawk fans who then returned the favor for us, and that was a very nice thing.

It took a while to get out of the stadium from where we were, but again we got lucky with the traffic and made it home pretty quickly, all things considered. Today was a very tired sort of day, but it was worth it.

Merry Grittmas!

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