My (Unexpected) Trip to The Winter Classic
I wasn’t supposed to go to the Winter Classic.
I wanted to, but I wasn't supposed to.
I didn’t have tickets, nor a credential. I’m not a season-ticket holder, didn’t win any sort of lottery or contest, and despite running the best sports blog in Philly (your words, not mine), wasn’t credentialed. That last one is mostly because – generally speaking… – teams don’t appreciate when you write about who Max Talbot may or may not have fucked at Pat Burrell’s old condo… and because you can cover an event more effectively from behind a computer screen (really).
Anyway, it was 2 p.m., Monday, and I wasn’t going. I was seated on the couch, geeked out in a way that would have made Ace Ventura jealous on his visit to Shady Acres: pom poms, rosy cheeks, face paint, Winter Classic gnome, and performing hockey movements in slow-motion instant replay– only two of those are true. Ms. CB was frightened, I was ready to go… yet I was still checking our own ticket site to see if there was anything available for below $350– there wasn’t.
Then MVP CB reader (she already won for 2012) Victoria, mother of Pocket Utley, who was featured on site here, came through. She sent me an email – one that was sent an hour earlier, but didn't find its way to my screen right away thanks to Verizon service at CBP – saying that a member of her small group, whom I’m dubbing the most awesomely generous person in the world, had a last-minute ticket available… for free.
I quickly ditched the pom poms, fuck me smile and Jose The Gnome, and was on my way to Citizens Bank Park, breaking a Delco to CBP record in the process.
I arrived, met Victoria and The Saint at McFadden's, and we got to our seats, which were perfectly positioned high-above the Rangers' goal, just as the opening faceoff was about to take place.
The scene, as was experienced on Saturday for the Alumni Game, was fantastic. The NHL has done many things right over the past few years. They are still a distant fourth – nationally – in terms of popularity, but they’ve run their league better than any other since returning from the lockout. The Winter Classic is a shining example of that. No stone is left unturned, no detail ignored. The entire field, not just the two ice rinks, looked great. The ballpark looked great. And the blue banners covering most inward facing areas of the park* provided a perfect contrast to the white field and mostly orange stands.
*I’ve been told by several folks that the NHL paid a huge sum (one told me as much as $2 million) to cover all Phillies and MLB advertisements scattered around the park. All but the Budweiser ad in right field, that is.
Even the infield, where the league uncovered Roy’s pulpit… [via reader Jeff]
… and home plate, looked like it belonged in a Canadian forest, not Philadelphia.
So, yeah, aesthetics– check.
Now onto the game itself.
We’ve talked enough about Bryz, who settled in for his nap in that warm winter’s cap. Let’s turn our attention to everything else.
The first period played out as expected, with both teams feeling each other out and not taking too many chances… which was perfect because it gave everyone in attendance a chance to pinch themselves and take in what they were experiencing.
Onto the second…
Thanks to readers (@rowleytowels) and (@joey_buckets) we have the timing of our first obligatory cheesesteak shot from the folks at NBC: 14:40 of the second period. That’s impressive– I had the the over-under (before-after?) at 3:22 of the first. Nice to see the peacock can hold out… though NBC did blow it’s self-promotional load in the two-hour pre-game show, which included segments about the new NBC Sports Network so gratuitous that I fully expected Bob Costas to appear live on the pitcher’s mound with the Olympic rings painted on his shpacha.
Thankfully, he didn’t. But Mike Milbury did call the Rangers the “blue shits” when he was standing on the mound.
Video via Awful Announcing
Back to the game, which, in case you hadn’t notice, was pretty uneventful until the midway point of the second period.
The guys behind me were ragging on Brayden Schenn for not being half the man that Sean Couturier is. I thought about correcting them by pointing out that Schenn has been hurt for most of the season, but I let it go. I let it go until Schenn tallied his first NHL goal, much to the chagrin of Mike Richards, who I imagine was somewhere feverishly stabbing pins into his #10 Voodoo doll that was laughing at his attack like [take your pick of Hollywood villains who just. won’t. die.] Poor Mike.
In fact, I bet that Voodoo doll looks exactly like this:
Bonus point to Schenn for his triple sal-cal into the boards, though:
Moments later, Claude Giroux did that sex-on-ice thing he does so well:
There was brief stoppage to clean up the roughly 22,000 pairs of panties that were thrown on the ice, mine included.
And just moments after that, it started snowing. Yes, it snowed. Photo evidence:
Heaven’s bargaining table (which is ironically the same one Cliff Lee left millions of dollars on) must have heard a conversation like this:
God: Can’t do snow today. Al Gore said “no.”
Gary Bettman: That’s fine, we appreciate your ti…
Ed Snider: Fuck this. I’m paying a Russian $51 million to sit on the bench and drink tea in front of the largest hockey crowd ever in Philadelphia. My pockets are deeper than you know. How much is it going to cost, Three-In-One?
God: … … What did you do with the Game 6 puck?
Annnd that’s how we got snow at the Winter Classic.
Of course, Snider forget to ask the Almighty One to prevent the Flyers from having defensive lapses and giving up soft goals.
Mike Rupp scored, then performed Jagr’s salute, a move that angered just about every Flyer except for Jagr.
At the second intermission, while waiting in the longest mens room line in the history of Citizens Bank Park, Liam, the handicapped kid from 24/7, rolled* behind me. The following took place:
Random fan: Is that the kid from HBO?!
Liam’s Mom: Um, yeah.
Random fan: Awesome! Can I get a picture with him?!
And cue a hundred cell phones snapping pics of Liam, who – thankfully – seemed to be enjoying the attention.
*I have no idea if that is the appropriate terminology, I just can’t think of anything else. Not trying to offend, he really did roll behind me.
Before the game, John Tortorella texted Liam, “Let’s kick some Philly ass,” according to reader Mike, who saw that on the CBC replay today. Classy, John.
Onto the third…
Rupp saucered one by Bob, who was paying homage to the Flyers’ last Winter Classic goaltender, Michael Leighton. Game tied, 2-2. Pocket Utley threw some popcorn on Rangers fans who were seated below.
Later on, Brad Richards, who was a potential Flyers target last summer, scored to put the Rangers up, 3-2. Pocket Utley threw more popcorn.
Then, it seemed, for about 10 minutes the Flyers couldn’t penetrated (heh) the Rangers’ zone. Long outlet passes were being blatantly intercepted. The bouncing puck made carry-in attempts useless. And the Rangers had bouts of pinning the Flyers deep in their zone.
Things weren’t going well, and I couldn't feel my hands.
As you know, the Flyers would get chances in the final minutes. Danny Briere pulled a puck out from inside the crease and was facing a wide-open net… only the play had been whistled dead by the official, who had lost sight of the puck.
He would make it up.
First, concurrent minors were called on Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Callahan, even though Timonen – from my vantage point – appeared to lasso the Rangers’ captain like an overzealous parent with their kid on a leash.
Then Briere was awarded a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh may or may not have covered the puck in the crease with his glove.
Now, I’m not going to go as far as Tortorella in saying that the officials wanted to tie the game, but the 30 seconds of hesitancy and uncertainty before the shot tells me that they absorbed the moment, and decided to give fans a thrilling finish. Which they did.
Briere was stoned. Pocket Utley cried (he was out of popcorn). And the Rangers hung on for the victory, where their celebration was delayed ever-so-slightly because Scott Hartnell decided to be a jackass after the final horn.
A few other random thoughts:
When are James van Riemsdyk’s balls going to drop?
I thought they did last year in the playoffs against Boston, but I was either mistaken or they ascended back into his stomach.
Yes, he’s hurt, and he’s probably going to need surgery on his hip at the end of the year, but there’s a difference between being hampered and being completely non-existent.
Patti LaBelle is awful.
Yeah, I know they’re popular. They’re fine, but I just don’t get it. Apparently, neither did most of the hockey fans at Citizens Bank Park. One of the local hipster sports blogs celebrated their appearance in a post that I’m sure appealed to the exactly six Roots-hockey crossover fans.
Charging $25 for parking was criminal.