An addict will do the craziest things just to get their fix, so I am told. I’m not an addict to sport at all, I can hear myself say, as I walk towards the Prudential Center in Newark (anagram of the word “wanker” in case you didn’t know) ready for a night of pucking action. In sheer desperation to see some sport in New York I have found myself being talked into an Ice Hockey game.
Of course, those who stayed awake in O-Level Geography are now crying out that Newark is in New Jersey, and not the Big Apple, but borders in these parts are blurred for sporting events. The New York Giants, Jets and Red Bulls all play outside state after all. I could have been at Madison Square Gardens of course for some Knickerboker action, but quite frankly $20 would have been $19 too much for that, let alone the price tag on Stub Hub of $379 for the cheapest seat.
I have been to Ice Hockey before. New York Rangers v Washington Capitols. January 1997, to be precise. I thought I was going to see basketball, fooled by the US practice of putting the home team down second in schedules. CMF and I had just landed in the city for the first time. This was my first experience of jet lag. But I was desperate to see the Knicks play (how time has changed), so we dumped our bags in possibly the worst hotel in the world and hot-footed it to MSG.
Tickets were available for the game due to start. I love it when a plan comes good. However, it hadn’t. I had bought tickets to see Ice Hockey. The Knicks were playing thousands of miles away in San Antonio. After a fight in the opening 10 seconds (not stage-managed at all) the game was a bit of a bore. In fact I was asleep by half time. So hopefully this would be a more enjoyable experience.
“You have no history” is a put down that can be directed at most US sporting teams, primarily because they are not teams, they are franchises, traded on a whim between owners who can up sticks and take their team to the highest bidder if they want. The Devils are a good example, starting off as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, moving to Colorado as the Rockies in 1976 before they landed in New Jersey in 1982.
It wasn’t a particularly pleasant evening in New York as we left the office. Snow had been threatening all day but the heat of the skyscrapers was just turning it to a freezing cold slushy mush by the time it hit the pavements. Perfect for us Brits wandering around in our pristine white trainers. We joined the commuter journey westwards into New Jersey along with hundreds of other “Devils”. Having made several journeys in Europe recently to watch a game I was disappointed on the lack of alcohol being consumed on the train. But then Luge told me that we are in the most regulated alcohol-free zone in the world. No beer allowed. Simple as that. What would Stoffers make of this? He would say it was “fucking shit”, that’s what he would say.
We simply followed the crowds to the arena, bought the requisite bucket of chicken “tenders” and fries and then obviously got ID for our $10 (TEN!) beers before taking our rink-side seats, procured thanks to StubHub. Well, I say taking our seats. Prior to that I was approached by one of the Devil Dancers, who apparently recognised me from my trip to the Playboy Mansion (I don’t like to talk about that trip in January 2011 to the Mansion for obvious reasons). She wanted me to pose with the rest of the girls after giving out some autographs. Sigh….
So, unlike other US sports, this one appeared to be ready to start on time. 7pm came around and we all stood for the rousing anthem and then we were ready. Puck off! (I wanted a t-shirt that said that but couldn’t find one anywhere).
New Jersey Devils 3 Buffalo Sabres 2 – Prudential Center – Thursday 7th March 2013
Here is a lesson for us all. Never leave ANY sport early. Last night we learnt that lesson very well indeed. With 90 seconds left on the clock, and tiredness nearly overcoming me, we got up and left. The Devils recent patchy form seemed to be continuing and we figured leaving that minute or so early would give us an easier trip back on the PATH train. Of course the home side equalised with a minute left, and then went onto win the “shoot out”, the Ice Hockey equivalent of the penalty shoot out. Of course they did.
Apparently the Devils fans weren’t too impressed with goal keeper Johan Hedberg after the recent 5-2 defeat to the Lightning (and the 5-1 defeats to the Capitols and the Islanders). In fact they booed him every time he got near the puck. Ironic that he made two “shoot out” saves to win the game for the Devils.
Now Ice Hockey….as a neutral I would like to make some changes for the benefit of the watching public. I know I am only a Brit, and I don’t understand some of this stuff, but bear with me. After all, it took someone high on drugs, drunk or simply never seen the game before (or all three) to make the suggestion of Twenty20 Cricket that is now a global phenomenon. Please don’t take offence to my ideas. I’m just shooting from my arthritic hip.
1. Colour the ice black (and the puck white) – With play taking place at a million miles per hour, it is almost impossible to track what is going on from close to the rink, let alone high in the stands. White on black (or even a fluorescent puck) is better to see than black on white.
2. Blind fold the goalkeepers – With the game being played so fast, and play moving from one end of the rink to the other in the blink of an eye, attacks are very frequent. But goals are less common as the keeper, with all of his padding takes us the whole goal. So make the game more exciting by having the keeper unsighted, with a member of the crowd telling him where to move to.
3. Stop substitutions during play – At one point last night there were 17 players on the ice, as substitutions were being made “in play”….ridiculously confusing so make them so they can only be made when play has stopped.
4. Scrap Powerplays – A player gets sin-binned and stays there for 2 minutes or until the other team scores. What’s the point of that? You have committed an offence so you stay sin-binned until the time runs out. Otherwise there is no advantage – the other team could have scored anyway. Works well in Rugby Union/League.
5. Scrap the zone behind the goal – Instead of players “hiding” with the puck behind the goal to waste time, make the rebound boards level with the goal so that this time-wasting tactic is eliminated.
I could also add some of my more creative ideas such as having the players all on elastic that randomly retracts, putting live penguins on the ice as obstacles and even making the players being able to dribble the puck with their feet. I’m sure if the NHL isn’t interested, Channel 5 may be.
The game itself was interesting. The players are obviously very skilful at what they do, but it seemed that most of the crowd had gone along to talk bollocks. The conversation behind us included ways to get weed out of your system before taking a company medical, how to drink red wine properly, what is your favourite breakfast sandwich (Dunkin Donuts was the hands down winner on that one) and how to remove semen stains from towels in hotels. As I said, engaged audience.
Not a bad night, although it is a bit disappointing we missed the most exciting 5 minutes. Now, time to pack up and head back home where the heart is, ready for Lewes versus Canvey Island.