As some of you may have seen on twitter, I’ve spent the past week
stalking following the Colorado Avalanche around on their roadtrip. Conveniently for me, the Avs had a roadtrip scheduled for my last week of winter break, and just two weeks before my 21st birthday, so my Dad and I have taken the opportunity to travel and follow my favorite people (that is my favorite people out of all the people in the world that I don’t actually know).
- Games Attended: 4
- Places: Washington DC, Raleigh, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa Bay
- Miles Traveled (approximately): 1,800 via car. 3,000 via plane.
- Books Read: 3
Flew from Colorado to Washington DC. The Avs played Dallas, and scored two goals while we were on layover in St. Louis. Upon landing in DC, discovered Avs had won 4-3 and Erik Johnson was named to this year’s All Star Game.
Visited the National Archives.
Monday, Avalanche at Capitals
Finally, a game! We ventured to Verizon Center, which is in the middle of DC’s version of Chinatown. There were a number of restaurants and other businesses attached to/built in the Verizon Center, which made the whole building feel like an ode to Capitalism. (And here I thought they were named the Capitals because they play in the Nation’s capital…) Our seats were in the upper deck, but I insisted we arrive an hour early so that we could be by the tunnel when the boys came out for warmups. Gabriel Landeskog handed me a puck on his way in from warmups, and I proceeded to hold it with a death grip for the next three hours. (After initially fumbling and dropping it because, seriously I was making eye contact with his dreamy blue eyes and attempting to high five him. Holding on to the freezing cold object he was giving me didn’t process through to my neurotransmitters right away.) The Avs had an okay first period, a bad second period, and a great third period. Unfortunately, the team lost 2-1.
I’ve heard plenty about the way people in DC “Rock the Red,” but there wasn’t a huge crowd there. Probably a combination of the terrible weather (more rain than Colorado receives in an average year by my unscientific reckoning), the fact it was a Monday night, and that the Avs probably aren’t a huge draw, especially considering the teams play once or twice a year. Still, the people who were there were nice and loud, and plenty friendly. I’m pretty sure I met Semyon Varlamov’s biggest fan, a Caps fan who travels and watches all the Avs games just because Varls was traded here. We had a nice discussion, and it’s thanks to her that I was able to stand right next to the tunnel, where her seat was for the game!
- Fan Tendencies: Everyone was nice, although I was a bit peeved at the man who consistently started a chant of “Holt-by’s bet-ter” whenever Holtby made a save. Everyone also made sure to shout the word “RED” when it came up in the National Anthem, and to shout “Who cares?” when the details of the Avs’ lone goal was announced.
- Surprisingly, this was the arena without metal detectors (we were just wanded). I would have thought the arena in what has to be the most security-crazed location of our country would have made us go through TSA levels of security in order to enter the game, but instead it was the easiest to get through.
- Question to any Caps fans/regular Caps attendees: is the PA system always horrible?
Tuesday, Avalanche at Hurricanes
We had to get up early so that we could make the drive down to Raleigh, North Carolina here. (The drive was about 5 or 6 hours.) Once we got to our hotel (on Hurricane way, right across from the arena), we collapsed for a bit until it was time to head over for the game. While in line to enter this arena (and be scanned through metal detectors) I overheard one Canes fan joke that “We’re in the wrong arena,” because there were so many Avs fans ready to go. It took a solid 10 minutes to find an usher who understood what we were asking when we said “we’d like to go down and see warmups on the Avs side,” but once we did, we were able to wait over by the area where the Avs come out from (Carolina is one of those places where the visiting team does not enter by their bench). Once again, talked with some cool Avs fans from the area, before heading up to the upper deck.
There were very few fans at the arena, which made me pretty sad. I know the Canes have had a bad season, and I know the Avs have had their share of attendance woes, but it’s always a shame to see an arena so below capacity. The Avs played well in the first, fell asleep in the second, pulled it together in the third. Overtime was pretty even, but when it came time for the shootout, the Avs found themselves on the losing side. Calvin Pickard had looked tense in warmups, but managed to battle through and make 44 saves during the game. Once it came to the shootout however, he allowed two goals on the first two shots. Nathan MacKinnon tried the same dang shot he’s used five other times and was stopped, and then Matt Duchene’s attempt failed too. Avs lose in the shootout, 3-2.
- I really liked that PNC Arena is located on “Hurricane Way.”
- Everyone shouted the “RED” in the National Anthem here too. I wonder how that works when the Caps and the Canes play each other. Does everyone shout it? Or do only home people shout it out, because it’s their arena? Do people get mad when they realize it’s a tradition among the other fanbase?
- I forgot how many former Avs were on this team. John-Michael Liles, Brad Malone, and Jay McClement all play for the Canes now. And of course, the only one of those guys whom I truly love (Liles) was absent from the scoresheet by the end of the night.
We drove from Raleigh to Ft. Lauderdale. 12 hours. I took four different naps and read a lot.
Thursday, Avalanche at Panthers
After spending the day at the beach, we headed over to the Panthers arena. Once again, we were fortunate enough to be surrounded by polite fans. The Avs played a really great game overall. Oh, and this was the game we had lower level seats for…as in, sitting right next to the bench. While it sucks that their attendance is poor, it does keep ticket prices down. Borna Rendulic broke his leg about two minutes into the game, but I never would have known it was broken if the Avs hadn’t announced it on Friday. Borna walked off the bench with a slight limp and a grimace, on a broken leg. True grit, right there. Tyson Barrie, Gabe Landeskog, Nick Holden, and Jarome Iginla all scored goals to give the Avs the 4-2 win. The Panthers answered back with a goal after the Avs scored first, and answered with a second goal after the Avs scored their second, but from there on out, Semyon Varlamov shut them down. Due to the fact I was sitting next to the bench, I got to observe some things that I usually wouldn’t…
- Max Talbot uses two completely different sticks for even strength and penalty kill situations. His pk stick has a flat blade, and his regular stick has a bit more of a toe hook.
- Ryan O’Reilly switched his stick out four different times. None of the sticks appeared broken, or had any differences that were discernible from my seating position.
- Semyon Varlamov will not drink water during the television timeout until the gate to the bench is closed. (He closed it 5 different times when it was open before drinking his water. He also always made sure to fist bump Calvin Pickard through his catching glove.
- Erik Johnson told Calvin Pickard it was his job to open the gate approximately 50 seconds into the game, after having to open it himself to get off the ice.
- Florida has one of those benches that is too short for the backup goaltender…but it’s even too short for a full team. There was a stool at the end of the bench for a skater, and a tiny little chair that poor Pickard had to sit in with all of his equipment.
- Tim Army has a pocket whiteboard. It still shows the ice set up, but it’s mini. No one I’ve told this to has been excited so far-why is no one excited about a pocket sized whiteboard intended for you to draw hockey plays on?!
- Instead of having an anthem singer, they played a recording of the National Anthem here…not sure if this is they way they regularly roll, or if the singer had just canceled at the last minute, but either way it was weird.
A relaxing beach day.
Saturday, Avalanche at Lightning
The Avs definitely saved their visit to the best arena for last. Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena was pretty awesome. Before I even entered, the crowd was already loud an excited, as we were treated to live music, free t-shirt giveaways, face painting, and food-all outside of the arena. It probably helps that the Lightning play in Tampa Bay, a pretty temperate place, but still. It made me feel as though the Avs could really up their game by a lot for the fan experience.
This was the Avs best game of the roadtrip, which sounds strange when you consider that the team lost in a shootout. Honestly, the two goalies were superb, but Ben Bishop really stole the show. The Avs scored three goals, but one was taken away (due to claims of goaltender interference*). Varlamov allowed two goals, but he would have only allowed one, had it not been for the inexcusable play by Brad Stuart (who not only screened Varls, but leapt into the air, knees to chest, in what has to be the first recorded instance of a “stay at home” defenseman actively avoiding the puck in his own zone in the NHL). Luckily, Nathan MacKinnon reminded us all about the hope the team gave us last year by scoring to tie things up with 7 seconds to go. While the Avs would fail to score in overtime, and were outscored in the shootout, this was definitely one of their best games. They dominated the shot count, won over 57% of the faceoffs, and outhit the Lightning nearly two to one.
*I was a bit skeptical of the call, but then again, I was watching the replay on a jumbotron in the heat of the moment, so I’m probably not the best judge for this one.
Back in Colorado. There’s no place like home.