The past couple of days have taken it out of me, so I was pretty pleased when I woke up at 9am and actually felt pretty rested for once.
What I wasn’t pretty please about was the reason why I was woken up at 9am. Not a fire alarm, not the pigeons who’ve made my balcony home, but the room next door to me seemed to be pretty excited to have made it through the night and were celebrating in a most peculiar way. Luckily, he…I mean it, didn’t last long.
So after the horrible wake up call, the rest of the day was superb.
I’ve started to get to know the streets to where I want to go so I’m walking everywhere now. It’s not hard to get to the ACC or the Hockey Hall of Fame, just a straight walk down the road depending on which exit I take from the hotel. So it took me about 20 minutes to get to the Hall of Fame today in light snow, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d say is cold. Which is the exact news I would’ve liked to have known before making the walk down and arriving rather moist with sweat.
I soldiered on, because that’s what I do.
So I got to the Hall of Fame, and spent five minutes looking for the entrance. (It’s in a shopping centre, down an escalator and behind you, very confusing stuff). But eventually I found it and I did it without help. Straight away I was in awe. The row of goalie masks lining the entrance, the wall of pucks including one from the Belfast Giants of the EIHL, this place was incredible and I hadn’t even paid my entrance fee yet.
I think I was in this place for about 3 hours before I finally gave into being hungry and needing a proper meal. But I’m already planning on returning in the next couple of days (partly because I didn’t get anywhere near as many pictures as I wanted, partly because It was truly an exceptional place).
Obviously being located in Toronto, and it being the Maple Leafs centennial season, there was a lot of things dedicated to some of the Leafs greats like Darryl Sittler, Tim Horton, Dave Keon and more. There was far too much information to even relay in a blog, some of the statistics and facts about the organisation and their players is truly remarkable.
Then there was the part dedicated to Mr Hockey, the late and great number 9, Gordie Howe. Being up close to some of the aged equipment used by one of the greatest players and greatest ambassadors of the sport was breathtaking, and also showed just how far equipment has come since the legendary Howe played the game.
One thing that struck me was a jersey of Team GB belonging to a former goaltender from my hometown Nathan Craze, the jersey he wore in the 2004 U18s in Lithuania, that was pretty cool.
But nothing will be as cool as being in the same room as the Stanley Cup. It is big, it is impressive and it is magnificent. It really is the best trophy in all of sports and seeing it up close only proves that. Seeing all the names etched in the cup really shows the history of this amazing sport.
I’ll be back again so I’ll add more pictures (my camera didn’t process many of them) but it is worth paying to go back to.
So I walked back up to my hotel, but first I stopped at the Spirit of Hockey store to buy myself a Team Canada jersey, I was pleased with the purchase but it is yet another example of a backwards payment system in Canada.
Just a warning to anyone who’s planning on coming to this country, the price you see, will not be the price you pay because they add the tax at the till. Only slightly inconvenient but worth complaining about.
So I got to my hotel, got changed and headed down to the hotel restaurant. The burger was good, but without even asking they bought gravy with my chips so that was another reason why this day was magnificent.
Back out of the hotel and back to the ACC to sit in the same seat, block 321, row 18 seat 1, the very back row of the building (I was on a budget when I booked these tickets).
So I’m sat there for five minutes, connected to the Arena WiFi and I think I was looking at a picture of a cat or something when suddenly I hear “Hi there!”
It was a Canadian female voice, perfect time to use my accent to my advantage.
Turns out it wasn’t an advance from a fan, but an arena worker. I never did get her name but I wish I did because I have to thank you.
The game was USA V Slovakia, so there were a fair amount of tickets unsold (any game involving Canada is different and the tickets skyrocket in price) but this arena worker then handed me a ticket, told me I’d been upgraded and told me to enjoy the game.
I didn’t look at the ticket, I just decided to sort of go with it. So I grabbed my coat, walked back down to the concourse level and decided to check the details on the ticket.
Block 119, row 9, seat 9.
I was sat 9 rows back from the USA team bench, I could’ve kissed mystery arena worker.
What made this better was that I was sat around a mixture of Canadians and Slovakians so I was sat in the section that was for the most part cheering for the Slovakian underdog, with the exception of the American family in front of me who had the two most annoying boys with them. Future Trump sympathisers no doubt.
The game itself wasn’t the best, still to date the best game I’ve seen was opening night between Russia and Canada. This game ended 5 – 2 to the Americans as expected.
USA outshot Slovakia 50 – 20 (Slovakia more than tripled there shot totals from the previous night against Canada) but despite a onesided game, the seats really made this game special.
From row 9 you really could get a feel of the speed of the game, the skill of the players and the size of them as well.
You even got to hear the referee swear a few times.
But from row 9 I could really get a feel of how tall USA forward Jordan Greenway is (6’5″), the size of the Slovakians who definitely looked a little bit too old to be playing at the U20 level, must be something in the water.
The speed of these kids (that makes me feel old saying that) is incredible, you could see the wind blowing through their jerseys as they rushed up ice, the sound of blades carving in and sticks deflecting pucks.
The sound of rubber pounding against iron, bodies crushing against the boards, and most importantly the drunk Slovakian who kept trying to talk to me. I don’t know if he was speaking English, all I know is that he was hammered and it was annoying the two American boys in front of me so this man was my favourite person of the night. (Those kids were annoying).
Also the price of beer was either cheaper on the lower level ($11.50) or the roaming seller up top was ripping me off.
Either way I’ve had four beers since I’ve got to Canada and spent $51, admittedly the price of beer at the ACC is astronomical but that is more than I have spent on food. Hopefully I win 50/50 at a Canada game (you can win over $20,000) to earn that money back.
So the game ended, the crowds left and I made the walk back up Bay Street, passing by Nathan Phillips square and back to my hotel.
Cold war time tomorrow, USA V Russia.