About a month ago, I won an essay contest sortathing at work, and the prize was two club seat to an Oilers game. I am not the hugest pro sports fan in the world, but I love my home team, and hey, I haven't had too many opportunities to sit in $200+ seats in my life, and it would have been churlish not to go, so off I went.
I asked my mate Kevin from work to go because a) he is a big Oilers fan and could clue me in on stuff and b) he is a tremendous helpmate at work and a generally excellent fellow, so it was good to throw a little karma his way. A karma carom, if you will.
We arranged to meet at the Gretzky statue on game night (classic!) and proceeded into the House that Wayne Built.
Even heading in to the arena was a great opportunity to people watch, and I started tallying jerseys:
current Oilers = too many to count
retro Oilers = not quite as many
Avalanche = three brave lads
Nordiques (!) = FIVE
Crowd wise, it as encouraging to see so many people from different walks of life all heading to the same place for the same purpose- blue collar, white collar, spiked collar, black hair, blonde hair, blue hair, no hair; you name it, they were there. The only other thought that came to mind was that if a heavyset white male in his late twenties or early thirties wearing an Oilers jersey over a hoodie with thin or short hair and a goatee decided to rob the box office, the getaway would look very much like the end of The Thomas Crown Affair, which you can see below if you like.
Now, Kevin and I are both husky lads, and the 1970s style seating in the lower bowl of the once-Coliseum really does not take this into consideration, and was lacking in both width and leg-room amenities. Kevin's solution was elegant in its simplicity: he simply brought his legs forward and bent the seat ahead of him by about 15 degrees before someone sat in it. While this became impractical later on, it did make for a slightly more tolerable posture during the first period. At one point I did lean over and say, "When they design this new downtown arena they keep talking about, I hope someone reminds them that not every dude comes to the game with a SKINNY CHICK." This made him laugh, which may have actually caused some beer to be spilled in the row ahead, but omelettes and eggs, right?
Of the game itself, the less said the better; it was certainly not what Stompin' Tom Connor had led me to expect, I can tell you that much. The Oilers played with little passion, energy or even a rudimentary evidence of skill, which ended up with them taking a 3-nil shellacking from what, on paper, I am told, should have been one of the worst teams in this year's league, but apparently no one bothered to tell this to the Colorado Avalanche. At 2-0, Kevin and I started playing sports column bingo, with me predicting "flaccid", "uninspired" and "lacklustre", while Kevin was offering me double or nothing on "flat" and "abysmal", but I never had the heart to go and check the next day.
The one gratifying moment was when a big hit got laid on a Colorado forward behind the net (by Dustin Penner maybe?), and his feet went almost all the way out like he had been clotheslined, which prompted some wag close to the glass to shout out, "OLD TIME HAAHKEY!" This prompted no small amount of laughter around our corner of the arena, and reminded me that I was long overdue to watch Slapshot again.
(As an aside, I consider Slapshot's screenplay to have one of the all-time best applications of profanity in the history of cinema. Curse words abound and give the film almost a blue feeling, especially considering it is a comedy made in the 1970s, but it almost never feels gratuitous. Full marks!)
Other than that, the best action of the night was when they turned on the 'smooch cam' and if you saw yourself on camera, you had to plant a smackeroo on your significant other for a chance to win a prize. It was pretty entertaining, but I turned to Kevin and said, "Even if it's a Corvette, it ain't happening."
"That's cool," he replied.
All in all, it was a very neat experience, despite the drubbing the home team got, and I was grateful for the opportunity, and felt quite a bit of sympathy for the people around me who may have paid enough money to buy a PS3 in order to watch some fairly dismal athleticism.