10/13 sharks 6, VANCOUVER 4
From the time I woke up, to leaving last night, I was constantly reminded that it was Friday the 13th. CNN had a special on the history of the horror movie and plenty of Canucks fans came to the game wearing old school goalie masks made popular by the collection of movies named after the day, worn by the main character, Jason Voorhees. Fortunately, the Sharks avoided a nightmare end to their early season roadtrip in which they led by two goals at one point in each of the three games.
To start off about Vancouver, it is a beautiful city. The airport is at the southern part of the area, having to travel through Granville and Yaletown areas to get to the part of downtown where the arena is. The rather large building, GM Place, is neatly tucked away behind some high rises undergoing construction, a couple of viaducts, and its much bigger (hard to believe) brother, BC Place, home of the CFL's BC Lions. The Georgia St. Viaduct was closed, so getting to the entrance I needed was a bit of a pain, but once I was there, it all turned out to be worth it.
As I've seen all week in Calgary, Edmonton and now here in Vancouver, these people love hockey, and they strongly love their respective teams. As if emotions don't already run high here, last night was the home opener for the team, bringing an atmosphere and energy level usually reserved for the playoffs. I received my first road giveaway of the season, a very cool flex-fit retro style blue Vancouver Canucks cap, a hat I could see myself wearing.
As large as the building looks from the outside, it reflects it in size inside. The concourses are separated in levels, as one can walk completely around the 300's (upper level) and 100's (lower level) with only a few staircases to connect them. The lower level is standard, but the upper level is a whole different monster. The upper level is unique for a couple reasons: 1) The layout is such that one comes up through an entrance way in the middle of the section, 101-111 of one section are in the same row as 1-11 of the section to its left without an aisle break. 2) The upper level is the epitome of stadium seating, as the seats are staggered so that one can lean forward without even thinking of blocking the view of the person behind. To aid this, each row is outfitted with a handrail that runs the length of the row.
The game itself was very exciting, however, after a night like the Sharks had the night before, it really didn't need to be that exciting. The Sharks opened the scoring just a couple minutes in, with Patrick Marleau getting his first of the season. Markus Naslund tied it soon after, waking up the already raucous crowd in attendance. It is at this time that I noticed, not only do these people love their hockey, they also love their beer. This fact was demonstrated to me by a few kids my age sitting around me, making their presence felt and heard, but mainly heard, loudly. Not that I minded the obscene things they were shouting about the Sharks and their players, it was rather amusing and it provided a great atmosphere to the game, as in their own special way, they were showing their dedication to the game. The Sharks added another towards the end of the first period, ending the first eerily similar to the game in Edmonton at 2-1.
The second opened rather quietly, until 8 minutes in when Kevin Bieksa tied the game with a point shot on the PP. The game stayed tied until Patrick Rissmiller and Ville Nieminen made San Jose's bottom two lines heard with goals 2 minutes apart, giving the Sharks a 4-2 lead in the second. A beautiful Daniel Sedin backhander beat Vesa Toskala to make it 4-3. It was then I thought I knew what was going to happen, and just waited for the need to dodge the beer being spilled by my friends who were "enjoying" the game when they stood up and flailed their arms, not realizing the beer attached to the end of one of those arms. Thankfully, the second ended at 4-3 Sharks, setting up an interesting 3rd period.
The Sharks started the 3rd killing a 5-3 and did so successfully and then some. An errant Canuck pass back to the point made its way out towards the penalty boxes at center ice, and, fortunately for the Sharks, Curtis Brown, whose penalty had just ended, left him with a breakaway that he made sure to capitalize. An absolute rocket from Mattias Ohlund kept Vancouver in it, only to go down by two when Mike Grier, also on a breakaway, buried a backhander between the pads of Roberto Luongo. The rest of the game was still exciting, the Canucks had a few chances that they weren't able to capitalize on. The highlight of the end of the game wasn't the game, but the 50/50 drawing. For those unfamiliar, a 50/50 draw is a simple fundraiser where 50% of the money spent goes to the charity of choice, and the other 50% comes back to those who paid. Last night's drawing was a carryover from the previous season, making the pot a healthy 115,000 CAD. Not a bad sum to make as a fan at a a hockey game.
The game ended 6-4, a good end to a wild hockey game, and a three game tour through Western Canada. Just like the last two cities, the fans sitting around me were very pleasant to me, only talking trash about the Sharks in joking. I met some very nice people sitting next to me on either side, and a few people sitting up in the wheelchair accessible seats above me. Despite a hometown loss, they were very fun to talk to, as they were able to speak on the game from a unbiased position, even though they were all Canuck fans.
My first road trip has been a fun one. As I'm already expecting, I've just finished traveling to the cities and buildings where I will be received the warmest, as the people of Canada just seem to have a respect for the fellow person that is not equaled in many places back home. Thank you to the people of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver who I met and talked to; you all were very nice and pleasant to me, despite my "ugly Sharks sweater". I hope to see you all again when I return deeper into the season.
Go Sharks (go home go)
The obligatory center ice from seat shot
The Garage, neatly tucked behind high rises and the much bigger BC Place