Thursday, February 6, 2014

My First Real NHL Game

Last weekend I got my first real dose of NHL hockey. From paying big $$$ to have a casual drink at the game, to paying more $$$ to eat Saddledome favourites like ‘Pocketdogs’ and mini-donuts; I truly experienced and NHL game for the first time.

I will admit, I have seen a pre-season game; an exhibition match between the then Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadians in Halifax. But it wasn’t the true NHL experience. We had great seats, we decked ourselves out in team apparel but it was not the real deal. It was a great night, but not quite and NHL game.

Last winter I took in a Ducks game in Anaheim, Nashville was in town and I was in awe. It was closer to what I had expected an NHL game to be like, the Honda Center was incredible. Again, we had great seats; but something about it was still lacking. The rink wasn't even close to full. It was quieter than the Metro Centre’s pre-season exhibition game (where there was no home team). People were more concerned with taking selfies than watching the game.

Other things seemed off too, the lines were WAY longer for food than drinks. Something my boyfriend (a guy who grew up with Flames season tickets) said was the opposite in Canada.

But, I got to have a moment with Wild Wing (the Ducks mascot). This was a great moment because as a kid, before I ever even thought about playing hockey I was a fan of the short-lived Disney animated Mighty Duck series.

So, last Saturday night I was ecstatic to finally be seeing a game in Canada. I had always thought it would be a Canucks game, I have been a fan of the Canucks for ages and it had been a goal to see my first NHL game in Vancouver. But, then life happened and I found myself calling Calgary home and things changed a bit. I could no longer avoid popping on Flames merch and smiling at the dream of playoffs.

I don’t think we could have picked a better night to see the Flames. It was Western Night at the Dome, Paul Brandt made both national anthems sound incredible and the Flames pushed their home winning streak to five games. Minnesota was in town and made a comeback after pissing away the first part of the game, pushing it to overtime.

Things I loved about this game:
-Dany Heatley, scored his tenth of the year at the Dome. I know this is counter-intuitive, I was totally cheering for the Flames but when the All-star himself is in town you want to see him put something on the board.

-Mikael Backlund achieved redemption after a horrible pass (that led to a Wild goal) with not one, but two goals; including the game-winner in OT.

-It was Western Night. I love how hokey Calgary becomes during the Stampede and that kitchy environment was part of the Flames Western Night. Gunfire after the national anthems, the ice cleaning girls in plaid and denim, white Stetsons in abundance and LOTS of Stampede talk; Western Night recreated the feeling of Stampede at a hockey game.

-No matter how big the crowd is, you can always find a friend. Without knowing where our buddy was sitting (he didn't know where we were either) we ran into him during the first intermission. No barn is to big to keep friends apart!

My first NHL game in Canada was not what I expected. The fact that it was Western Night was a delightful surprise that made my trip Calgary complete.

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