The long awaited trip to the NHL for Vancouver Canucks vs. LA Kings

This week, despite trying to not to go on too much about it, I’m fully aware I’ll go way over the reasonable word limit! But, that is only because the whole experience was fantastic! So what if the score line didn’t go mine or Vancouver’s way. 4-1 was on reflection a pretty fair result, considering Vancouver didn’t seem to put anything more than a half-hearted effort in until the beginning of the third quarter. It is also a shame, and quite an oversight on the parts of the team founders, that ‘Canuck’ and ‘suck’ rhyme so easily.

Yes, I went to see the National Hockey League game at LA’s Staples Centre on Friday. My team, Vancouver Canucks, were playing the LA Kings. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. The week had passed by very much like the previous week. Once again, it was a tale of Aerodynamics homework, and then Heat Transfer work. But, come Friday, once I was on the 1:25 train to LA, all was forgotten.

There is definitely an elegant charm about the Santa Fe rail depot. I’m sure there are few stations in the world that could pull off palm trees in the platforms, and this is most definitely one! I made sure I got a seat on the ‘ocean’ side of the train this time, so I could get a better view, but this turned out to be a bit pointless. The clouds refused to go away all afternoon, and as we passed San Juan Capistrano, would you believe it but it started to drizzle. Only when the train stopped at Anaheim did the sun finally show its face. This meant I had a nice bright view of the freight stores and goods sidings as the Surfliner made its slow and winding way into Union Station in Downtown LA. Despite the weather, the announcers on the train were again on fine form – at one point announcing “this is to remind everyone that the train is getting busy so I don’t care if you like it or not, you’re gonna have to sit next to someone you maybe don’t know. It’s time to make a new friend today, like I’ve done with my new friend here, Michael. Hi Mike!” And so it went on…

I had done a bit of research the night before, so I knew where my Hotel was, and where Staples Centre was. I headed out of the station and stuck like glue to Main Street. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th…the streets went by very quickly and before I knew it I was there at the Hotel Cecil. Now, let me begin by saying it was by no means expensive on Expedia, but I was pleasantly surprised by the rather flashy, art deco interior. I can understand why some people would perhaps have cause to make their complaints about the service at the front desk on the Expedia reviews, but it was not something that really bothered me at all. I smiled and we were just civil. Into the lift, and onwards up to the 15th floor, yes I was right up at the top! It was not a large room, but perfect for what I needed, i.e. simply a place to sleep. Perhaps some people may be put off by the fact it is a shared bathroom and shower, but that’s ok for a night or two if I’m on my own in my opinion. The only thing which really lost it brownie points for me was the air conditioning was nonexistent (so fortunately I wasn’t up last weekend) and the water tasted pretty cruel and unusual.

I put on my Vancouver Canucks jersey, and went out to make my way to Staples Centre, and hopefully finding something to eat on the way. I walked down Main until I reached Olympic, and then walked onward west to the stadium. Midway down Olympic there was a gas station (by the by I still haven’t seen a BP one in nearly 6 weeks – just saying!) which had a Subway in. I have grown to quite like Subway, as I can get a 12” black forest ham sub with no butter and cheese, but with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and spinach for $5. Now, compared to most other things around, that’s good value and refreshingly green and dare I say it, healthy. On the way out I was stopped by a Sheriff Officer, who I think had seen my jersey. He asked, all nonchalantly-like, how much tickets went for. To this I replied about $40 for the nosebleed section (not sure how it got that name?) or $150 for the seats by the ice. He ‘gee’d at that, but I pointed out it was worth it for a good sport, and he acknowledged that it helped get the anger out. At my rather sheepish “I suppose so” I think he satisfied himself that I was going to cause no trouble and let me go. A few minutes along the road, I passed four Canuckleheads, and the sight of another one of their own made them cheer. That’s why its worth wearing the jersey – you immediately know and can connect with each other. I found the Will Call at the stadium fine, and with plenty of time to spare so I could now eat my Subway while I waited for the tickets to become available. I wandered over the road to the LA Live section to see what was happening, but was disappointed to fine only a couple of bear tents and some flashy sports bars. After I picked up my ticket easy peasy, I did another walk about the LA Live block, a walk around the Stadium, got a few “’nucks suck!”, made another walk around the Stadium, and had a go on the PS3 version of Fifa Soccer 11. I was very impressed with it, particularly the analog stick dribbling where you can actually control which foot the ball is on. Time was winding down…

I was ok in entering the stadium, despite a near scare about them taking my camera away, I misread the sign, and thought it said a zoom of 3.5mm, but it was 3.5in, which mine isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. I had a quick look in the TeamLA store, but ever with the 20% discount I could get, everything was so much more expensive that on shop.NHL or shop.NBA that I decided to leave getting my Lakers jersey to the internet. In the store they were $90, but online they are only $44 – it’s daft! The clock struck 7pm. There were some local youth hockey teams handing out the programs, so I bought one to support the youngsters’ hockey, and made my way up to the 33 section.

The first thing that strikes you about the area is the sheer size of it. It is quite unlike any rinks I’ve seen before. It’s much larger than the rink in Jyväskylä, or even GM Place in Vancouver. Even so, despite the fact I was up in the rafters I didn’t feel far away from the action at all. There was a couple on holiday from Vancouver behind me who I talked with for a bit; while the players came on to do their warm up. I was becoming giddy with excitement, Opening faceoff was so close! First the anthems, two this time for both Canada and the USA. Acapella, Canada’s is far more poetic. I hadn’t realised before just how much of a struggle it is to get the American one to rhyme! Tonight’s military hero was a naval lieutenant, and we all clapped a lot for him. Now the game could begin!

The first minute went well, just settling in nicely, and Vancouver get the first shot on net. Before I knew it however, the Kings had scored a little softy of a goal, only 2:48 in. I don’t think Luongo in goal had realised the game started, he was on another planet. Sure it was a lucky knock, but the goaltender should be there to stop it. Just as Jonathon Quick down the other end was. After the end of the first period the Canucks outshot the Kings 10-6, but were 1-0 down. Early doors though, still 2 periods and 40 minutes left. During the intermission some of the youth players came on the ice, and were very impressive. A big red heart then filled the scoreboard and several couples were then shown kissing each other. The girl of one couple, two Chinese in their mid-20’s, visably shot back when they appeared on screen. Her boyfriend, not willing to let the public down moved in a pecked her on the cheek. Strange, i thought, how the camera is still pointing at them…and then he did it! He reached to his pocked and pulled out a ring case. She shot back again, her back now upright against the seat. To make matters worse, the daft Lion mascot appeared with a bunch of roses. Still she hadn’t taken the ring – what do we do, cheer or what? Sadly, the camera then cut away as the players had returned to the ice for the second period. However it turned out, we still salute you, Mr. Scoreboard Marriage Proposal Guy!

The optimism that I began the second period with soon evaporated. Before you knew it, the Kings had scored another quick goal at 3:36 to make it 2-0 and the Canucks looked really deflated. Even a good fight between Vancouver’s Albers and LA’s Simmonds couldn’t ignite them. Some people frown on the fighting in hockey, but in a strange sort of way I quite like it. It just adds to the fact it is a quick aggressive sport where players can have at it, and don’t need to worry about shy away to please a sponsor or something. There is also the fact that there is really very little damage you can do when sliding about on skates. Midway through the second period, while they stopped for commercial break and to clean the ice, we got another visit from the Kings Ice Crew, and their Wet T-Shirt launcher – whose aim is “to make every section, the nosebleed section” This time not much damage was caused because the boy was such a lousy shot, but still, we salute you Mr. Wet T-Shirt Gun Shooter! Another period over, and Vancouver outshot LA 8-4 this time, but still no goals.

I went for a wander in the second intermission, but soon realised to the outside section was apparently reserved for smokers only. Before I knew it I was back in my seat to see what was there to entertain us this intermission.

At 2-0 it is still anyone’s game, and Canucks look revitalised at the beginning of the 3rd period. Sure enough, 6:43 in Daniel Sedin scored his 4th of the year from a great set up by his brother Henrick. Myself and the rest of my row (who were another Vancouver family on holiday) got up and cheered. We’re back in this! Not a minute later, and we were back out of it again. Yet another soft goal was let up by Luongo – who was not doing anything in my mind to improve his overrated stock one bit. To put the nail on the coffin, and put the wind firmly in the lungs of the LA supporters, Dustin Brown scored his second of the period at 12:43 to make it 4-1. Not even a 5-on-3 powerplay at the end could entice Vancouver to score, and at the final buzzer they finished as well deserved losers, despite outshooting LA 26-19.  After the three stars had come out, it was time to make a move, and time to receive the torrent of “Canucks suck!” chants emanating from the Kings fans. No matter, I still wore my jersey with pride to support my team, even if they were very poor for a team that believes it can win the Stanley Cup. The girls on the exit doors handing out magnets allowed themselves a quick smirk when they saw me and my top, but no matter. I had seen an ok game, and 5 goals, so despite the result, I left a fairly happy hockey fan. In fact, in every sports fame i’ve been to, my team has lost! Thats a record I hope is very soon to be rectified seeing at I’m seeing the San Diego Chargers NFL team play next week!

I made my way back to the Hotel Cecil, all the while keeping an eye out for anywhere still open to eat. Drawing a blank, I stopped off at a trailer near the Subway gas station I stopped at earlier, and got a Burrito. I hear that you have to get Mexican from a trailer at some point, and so that’s another thing I’ve done now. It was good too, I like burritos.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 8:45 – something that I was actually quite pleased about despite the fact that I hate getting up late. I’d not got more than 6 hours the previous two nights for one reason or another, and so this was a good catch up. I got dressed, when downstairs to checkout, and set off for Union Station. I picked up a day pass for $6, and caught the Gold Line train to Memorial Park, Pasadena. Even thought I was now closer to the valleys, the sky remained a darker shade of grey and not particularly cheerful. I had come mainly to head to the lovely little ice cream place I found when I was in LA in September. Before I got an ice cream though, I spent a happy 30 minutes playing with an i-Phone in the Apple shop – they are very impressive machines! The Ice cream shop didn’t have Kiwi this time, but after getting several samples, I plumped for Pineapple, and that was a good choice. It may not have been sunny, but you can’t go wrong with Ice cream! In order to get down to Long Beach, I needed to make a move away from Pasadena fairly sharpish, and no sooner had I finished the delightful pineapple treat, than I was back on the platform waiting for the return train. It would be brighter in Long Beach anyway. Right?

Wrong. It was just as cloudy, and if anything, slightly cooler! I wanted to get lunch somewhere, and fancied Pizza for a change, seeing as I never have pizza at Canyon Vista, much! I didn’t fancy California Pizza Kitchen, as they only offered strange things and all I wanted a plain cheese or pepperoni pizza. After considering my options over the magazine section at Borders, I went over the road to the Boston Gourmet Pizza at the Marina. Truth be told, it will not rank highly in the list of places to visit again, simply for the fact that I considered it expensive in spite of not being at all generous or original in its offerings. Still, c’est la guerre. I jogged back up the hill, and just missed the Blue Line train back for 7th/Metro Center. It was 3:30, and I was beginning to push it a bit to be able to get back to Union station for the 5:10 train. I was lucky though; a Red Line train was in the platform, ready at waiting for me at 7th. Once again, the Blue Line was occupied at various times by the strange folk, the not-quite-with-it-if-you-know-what-I-mean folk, and people and their children selling things that no one wants. Glad to see nothing has changed in 5 weeks then!

To cut a short story shorter, I made the 5:10 train ok. I did a bit of Linear Circuits work while we passed through the less scenic areas, so I could be free to look outside when it was pitch black. That’s what I call forward thinking! There was a short delay just after San Juan Capistrano, but we arrived in San Diego at 8:05. And it felt good to be back. Unlike when I made the same trip 5 weeks ago and was quite sad to leave LA, this time it felt nice to be back in San Diego. Before it all seemed so new when I had already gotten to know, and dare I say it, get into a routine, in Los Angeles. Now, I know where everything is, possibly better than LA, and I know some people to. It felt like coming home.

I decided to pay the $2.50 for the 10 minute journey on the Trolley to Old Town instead of walking it. I felt tired (I feel even more so now, this has taken longer than I realised!) and lazily felt that I couldn’t face the 50 minute walk. At Old Town I hopped on the #30, and was back in La Jolla before I knew it. I got off in the town and being lazy went to Jacks. I was impressed last time I went there as I could get a burger that actually tasty, not sickly and without cheese. I also fancied a milkshake. There, that’s the more important reason!  Eventually I clocked back in to the room at 10:50.

It’s been a long two days, and not a cheap two days either. Well, not as cheap as staying at home and watching it on TV. The game ticket was $45, the train tickets were $62, the food in total was $30, the room was £31. It adds up, but then, as Mastercard would say, being able to show your support to your team: Priceless!

It was utterly fantastic!

Categories: San Diego, USA

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