In a fit of irony, on February 1st, 2018 m’lady and I had tickets to see the Ottawa Senators host the Anaheim Ducks, but these weren’t just any old, regular seats.
These seats were on the glass.
But these seats weren’t just on any old, regular pane of glass. No friends, these seats were on the glass directly behind the home team player’s bench, and wow, how I looked forward to this game!
To make a fairly wide-sweeping understatement, I was a pretty weak skater as a kid. As such I never actually played any sort of organized hockey. I liked the game well enough, but as a participant I was relegated solely to street hockey (and generally picked last, at that) so I never got a chance to experience the dynamics of sitting on a bench with my teammates and executing shift changes at the behest of an actual coach.
As an adult my interest in hockey grew enough that I started seeing the strategies and dramas that occur every time a player steps on the ice. I came to appreciate the power of the blue lines, I started to recognize the importance of positioning and defence, and once I started skating regularly I came to appreciate just how versatile these players are on their blades.
And so I had been hankering for some time to sit behind the player’s bench so I could witness all of this action and drama up close, but my habit of sitting in the 300 level and not spending an arm and a leg on tickets held me back. I guess I was waiting for the right reason to pull the trigger.
Then in the fall of 2017 m’lady and I started seriously considering moving to rural Newfoundland. Of course such a move would mean a drastic change in lifestyle – a complete reversal I suppose – but we were both down with the idea and we did some looking around.
And so one night I was surfing around the internet, thinking there was a good chance this would be our last winter in Ottawa. Somehow everything aligned in my brain such that I had a ‘now or never’ spark in my ticket-buying consciousness and, well, I pulled the trigger on these seats and started getting excited.
And you know, after a trip to The Rock and a whole lot of back-and-forth we found a really nice looking place and we put in an offer. Unfortunately someone else put in an offer at the same time. And can you believe it, the owner had until 5pm on game day to respond.
And so it was that just as we were bundling up to leave the house we got the call and discovered that the seller had taken the other offer and we weren’t going to be moving to Newfoundland after all. Aside from being extremely disappointed we were both pretty miffed because the owner had promised that if we flew out there she’d show us the place, and we had tickets/hotels/car rental all booked for just a few days hence. Let’s just say we weren’t the happiest of campers on the long drive out to the Ottawa arena. I actually considering trying to sell the tickets, so convinced were we that it would be impossible to rally and really enjoy the hockey experience we had been looking forward to so badly.
But shortly after we sat down everything started to improve, and in a hurry. The players came out for their warm-up – “Wow, they are all so big,” m’lady says. Phaneuf stopped a few feet in front of us and I noticed how his style made him look like a hockey player from the 1950’s. I saw one of our players stop to share a laugh with one of the Anaheim players and watched one of the Sens crew arrange his tape, clamps and tinctures on the ledge just inches away from us. Just before the game started I saw a player inhaling smelling salts and saw his eyes perk up widely. During the warmup the crew member handed a puck to the kid sitting next to me (oh I was so jealous!!!) and I was shocked to notice that the puck had both team logos and the date of the game printed on it.
It was all so cool!
I hardly watched the game, so fixated was I on watching coach Guy Boucher interact with the players, bark orders, lean in and whisper advice, and argue and yell at the refs. For me the biggest surprise was that Boucher almost always had his eyes on the opposing team’s bench, analyzing and strategizing. That said it was a pretty exciting game – no scoring at all until the Sens got one in the third. Then the Ducks tied it up with a minute or so left to go and Karlsson (Karlsson!) got the winner in overtime, ending a six-game losing streak.
By the third period I had forgotten all about the whole Newfoundland affair, except to remember that the only reason I was sitting where I was sitting was because we were moving away but now we weren’t.
And while I’m no fan of disappointment and I really, really wanted to move to Newfoundland (still do), I am a huge fan of irony and I had a great time at the game, so it was a win-win, really.
Win-win-win if you count that Karlsson got the game-winning goal.