Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Decision Time... (H)

Time to make big decisions in the WRT household. Time to decide where to go for this season's Wild road schedule. Time to check the couch cushions, the piggy bank in the laundry, the websites of airlines, Amtrak, Via Rail Canada, and numerous bus lines, hotel websites, MapQuest, and numerous other websites to get the best deals ('cuz traveling to Toronto and Washington isn't easy, and never cheap. Save wherever you can!)

Time to pull out the stops, call in the favors of your co-workers, remember those prior trips (for other reasons) to exotic places like Raleigh and Nashville, all to remember where that great hotel was near the arena that didn't cost an arm and a leg. Time to work on all those hotels, flights, trains, and somehow make it all connect in time to get you to the arena for when the gates open (to meet the other Wild fans in the concourse, naturally!) and the rush of humanity hits the place.

You have champagne tastes, and a beer (at best) budget. You can't scrimp on tickets (not when the average lower level seat in Toronto's Air Canada Centre runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 each) nor on meals (you gotta eat sometime) so the rest of it is where you get conservative. REAL conservative.

Like getting a 'deal' on air tickets for trips in November...by booking in July, before you even have a game ticket. You make sure that your airline will allow you to change your flight without the $75-100 'change fee' just in case the game goes long, or your team is getting blown out badly, and you just want to get the hell out of there. You hate the 'secondary ticket markets' with a passion; you'd much rather just buy the tickets the first day they go on sale, pick them up at the arena's Will Call window, and be done with it. But, sometimes, it's either the secondary market or no market at all. You make do. You have to.

You wince at the price increases in Chicago, but then you sit back, and consider this is because for the first time in a generation, the Blackhawks are actually going into the upcoming season with a legitimate chance to get to the Stanley Cup finals, and making hay while the sun shines is long an NHL tradition. You don't worry as much about Nashville or Phoenix; those games you know you can get tickets for. It's the Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa games you worry about. You worry about the airfares (and the train fares, and the bus fares) during the holiday season (isn't the Toronto game on the shoulder day prior to Rememberance Day? Will the Montreal fare be too high to go? Will anything in Ottawa be open that weekend, with Christmas only 6 days distant?)

But you do it, simply because you love it.

You love the cameraderie, the meeting of new people, the new cities, the new arenas, the 30 different ways of doing the same thing, the excitement, the being the only ones in an arena of 19,289 not wearing red (as in Calgary...that 'C of Red' stuff? It's real) as your team goes down for the count, yet able to leave in one piece. The feeling as you and 800-1,000 others march the hallways chanting 'Let's Go Wild!' after the game, as everyone else looks at you like you're begging for a beating, but they don't bother, because their team just lost...to yours. Even their mascots hate you, but then, your team just won the game.

So, on you go, saying 'Thanks for the 2 points' to the arena staff as you walk out the door and into the night, onto the next city, or if your trip is done, home...and to the one thing you've been wishing for the last few days:

Your own bed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The summer of our Discontent (H)

OK, since I run this blog (and nobody else does, at least for now) I get to say what I see fit about the Wild's 2009-2010 schedule.

Here goes nothin'!

The Wild's extremely front-loaded schedule (due to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver the second half of February) looks like a logistical nightmare. 6 of your first 7 games on the road, multiple games every night of the week at home, a post-Olympic stretch drive that looks like it will be a death march if the Wild are out of the chase by then, and killer road trips in every month except February (when they only play one road game, Feb. 1 at Dallas).

So what's a road fan to do? Go early, I guess!

Anyhow, the Wild's propensity under the old regime for the 'November nadir' (think the 'June Swoon' of baseball's San Francisco Giants) could doom this team for the rest of the season, should they not come thru treacherous, onerous October with at least a .500 level (14 points or better; 7 wins, 7 losses) after their final visit ever to Mellon Arena and their Oct. 31 date at Pittsburgh.

November has never been kind to the Wild. Some of the biggest turkey games ever by the Wild have come during November. Two seasons past, the Columbus Blue Jackets came in the Day after Thanksgiving and thumped the Wild, 4-2, in one of the worst efforts Wild fans had seen in franchise history. The Wild have always struggled in November, and this season will be no exception. The difference being, however, that with the schedule compressed to accomodate the League (and the sport internationally) stopping for two-plus weeks for the Olympic games, there will not be as much opportunity to pick yourselves up and get back in the race after you get down.

Let's hope the Wild remember this as they enter training camp September 11th.

Welcome Aboard!

Well, I've finally, after many months of indecision, decided to take a big personal step here. So, come along for the ride, won't you?

I've always wanted a place to share what I feel and I experience about what I do. My world is primarily two categories, transportation (in Minnesota) and hockey, primarily the NHL Minnesota Wild. That is what I deal with, day in, day out. So, that will be the focus of this blog. If I could have an 'A/B' toggle switch on this blog, I would, then you could go directly to your favorite category. So, for the sake of keeping this blog somewhat organized, this will be the format, at least in the beginning:

After the title of the article, there will either be a 'T' in the first text sentence somewhere for Transportation matters, or a 'H' for Hockey-related entries. All other entries will be an 'O' (for other) categorized blog. (Of course, if the title is obvious, you'll know which category it fits: An entry about the never-ending road construction in Minneapolis/St. Paul will probably not be an 'H' category blog, nor will a Wild schedule dissection belong in the 'T' category.)

So now, you ask, why the big indecision? Well, a little background is in order here:

For years, I embraced what technology was out there. The newer, the better, then Father Time started to slowly catch up with me. Then he got faster and I slowed down. So now, in this wonderful age of E-nlightenment, I am only now getting up to the level of the Huffington Posts of this world. Most 5th graders know more HTML than I do. Probably, you do too. I went to college about the same time that Paul Allen (not the radio one), Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were writing CODEC in Northern California. Unfortunately, the Almighty did not bless me with the intellect to cash in, like they did. So, I'm stuck, like a lot of you, having to work for a living.

That is where I come from. I hope you enjoy the journey. Remember, heavy traffic may cause sudden stop; and despite added security measures, pucks may enter the seating area at a high rate of speed!

Here we go...