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.