As some of you know (from previous postings & my appearance on Sens Instagram), I recently undertook a 5 game road trip from my home here in the UK to the games in Buffalo, Miami, Tampa, Philly & New Jersey. I scrawled some notes during my flight back home with the intention of writing a report on this site, never thinking I would actually find the time to do so, but currently find myself with an hour to spare whilst my wife takes my credit card out shopping (payback for allowing me to go on the trip to begin with). I'l refrain from commenting too much on specific game details, you guys have already covered that in your reports much better than I ever could, so here goes...
Wednesday 3rd April - school holidays here in the UK, take my 10yr old son to Grandma's house en route to Birmingham airport as only available child care whilst I am away & my wife works, finally get to airport hotel c2100. Quick beer & bed.
Thursday 4th April - rudely awoken at 0430 by alarm call, make way to airport, check in for 0700 flight to Amsterdam. Dismayed to see an old "turbo prop" aircraft awaiting for me (you know the ones where for increased passenger confidence or in case of strong head wind you are advised to flap your arms to speed things up!). 3 hr connection in Amsterdam for Delta airlines flight to Newark, just enough time for some food (never trust or rely on airline food) and some beer (no prizes for spotting a trend developing). Managed to find a wifi connection to read up on some last minute news. Very pleased to read Cowen & Michalek joining the road trip. 8hr flight to Newark, brutal 90mins in immigration queue straight into hire car for fast drive to Binghamton to meet up with my good friend Dave who I met on last years road trip to California (@goaliedavesens). Arrived in Bingo at 2100, few beers and much needed kip.
Friday 5th April - 3.5 hour drive to Buffalo. Now I've been to Buffalo for 3 previous games (late 90's) and wasn't too impressed with downtown Buffalo back then, even less so now, for those of you that have been recently you will know what I am talking about, I have never seen so many empty / deserted / boarded up shops on one street in my life. The economic downturn of recent years must have hit here so hard, the place is deserted at 1630 in the afternoon, were it not for the AAA Baseball park & the Sabres Arena I doubt the Tram / Metro would bother running to the downtown area, very sad indeed. Fortunate to get there early enough to blag one of the few free parking spaces right next to the arena, quick trip to the box office for tickets (no sign of any scalpers yet) & off the the pub we go. Left the game gutted, didn't play that well, but didn't play too badly either from memory, 2 hr driver after the game to our hotel in Erie.
Saturday 6th April - Up and out after only 5 hours sleep, not good. 11.5hrs solid in the car (with only a quick "grab and go" lunch stop) and we arrive in Charlotte NC for an AHL game. Milwaukee Admirals win at a canter 3-0. Visiting NM stakes early claim for best name on road trip "Magnus Hellberg", he had a quiet night such was Milwaukee's win. Further 2 hour drive to Columbia for hotel stop. jet lag really starting to take its toll on me as Dave drives to Columbia whilst I collapse into comatose state in passenger seat.
Sunday 7th April - Up & out after only 4 hours sleep, mammoth 12 hour drive to Sunrise FL for an annoying 1800 face off....why? Would have been less but for traffic snarl up passing Jacksonville. Got to arena and discovered $20 parking......or free if you park in Sawgrass Mills shopping car park a mere 100yds away, job done. $30 v $110 for a ticket courtesy of local scalper & we arrive inside the arena just as the pre game skate starts.....phew! If this game was a boxing match the ref would have stopped it in Ottawa's fovour such was our dominance. Left the game mightily pissed off. Local hotel beckons & more than one beer.
Monday 8th April - Dave gets up and goes golfing (spoils a good walk in my book), I chose more sleep, then relax poolside for the afternoon, much needed. We decide against Miami Marlins MLB game in downtown Miami (having lucked out with no ECHL playoff in Fort myers) in favour of 1730 departure by road to Tampa for an earlier arrival at same. 3.5 hour leisurely drive to tampa, check in at downtown hotel & quick walk to local sports bar......beer, food and more beer.
Tuesday 9th April - Dave goes golfing again, I choose sleep, then go for a walk to the arena (only 10 mins away), take the street car ride to Ybor City (highly recommended) for a wuick look around before finding a Stub Hub outlet, $60 tickets secured for only $22 (result!), few beers then another loss, not happy. Piss taking from work colleagues started before I got back to hotel as 3 conxscutive losses. Too pissed off for a beer, early night as another looooooong driver tomorrow
Wednesday 10th April - Woo Hoo, only 9 hour drive to Charleston SC for ECHL playoff game today (Gwinnett leads series 2-0 against South Carolina Stingrays), would have been easy had we got going at intended time of 0900, however some domestic duties (phone calls to loved ones etc) saw a delayed 1100 departure and much time to make up for 1900 face off. Good progress made, few less tops and we make it with 20 mins to spare despite being stopped by local law enforcement for doing 82 in 70 zone on the Interstate (wasn't me driving I might add, but he let us off when we said the Sens had lost all 3 games thus far!!). Walk up to ticket office and managed to get dead centre ice seat about 10 rows back for only $24!!! Arena holds 13000, average crown during regular season around 3500, tonight attendance estimated at no more than 700 (& thats being generous). Few season ticket holders present tell us that economic downturn has hit very hard and people wont pay out for extra games over and above season tickets until later rounds. Well based on what we saw I doubt they saw another game this season as Gwinnett came out 3-1 winners for a 3-0 series lead. Visiting #10 Evan Bloodoff enters race for best hockey name of the trip. Another 2 hour driver after the game to some Interstate motel as we head for Philly
Thursday 11th April - Last long day of driving, yay!! 9 hour drive to Philadelphia, arrived c1700 and time for a beer and $150 ticket for only $60 from local scalper. Arena area very well policed to prevent scalping but anyone heading that way in the future, hang around Pattison Metro station and they'll find you. Now this was the most intimidating Hockey atmosphere I've encountered as a Sens fan (and this was visiting arena number 15 for me), far more intimidating than the neanderthals in LA. I have never seen so many people drinking beer in any one place in my life, queues at the concessions stands / /bars had to be seen to be believed, but to be fair to the locals, they were well behaved and treated us well with only the expected verbal comments in our direction, and that I have no problem with. No more than 20-30 Sens jerseys in the building, you could have heard a pin drop when greening scored the eventual GWG, the walk out after Alfie's ENG was lightning quick. Kudo's to Matt Kassian who refused a first period fight when leading 1-0 by simply pointing to the scoreboard. Left in good spirits after first win of the trip for 3 hour drive to Binghamton.
Friday 12th April - Long lie in finally rids me of jet lag some 24hrs before my return to the UK.....typical. Quick trip to the local mall as shopping requests from home have been building up over the past week. I say my goodbye's to Dave (who is choosing the BSens home game over Sens @ NJD as he went to New Jersey back in February) who cant stand anymore driving in deteriorating weather or can't stand anymore of me!! 3 hour driver to New Jersey, check in at local hotel (Best Western only 10 mins walk from Arena) for the night and free parking (bloody good job too as Arena parking outrageous at $30!!!!!!). Even less Sens jerseys in the arena than in Philly, no more than 20 I'd guess. Locals very passionate, plenty of "Lets Go Devils" chants, thankfully they didn't as we escaped with a 2-0 win. My celebrations on the Michalek goal nearly got me in trouble. Matt Kassian had a superb game tonight and I got thoroughly pissed in hotel bar afterwards.
Saturday 13th April - Awoke with almighty hangover & more worryingly further extensive shopping list from home in email inbox. ff to Jersey Mall then (2 miles from airport), $400 dollars later (gulp). Handed hire car back with 3511 more miles on the clock than when I picked it up. Overnight flight to Amsterdam and brutal 8hr connection back to the UK, finally getting home around 2100 on Sunday 14th April.
Bloody knackering, but I'd do it all again tomorrow to see the Sens, can't wait for next seasons road trip, anyone care to join me (guaranteed less driving I promise)?