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One Man's Trip to Raleigh

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
One man’s trip to the NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina:

8:30 a.m. (Orange County) – Sitting comfortably at John Wayne Airport waiting for my flight into Dallas to board, when I hear my named called over the PA with the words “final boarding call.” Realize I’m at the wrong gate. Sprinted with two bags to the correct gate and actually had to slow to a walk because I got winded. Thought to myself, if I miss a flight being out of shape, I’m going to be really mad at myself. Made it onto the flight, sweating. Nice start to the trip.

3:50 p.m. (Somewhere over Texas) – Connecting flight from Dallas to Raleigh has in-flight wi-fi, which I’m experiencing for the first time. If you had told 25-year-old me that someday I would be communicating with a couple thousand people through Twitter while 35,000 feet in the air, using in-flight wi-fi, I would have spit out my drink. Of course, I would have asked what Twitter and wi fi was.

5:50 p.m. (Raleigh) – Upon landing, female flight attendant announces, “Please remember to take your personal problems – I mean items – with you when you exit the aircraft. Honestly not sure if she meant to do it or not. Whole plane cracks up. Woman next to me laughs a little harder and longer than everyone else.

7:00 p.m. – Sheraton in downtown Raleigh is decorated for the All-Star Game, including drawn portraits depicting various All-Stars. Jonas Hiller is in the one behind the front desk. Even the room keys have the All-Star logo on them. Very nice touch.

7:20 p.m. – Driver of the shuttle from the hotel to RBC Arena for the SuperSkills doesn’t quite understand the urgency of a group of hockey fans getting to the arena for an event that already started. Takes his sweet time leaving the hotel, and then makes a wrong turn in the arena parking lot. I, and the others around me, are this close to screaming, “OPEN THE DOOR! WE’LL WALK THE REST OF THE WAY!”

7:30 p.m. – RBC Center has spotty cell phone reception, which if you know me, is an absolute disaster. It’s also not all that convenient when you’re trying to find where your friends are sitting. I eventually meet up with the two fellow Ducks staffers, who are sitting up in the top level. I don’t have a seat (just a media credential), so I sit on the step in the aisle. Did the same thing the next night at the All-Star Game and, to the ushers’ credit, never got kicked out. RBC Center, by the way, is a very nice arena, which the Canes share with NC State basketball. I didn’t know that. Jim Valvano banner in the rafters makes me flash back to the time he ran all over the court looking for someone to hug when NC State won the national title in 1983 on a last-second dunk. I was 10 at the time, but I remember it well.

9 p.m. – SuperSkills, which can be hit and miss on TV, was pretty fun to watch in the arena. Loved that Corey Perry won the Elimination Shootout competition. Loved that Jonas Hiller DID NOT take part in the goalies’ portion of Fastest Skaters, especially after seeing Tim Thomas take a spill behind the net midway through his run.

10 p.m. to 1 a.m. – NHL party at the Raleigh Convention Center was an absolute blast. Free booze everywhere, including trays of beer carried by girls dressed as Greek goddesses (there was a theme). Party also included two women on stilts dressed as human trees, and one woman who was a human fountain, complete with water streaming out of her fingertips. Crazy. Ate approximately 526 crab cakes.

9 a.m. – Still in bed.

10 a.m. – Still in bed.

11 a.m. – Still in bed.

Noon – Join friends at another hotel for lunch at the hotel sports bar, where the manager is a big hockey fan (reminds me that the Hurricanes actually drafted Kings defenseman Jack Johnson), but the waitress clearly is not. She asks us if the All-Star Game is “like the Super Bowl of hockey?” (Not … exactly.) Tried fried pickles for the first time, which despite my love for pickles and my love for fried, were just average.

3 p.m. – Head over to RBC Arena for my first All-Star Game, and the atmosphere is incredible. Crowds gather outside for various fan attractions, including a live band. Inside, there is a certain electricity that feels different than a regular hockey game. There is just something unique about the buzz in the arena for a game in which it really doesn’t matter who wins. Tons of Canes jerseys in the arena, but also a sprinkling of other teams, including the Ducks. One sighting of the old Mighty Ducks jersey, the green one the kids wore in the movie.

3:30 p.m. – Sitting in a small bar area waiting for the game to start, and actually saying out loud, “How awesome is this?” Then realized that we didn’t even think to watch warm-ups. No big deal, the 40 best players in the NHL are all skating around on the same ice every day of the week, right?

4 p.m. – Get chills leading up to the introduction of the players when the PA announcer says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest hockey players in the world,”

4:30 p.m. – Crowd goes crazy when Team Staal scores the first four goals of the game (Eric Staal and Canes teammate Cam Ward are both on the team). There is absolutely no defense to be found in the building. Backchecking strictly prohibited.

5:45 p.m. – My friends and I are rooting hard for Hiller in net for Team Lidstrom, though it’s never an easy thing to root for a goalie in an All-Star Game. We get a couple looks from fans when we yell, “Yes, Hillsie!” after a couple of his saves, especially since most of the arena is rooting for the other team. Hiller holds his own in there, making a game-high 15 saves. Although, one of those was off the mask on a Kris Letang shot, which we didn’t care for. After the whistle, he gets an apologetic embrace from Letang and a pat on the helmet from Corey Perry (who is on Team Staal).
6:00 p.m. – Chatted with Hiller’s agent Allain during the intermission, who confirmed how hard it is to watch your guy mind the net in an All-Star Game

6:45 p.m. – Praying for overtime, and even better, a shootout, but Team Staal fails to tie it in the closing seconds with their net empty. All in all, a fun game to watch in person.

8 p.m. – Versus holds a lavish, pull-out-all-the-stops party that we … did not have tickets for. Doesn’t bother me at all when people tell me the next morning how great it was. No, not at all. Instead, the three of us have a nice dinner where our waitress looks like a younger, slimmer Kelly Clarkson. (That’s a good thing.)

2 p.m. – Enjoyed a presentation on social media by Guy Kawasaki, who is a former Apple exec who is among the most active tweeters in the world. He opens by saying he’s an avid hockey fan who plays six days a week. Oh, and he lives in Hawaii. He’s also, unfortunately, a big Sharks fan. Guy recommends that teams repeat their tweets every eight hours, four times total. Not so sure about that practice.

8 p.m. – Dinner with five fellow staffers at the highly recommended Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Raleigh. At the table, the only thing we don’t talk about is hockey. Unless you count me retelling the story of how I nearly missed the team flight from Ottawa to Orange County during the ’07 Final.

8:30 a.m. – Attend one more session on mobile apps at NHL Business Meetings, having just watched video of Ryan Getzlaf’s first practice on the Ducks Mobile App (download it today!).

9:30 a.m. – Change clothes in my hotel room in record time, since we need to hustle to the airport for the flight home.

11 a.m. – Our flight that originally went through Dallas has been changed to one that connects in Chicago because of bad weather in Dallas. The weather in Chicago is supposed to be just as horrible, with a ton of snow due in the afternoon. Not sure whether we’re getting out of there today. Or tomorrow. I ask the group if they think they’ll cancel the Ducks game tomorrow night if I’m not there. Apparently not, if their laughter is any indication. We agree not to email Randy Carlyle that question.

4:00 p.m. (Chicago) – I’ll try and keep this brief. Got into snowy Chicago, then found out there was a delay on our connecting flight to Orange County because they were short a flight attendant. But with every passing moment and the impending storm, getting out of Chicago seemed unlikely. So we jumped on a flight to Vegas and scheduled a connecting to OC. The Vegas flight was delayed by de-icing, and then a pressure gauge failure. Just before we were told we had to get on a new plane, we found out that OUR ORIGINAL FLIGHT TO ORANGE COUNTY LEFT. Complete failure.

4:30 p.m. – Plane finally took off in the snow, drawing (slightly premature since we were barely off the ground) applause from the passengers. As I write this, we’re headed to Vegas, hoping to make out 8:50 connection. Then again, if we don’t. We’re in Vegas.

And I’ve just realized I’ve written more than 1,600 words in a space called Ducks Blog in which the word “Ducks” only appeared a handful of times. So, we’ll cut it off for now and report back on the rest of the trip later.
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