April 4: St. Louis, 6:30 AM
It's been an interesting last 24 hours, although the Flyers canceled practice at the Enterprise Center yesterday due to a late arrival in St. Louis. The team did make a roster-related announcement yesterday. The Flyers placed veteran forward Corban Knight on waivers yesterday. This was done for purposes of making him eligible to rejoin the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms (presumably after the Flyers' season ends on Saturday).
The Phantoms, unfortunately, have had a rough second half of the season and are in peril of missing the Calder Cup playoffs. Although it can't be used as an excuse because every AHL team deals with the same things, attrition definitely took a toll on Kerry Huffman's team.
There have been rampant injuries all season and the roster both at the top end and in terms of its depth took a hit. There is also the trickle-down effect of key NHL recalls (youngsters such as Phil Myers and Carter Hart plus veterans such as last season's AHL MVP winner Phil Varone) as well as a coaching change after Scott Gordon moved up to the Flyers.
Knight brought a Swiss army knife presence to the Phantoms lineup during his previous stints in Allentown. He played pretty much everywhere in the lineup at different times, and in all game situations. I don't know what the future will hold for him beyond this season, but he's a very easy person for whom to root.
Even by hockey standards, Corban is one of the nicest human beings one could ever be fortunate enough to meet away from the rink. The same can be said, incidentally, of Phantoms interim head coach Huffman.
The Flyers will hold a full morning skate today at the Enterprise Center before playing the final road game of the season. It's been a roller coaster ride from an opening night road win over the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights to where the Flyers find themselves at the tail end of the season.
Tonight, Brian Elliott will get the start in goal for the Flyers against his former team. The best years of Elliott's career were spent in St. Louis, including a Jennings Trophy-winning season and backstopping the Blues to the Western Conference Final before moving on to Calgary and then the Flyers.
My hotel is located roughly one block away from the Enterprise Center. Actually, I am looking at the arena out of the window in my room as I write this.
The hotel itself is fine but I had an unpleasant experience yesterday. I arrived in St. Louis around 9 AM. I took an earlier flight because my scheduled flight was showing a multi-hour delay, and I was concerned that I'd miss practice; only learning upon landing in St. Louis that there'd be no practice after all. That part wasn't a big deal.
When I got to the hotel, not surprisingly, the room I'd booked was not yet available. While there was opportunity on this now-free day to go see the famous Arch and/or otherwise do some exploration of the city, the only thing I really wanted to do was catch up on some sleep.
The front desk clerk told me there was an upgraded room available that I could access immediately. So I gladly paid the cost difference, went up to my room and, without even unpacking, got on the bed and quickly fell asleep.
Several hours later, I was awakened by the sound of a door opening and two people's voices -- from inside my room!
"Oh! Someone is in here! There's a suitcase!" I heard a woman's voice say. Hurriedly, they exited.
It all happened very quickly -- the people were in and then back out within a few seconds -- and I was still groggy. Shaking off the cobwebs, I got up, walked over to the door and bolted it (which I should have done upon arrival, admittedly, and normally do as a matter of common sense).
A couple seconds later, I received a call from the front desk. No, the clerk, who had checked me in a couple hours earlier, was not calling to apologize. She was calling to ask who I was ("Are you here with Amtrak?") and if I had a right to be in that room.
"You were the one who put me in this room," I said. "I checked in a couple hours ago, my room wasn't ready, and you told me this room was available immediately, so I paid the difference."
"And what is your name again, sir?" she asked again, having just asked that same question 10 seconds earlier.
No, my name had not changed... or least I don't think it had. I told her again.
Now, she got apologetic.
"Oh! I'm terribly sorry! You are correct. We checked you into this room. Somehow, our system also assigned it to someone else."
System, eh? If there was such a thing as a front desk penalty for too-many-people in the room, the clerk would be serving the minor.
"I am tired and I don't want to check out and go to a different hotel, but I am not happy," I said.
"I completely understand," she said. "Please accept my apology."
The conversation ended. I tried to go back to bed but sleep was impossible at this point. So I texted my wife (who was at work) and my mom to tell them about the experience I'd just had.
"Better check to make sure your room key still works," my mom replied.
I grabbed my room key, cell phone and wallet and put on my shoes, just in case, and exited my room, closing the door behind me. Nope, it didn't work. When the front desk had activated a room key for someone else, mine got deactivated. Now, I had to go back down to the front desk.
The clerk who had checked me in and later called up after the double-booking snafu was still there, but had her purse and was just about to leave for the day. She was helping a colleague who was having a computer issue while trying to check in a young couple. Two other hotel employees were also in the area behind the desk.
Taking the opportunity, I spoke to the employee who was about to leave at the end of her shift.
"Excuse me, ma'am? Did you call up to me in [room number] about 10 minutes ago? My room key got deactivated."
Once again, she apologized. She asked her colleague to make me up a new key. I returned to my room.
Over the next few hours, I watched the first period of the Phantoms vs. Charlotte game on AHLTV and the first 20 mins of the new episode of The Goldbergs that features the Flyers Wives Carnival. Then I left the hotel to meet up for dinner with Philadelphia Inquirer Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi.
We were going to go the legendary Mike Shannon's Steakhouse near the baseball stadium, but the establishment is now closed. Instead, we went to a local Italian restaurant, Lombardo's, that gets good reviews online. Dinner was excellent, and we were also able to watch the Blues game in Chicago; the Blues rallied back late to force OT but ultimately lost via shootout.
From there, I went back to my hotel and crashed for the night. I enjoy taking long walks in the morning, but not in unfamiliar cities. Instead, after I finish this blog and talk to my wife as she drives in to work, I am going to check out the hotel gym. Then it will soon be time for the Flyers morning skate across the street at the arena.