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Road Trip Journal: November

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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November was a fairly busy month of travel, with a number of quick, one-game road trips in the first half of the month followed by five straight games away from home in the second half.

Now that December is upon us, let’s take a look back at the trips we took throughout the penultimate month of the calendar year. Here we go!

Columbus: Nov. 3-4

Celebrity sighting! As we walked into our hotel in Columbus, none other than Verne Troyer scooted through the lobby. I wish I had pictorial evidence of this encounter, but it was one of those did-I-just-see-what-I-think-I-saw moments. Indeed it was, confirmed on Troyer’s Twitter account, as he was working his way through the local morning show circuit.

Nationwide Arena is situated in a part of town called the Arena District, and the set-up is incredibly ideal. The arena is surrounded by various bars and restaurants and the restorative feel of the area – very similar to American Tobacco Campus in Durham – is well-executed. It’s a fun place to be, and it’s going to be a perfect locale for All-Star Weekend this season.

(Speaking of: Vote Canes.)

Washington: Nov. 8

On the heels of a 4-2 victory over Columbus, the team’s fourth in a row, we flew up to the nation’s capital for a later-than-usual 8 p.m. faceoff. The reasoning? Washington had also played the night before in Chicago; the hour later start accommodated the hour lost in traveling back across time zones.

Verizon Center is generally a nice building. The press box view isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s a fun place to see a hockey game. The traffic on the other hand is not so great, but that comes with the territory.

Boston: Nov. 14-15

This was our only trip to Beantown this season, and it was a quick one with the 1 p.m. faceoff following the Friday afternoon flight north.

I selfishly enjoy early afternoon faceoffs for a couple of reasons, the first being that they wrap up at a decent time of the day, and the second – and most important – being that it usually equates to a breakfast/brunch press meal. And there’s not much wrong with that. Boston did the breakfast press meal right, complete with cinnamon bun waffles and an omelet station.

Dallas: Nov. 17-18

So, let’s discuss dinner in Dallas. Got to do Texas barbeque, right? Of course. After a bit of research, we settled on Lockhart Smokehouse. At this joint, you order your meat at the counter in the back as they slice it to order and wrap it up in butcher paper. They also heavily dissuade the use of sauce, though they do have a (malfunctioning, intentionally) pump vat full of some real tasty spread. The brisket was a popular choice, but I opted for the special of the day: chili rubbed pork loin, and a side of spicy mac ‘n’ cheese. It was amazing.

A popular sightseeing spot in town is, of course, Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. In fact, we were in Dallas just five days prior to the 51st anniversary. With mid-afternoon traffic bustling about, walking around the plaza is a somewhat surreal experience. And, if you have the chance, the Sixth Floor Museum in the old Texas School Book Depository building is worth your time.

American Airlines Center (not Arena – that one is in Miami) is an incredibly unique venue. The roof is reminiscent of an old airplane hangar, and the brick façade of the exterior makes it one of the more regal of the buildings we’ve visited.

Los Angeles: Nov. 19-20

I hesitate to say the weather in Los Angeles is perfect, but with little to no humidity and temperatures that fluctuate between 50 and 80 degrees for much of the year, how can you go wrong?

As discussed in our first Road Report video, In-N-Out Burger definitely happened. For my inaugural visit, I forwent animal style in favor of keeping it simple, though we do visit Southern California again in February. Thumbs up on In-N-Out.

The best way I can describe Staples Center is that it is very LA. Housing an NHL team and two NBA teams in between numerous concerts and shows, the building is seemingly always active. Fog machines are cranked for an atmospheric experience. The LED lighting is dim in the stands and vibrant on the ice. And the fans love them some hockey.

Colorado: Nov. 21-22

Denver is a cold, yet sunny and beautiful city. The scenery, minus the water and close proximity, is reminiscent of Vancouver, a city scape punctuated by snow-dusted mountain tops in the distance.

Claimed off waivers while the team was in Los Angeles, Andrej Nestrasil met the Hurricanes in Denver. He immediately found kinship with Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Sekera, with whom he could communicate in his native Czech tongue. I spoke with him at length after the team’s practice in Westminster (Great little place, by the way. It houses three rinks, and with a youth hockey showcase happening that weekend, practice drew a bit of a crowd.), and it was a pleasure. He’s a well-spoken guy who came in with a great attitude, and he has fit right in.

Pepsi Center is the same age as PNC Arena, both venues celebrating their 15th year of operation after opening in 1999. These are becoming more common now, but it still is a sight to behold in person: the gigantic video board that spans the entire neutral zone. It’s big. It’s large. It’s crystal clear. I found myself watching that a bit during the game more so than the action on the ice.

Florida: Nov. 25-26

Packing for this trip was interesting. The weather forecast denoted mid-70s with a chance of rain in South Florida and mid-30s with a chance of snow in Pittsburgh. Oh.

At BB&T Center, we were treated to a showing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving prior to warm-ups, a festive touch on Thanksgiving Eve.

Pittsburgh: Nov. 27-28

Thanksgiving (“Regular” or “Normal” Thanksgiving as we referred to it as in the locker room amongst 10 Canadian-born players) in Pittsburgh. Not a lot going on in the city. The Canes practiced that day before heading back to the hotel for an early evening team meal.

I attended my first NHL Draft with the Hurricanes in Pittsburgh in 2012, the summer that the team landed Jordan Staal during the first round. What a whirlwind of a weekend that was. Just four years young, CONSOL Energy Center has not lost its luster, and the atmosphere is quite rambunctious, as you’d expect.

***

We’ll visit Columbus and D.C. again in March. Our return to Pittsburgh is slated for New Year’s Eve (What’s up with spending holidays in the Steel City this year?), and we’ll travel back to Sunrise in April. I might circle back around to these cities then.

Until then! December has Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Montreal and others on tap. More stories (or incessant ramblings) from the road then!



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