Heading into his third season with Leafs TV, roving reporter Bob Harwood follows the Leafs like no other on the beat. You can watch Bob during pre and postgame on Leafs TV.
January 20, 2004. (TORONTO) -- Leafs TV has been operational for two and a half years now, and the Leafs' schedule has taken us to every rink in the NHL with the exception of the Pepsi Center in Denver.
I thought I'd run through some of the unique aspects of life on the road, city-by-city. Some are rink or hockey-related, others a little more subtle or personal, but all of these things make this one of the most interesting jobs I've ever had.
ANAHEIM: At the team hotel, the otherwise ordinary fitness room is actually outside, under a tent-like cover, 20 feet from the pool. Not quite Muscle Beach in L.A., but close, especially when Joe Bowen and Harry Neale work out at the same time.
ATLANTA: The Thrashers play in one of the most attractive and architecturally unique buildings in the NHL, and when they fill it, perhaps with a playoff round this spring, it will also be one of the loudest. Our live pre-game location on Game Face has us right in among the fans on the mid-level concourse, and is one of the friendliest spots from which to broadcast.
BOSTON: On game days, the Bruins generally shut the media lounge right at 7:00 pm, which makes it hard to grab the meal since our pre-game show runs right up to that time, but Blanche, the woman in charge of the room, takes care of me by putting a meal aside and warming it up at the last minute. She's the best.
BUFFALO: Terrific atmosphere when the Leafs travel to Buffalo. I'd have to guess nearly 50% of the crowd is made up of Toronto fans on a good night, which makes for lots of colour and noise in the stands. In the press box, the Sabres provide 1st AND 2nd intermission cookies, the best in the NHL.
CALGARY: The rivalry comes to life here, as it does in all of the Western Canadian cities. I had the best roasted red pepper soup at a small café just yards away from the front door of the hotel. The waitress was a huge Flames fan, but her son loves the Leafs so I was allowed to eat there.
CAROLINA: Best press-lounge meal in the NHL!!!! Three or four choices of southern-style meat, soups, salads, lots of veggies and, oh yeah, the ice-cream bar!!!! (as you've guessed, food becomes a rallying point on the NHL circuit...) Sadly, fans are staying away, but the 10,000 or so who do show up love their hockey team and make a ton of noise.
CHICAGO: They had the foresight to bring the old organ from the legendary Chicago Stadium. Fans haven't had much to cheer about in the new building, but the organ fills in some of the blanks. Coolest city architecture in the NHL.
COLUMBUS: Most dedicated and polite fans and rink staff, very attractive building. Last year I accidentally stumbled into a VIP lounge that just happened to look like an extension of the press box, and sampled some of the outstanding food.
DALLAS: On a day off in Big-D this season, we took a trip to the old stables and cattle roads in Ft. Worth, and also saw the giant Texas Motor Speedway. Our hotel's outdoor pool was outstanding.
DETROIT: Among the most hockey-savvy fans in the NHL. The Joe needs a facelift, but it's easy to remember that hockey royalty (of the last decade) lives there.
EDMONTON: Best lamb-curry dish in the NHL at ""La Bruschetta"" just a few blocks from the hotel, which is nice since this is one of the coldest spots on the circuit, even in November.
FLORIDA: Best pool-side life in the NHL. The hotel's back-yard, with a huge pool, deck chairs and all the trappings, is surrounded by those famous Florida boat-ways, where people dock their luxury 50 to 100 foot cruisers.
LOS ANGELES: Three words: Cuba Gooding Junior. It was great to interview him after the Leafs stormed back to tie the Kings last fall. John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld, was also in the Leafs room.
MINNESOTA: My favorite restaurant experience in over 2 years on the job; At ""Pazzaluna"" right across from our hotel in St.Paul, I sat at the counter behind which the chefs did their thing, and watched them work over 30 grills and ovens. Great lamb-chops. The entire wait staff was hockey-savvy. One of the best of the new arenas in the NHL, including the food they serve during games IN THE PRESS BOX!!!.
MONTREAL: Best night-life, one of the most interesting press boxes, in that it wraps all the way around the rink, intermission 'toasted' hot-dogs for the media, and most importantly, a chance to take my parents out to dinner on a Friday night is a staple, since the Leafs always play there on Saturdays.
NASHVILLE: Best night-club experience came during our coverage of the draft last summer, at a western karaoke bar that brought out the ""good-ol-boy"" in a lot of Leafs-TV folks. Yee hah!!!!
NEW JERSEY: As with all New York-area teams, the extremely colourful language used by non-Leaf fans as the players walk on or off the ice is fascinating. The off-ice officials always let me grab a giant pretzel when I get last minute line-up changes from them for our pre-game show. Great view of the lower-west side of Manhattan from our hotel in Jersey City.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Best equipped hotel fitness room in the NHL. Apparently, there are 35 different ways to drive to the arena, because the cabbies all seem to have their unique path, and are NOT open to suggestions.
NEW YORK RANGERS: People love to complain about MSG, but I love everything abut this building and the colourful people who work there. The ushers and security guys treat you like a long-lost nephew. The two dressing rooms are the closest to each other of any in the NHL, great when the fur has been flying on the ice.
OTTAWA: Always loud and intense with the Leafs in town. It's also the only NHL city where the mascot tried to end my career. (but walked away regretting the effort!!!)
PHILADELPHIA: Three words: Philly Cheese Steaks!!!!!
PHOENIX: Home of the Alice Cooper bar and lounge. 'Nough said.
PITTSBURGH: Best press box popcorn and a very solid weightroom in the hotel. Pleasant walk down the hill from the rink to the hotel after morning skate.
ST.LOUIS: Our hotel is in the middle of a very cool shopping complex that also has a few restaurants, built around a very old train station area, and is just a three-minute walk to the rink. Great steak houses and rib joints in the city.
SAN JOSE: One of the loudest buildings in the NHL. Experienced one of the great ironies of my life on the road; In San Jose, the heart of silicon valley, there wasn't a single store that carried laptop extension cords, and I had forgotten mine on our trip there last fall.
TAMPA BAY: ""Pic"", Tampa's equipment manager, always has a warm greeting for the Leafs TV guys. My favourite restaurant in the NHL is the Cuban inspired ""Samba Room"" in the Hyde Park area of Tampa.
VANCOUVER: The most beautiful city in the NHL from a natural-surroundings and scenery point of view. Fitness buffs must walk the entire perimeter of Stanley Park. The house band at ""The Roxy"" is the best cover band in the history of music.
WASHINGTON: Team hotel is in a very cool part of DC. A small hole-in-the-wall kind of place half a block away serves the best grilled ham-and-egg breakfast sandwich around. Top-three hotel weight room. The White House is a 10 minute walk away.