In my career in hockey, I've done quite a bit of traveling, but I've had few experiences quite like what happened this weekend when I was in both Los Angeles and New York for the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. I experienced two wild scenes in cities 3,000 miles apart and had very little sleep in between, but if I ever had the opportunity, I would do it all over again. Here's a little taste of what it's like to cover hockey in America's two biggest cities in half a day's time.
When you were at the game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in Dodger Stadium, you could definitely tell there was some Hollywood to it. I was going up in an elevator and I opened the door and there was Cuba Gooding Jr. You open another door and there's Colin Hanks. Another door? Matthew Perry. This was a scene that had that Hollywood influence and that made it special. The park was beautiful too. The green grass contouring the white ice, the mountains beyond the outfield, the overlook of downtown L.A., all this combined to make the view spectacular.
Before the game you had Kerri Walsh Jennings, arguably the best beach volleyball player in the world, playing on the field, you had kids on the roller hockey rink, 10 people throwing around a football or a Frisbee. It really captured what L.A. is all about, what California is all about, and then there was hockey at the end of it. It was pretty neat, but really it was totally different. You can't do what they did in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or Boston. Instead of L.A. trying to be those cities, L.A. was L.A. It really hit the mark. They thought of everything. That's what L.A. does. They do events all the time and they know how to do them well. This was just another example.
Once the game was over, though, I couldn't really soak it all in. I had to get to New York.
We were supposed to leave LAX at midnight L.A. time, or 3 a.m. New York time. We left for the airport straight from Dodger Stadium, but what do you run into in L.A.? Traffic. We even had a police escort and it didn't make a difference, so instead of 45 minutes to LAX, it took us two hours. There was a big plane the NHL chartered for the flight to New York and Jeremy Roenick and I sat together, but the minute you hit the plane everybody was asleep. You were beat. It was 1 a.m. California time and you just put your feet up as soon as you got in the air and tried to sleep until you landed in New York.
We landed in New York at 8:30 in the morning instead of 7:30 in the morning, so right away I was late. I had to be at the rink by 11 to start doing work for NHL Network, so I got to the rink around 10, which was pretty amazing since I had to come to the hotel and shower so I was cleaned up. I basically threw my stuff on the bed, took a quick shower, got dressed and jumped in a cab to Yankee Stadium. I was on set at 11 and doing work for NHL Network from New York. All of this basically happened in 12-14 hours.
Once I got there, the difference was palpable. There was a new kind of atmosphere in New York, but nothing was more obvious than the weather. People said it was 20 degrees and felt like 10, but I was in Ann Arbor for the Winter Classic, and this felt like Ann Arbor. I'm guessing it felt like zero when that wind was howling. The afternoon before, I was in L.A. where it was 80. With the wind blowing, the glare on the ice, it was clear we were not in Kansas anymore. I was back in a hockey building, a hockey environment, and a cold northeastern city.
The game in New York was another long day, especially with the extra half hour because of the glare. The cold was tough because there was no glass in the press box, so you were basically outside the entire time you were working. You were cold the whole day and had no place to escape and get relief. After the game, there was more work to do with NHL Network, so I didn't get out until 7 p.m.
When it was all done I went out for a beer and a cigar with some friends and relaxed. It had been a whirlwind and I was as tired as can be. I don't regret it, though. It was a great experience, and Wednesday night, when it will probably be even colder than it was Saturday afternoon, I'll be right back at Yankee Stadium watching outdoor hockey one more time.