The All-Star Break is a beautiful thing. While fans get to enjoy some of the most fun-filled, showboat-y hockey of the year in the SuperSkills competition and the game itself, the players get to either participate in the sanctioned showboating or enjoy a much-deserved mini holiday. And for NHL staff? With the exception of the lucky folks who get to cover the All-Star festivities and keep the ship afloat, many of us get a short reprieve from the usual pre/post-game preparations that push us through the season.
SKILLS & SKI HILLS
This All-Star Break, I went to Jasper for a few days and was blissfully oblivious to all things hockey-related. Instead I went skiing and actually managed to tumble down the “big girl' hill once. This is an accomplishment when you're from flat (yet fabulous!) Winnipeg. I did watch a bit of the Skills Competition Saturday night but otherwise ignored anything to do with pucks, players, and punchy game recaps.
This little hiatus extended through Tuesday, as I had a friend in town and she needed somebody to go to the game with. That somebody was me, and as a result, I got to watch the game vs. Buffalo from the stands . . . for the first time EVER!
Now, we all know what happened on the ice. If you want to read about it, you can check out Marc's game story or the message board topics. I'm more interested in what happened OFF the ice in places that I had never before experienced during game time (ie. anywhere other than the press box).
THE VIEW FROM 208
After taking my seat in Section 208, I became acutely aware of the action all around me. In the press box, crowd noise seamlessly swells and fades as if 16,839 people gasp and cheer with a shared pair of lungs. In the stands, however, I was overwhelmed by the conversations, encouragements, and polite (ahem) suggestions being offered to the players and officials by my fellow 208-ers.
Although I had to bite my tongue a couple of times (It's ALES not Alex, and no, you couldn't skate faster than that), I was pleasantly surprised by some of the statements that floated to my ears. “Go Pauly!!!” one guy yelled when anthem singer Paul Lorieau took to the ice, and although a few people cheered when Shovel Guy lost his balance while scooping up snow during a whistle, a few more cheered when he got up and waved (restoring my faith in humanity).
We went to the Club Lounge in the second period and stayed to watch the Oilers file off the ice and then return to the bench to start the third. With the state of the game already weighing heavily on them, I hoped they were able to tune out the polite (ahem) suggestions from the fans that lined the walkway. I also hoped the fans that jeered the loudest are those that cheer the loudest when the team is playing well, just to balance out the hockey karma.
THE CIAMPA EFFECT
Finally, I'd like point out that after Tuesday's loss, the Oilers are 2-4-0 and have been out-scored 32-17 when Marc Ciampa writes the game recap. (Both of those wins occurred when I was out of town, which means that the club is 0-4 and has averaged 7.25 goals against if I'm in the rink but NOT covering the game.) By comparison, the team is 22-16-3 and has edged its opponents 117-116 in goals when I'm writing the game story.
So, I guess this means I'll be hanging up my jersey and writing game recaps for the rest of the season. It's a big responsibility but somebody's got to keep Marc in line.