I posted my last blog midway through our game vs. the Sabres, and unfortunately we lost that one 3-1. For the first time in a long time, we outshot our opponents that night, and so there was a bit of optimism in the locker room after the game. * Click here for a photo gallery of the trip
GAME NIGHT PROCESS
In case you're curious about what happens near the end of the game, it essentially goes like this: In the second intermission, I pack up my stuff and leave the press box to set up shop in the media work room. These work rooms are different arena to arena, but generally they are located in the arena's lower level and are filled with work stations, desks, a TV or two, and telephones (who uses telephones these days?!).
The wireless internet can be a bit iffy in some cities, so I like to get down there with time to spare so I can deal with any issues if they arise. I open up all my relevant audio and video editing programs, make sure i'm connected to the internet, and then walk over to the locker rooms and get our camera ready.
At this point, the third period has usually started and I either watch the action from the media room or from the hallway outside the locker room. If the game is being broadcast on Sportsnet West or Molson Canadian Oilers PPV, this is where you'll find Gene Principe and his entourage.
Gene does all of his off-camera announcements from this hallway, usually watching a deluxe 7" TV monitor. If I'm really lucky, there will be a headset connected to Rod Phillips and Bob Stauffer's radio broadcast nearby, and I can pop those headphones on to follow the play-by-play. Otherwise, the only game noise I hear are Gene's occasional announcements and the odd boo or cheer from the crowd above us.
Shortly after the final buzzer, the rest of the media join me in the hallway and we wait for the locker room to open. Gene will often get a walk-off with an Oiler, and those interviews are usually conducted mere feet away from me and the other Principe-wannabes.
At this time, Bob has concluded his broadcast and arrives downstairs. When the locker room is opened to us, we file in, interview our selected players, and then talk to Pat Quinn outside in the hallway. Then I quickly take the video card out of the camera, pack up the camera case, hand it off to the team's equipment managers, and hustle back to the media room to file my audio.
It takes approximately 15 minutes to download the clips, edit them, re-render them as MP3s, and upload them to a shared FTP folder online. Once that's done, I notify all the relevant people back in Edmonton via email (including Marc Ciampa, who handles all the website updates while I'm on the road). Then I pack up my laptop and rush out to the bus, with usually only a minute or two to spare.
As I've said before, there are separate buses for media and team staff after the games, so I sit down near the back of the media bus and start editing the post-game video. It's then a matter of driving to the airport, clearing security, boarding the plane, and flying to our next destination. Only after we arrive at our next hotel do I have a chance to connect to the internet and upload the video, which is why it sometimes takes hours to show up on the website after a road game.
Which brings us to . . .
After the game in Buffalo, we arrived in Atlanta at around midnight. Thursday was a day off for everyone on the trip, so I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in and hit the hotel gym. Our hotel was fairly posh, as demonstrated the crystal glasses filled with fresh lemon water outside the gym. Ooh la la.
The players, coaches and trainers enjoyed that day on a golf course somewhere, but I was perfectly happy to laze around in the morning and visit the one of two shopping malls nearby. After about two hours, I finally found something I could afford. It was a slightly depressing experience.
That evening I went for dinner with the travelling media -- including Rod, Bob, Jim Matheson, Derek Van Diest, and Louie DeBrusk -- and I believe I ordered steak. Don't worry, I assure you that it was delicious.
ICE TIME IN GREENVILLE
The following day was the first of two practice days for the team. We all hopped on the bus (players, media & coaches) and enjoyed 20 minutes of spotless freeways enroute to the Thrashers practice facility in Greenville, GA. The arena features two sheets of ice and was packed with young hockey players and figure skaters.
Not only was I impressed by the Southerners' skating abilities, I was also impressed by the facility's viewing lounge: a hockey-themed diner! Our waitress was very friendly and we enjoyed some delicious eats -- including all-you-can-eat hot wings -- while watching practice. Best practice of the year, for sure!
Thankfully, Saturday's schedule was exactly the same -- sunshine, bus ride, and another greasy work-related lunch -- concluding what was perhaps the best two days of my life.
BACK TO WORK
Sunday's game was scheduled for 2pm Eastern, so there was no morning skate. We all checked out of the hotel before noon and arrived at Philips Arena shortly thereafter. The home of the Thrashers is located in a pretty fabulous location -- downtown Atlanta, near the Georgia Dome and attached to CNN Center, a tourist-type mall.
One of my pet peeves is when people complain about the weather, so I refuse to do that, but let me say that I probably sweated off five pounds during my short Rinks 101 video taping excursion outside. Not complaining, just saying.
It was a close game, but the Oilers suffered a 3-2 loss to the Trashers that afternoon, resulting in a quiet flight to Ohio.
We arrived in Columbus in the early evening but after filing my video and updating the website, I opted for hotel room service. If practice facility diners and hot Atlanta weather were at the top of my road trip highlights list, room service is a close second. A chicken wrap and fries just tastes so much better when someone brings it to you on a silver tray! I was in heaven.
The following morning -- the last day of our trip -- we bussed to Nationwide Arena for morning skate. When we play the Blue Jackets, I have the rare opportunity to meet up with a fellow AHL call-up: Mr. Bob McElligott, who used to do play by play for the Syracuse Crunch and now works as TV colour commentator for the Jackets.
Bob was at the rink (of course) and we spent a few minutes reminiscing about the good ol' days, specifically the Moose-Crunch playoff rivalries of the mid-2000's. Oh, to be young and in the minors again …
The Oilers played another solid game that night but lost in a shootout. It was a disappointing end to a marathon road trip, and I'm certain that everyone was looking forward to the flight home and the return to the friendly confines of Rexall Place.
* We are producing video features on all the arenas we visited, and you can check out the first few here. Watch for more Rinks 101 episodes on The Link as the season progresses.