THE ROAD WARRIOR
Friday, 01.20.2012 / 4:45 PM
Kevin Sylvester of SabresTV took some notes throughout this week’s road trip that started last Saturday in Long Island. Join him for a look at some of the things that cross a broadcaster’s mind while he travels across the NHL.
Long road trips are an interesting beast. The anticipation is actually exciting. Think about the road trips you and your buddies would take on occasion and magnify it by 10. Sure, it's business, but it's filled with hope of thrilling victories and good times catching up with friends or on much needed sleep (anyone with kids understands this one). It's even better when boarding the charter after a big home win over the Maple Leafs.
The other side of the long trip is saying goodbye to your kids for a week, looking at your wife and seeing a slight bit of despair in her eyes as she has to handle it all while you're gone, and figuring how much to pack. I used to pack way too much my first season. Now, I travel light. Who cares if my casual, off duty, clothes get repeated often away from home? Plus, we stay in great hotels that can get laundry done if needed, with same-day dry cleaning. I make sure I have room for two things: workout gear and my phone/iPad charger. I'd go crazy without both!
I do hope the Islanders figure out a new arena soon. Nassau Coliseum is outdated, and has been for 15 years. The people are nice, fans that show are passionate, but it's still the worst place in the league to visit. I'm sure the welcome wagon will be out when I go back in a few weeks.
In contrast to the Islanders needing a new building, I hope Detroit doesn't get one. Joe Louis Arena has a certain charm to it. It's like going to the Riviera Theatre in Tonawanda for a show. There’s nostalgia all around. The seats at “The Joe” are all red, worn in, beat up and even torn in some cases. But they are so close to the action that's there's not a bad seat in the place. The press box is old school, in the middle of the building and not in the rafters like most places. The broadcast booth is tiny, but it's an honor to work from the same spot many legends have done before. Of course I only visit the place once a year, so all of the crumbling parts and warts don’t bother me as much as the faithful in Hockeytown.
Chicago is an awesome city, and not that intimidating. The buildings are beautiful and bountiful, and the walk along Michigan Avenue is one of the best in the league. However, on your next visit (or first) make it to some of the neighborhoods on the north side of town. You'll feel right at home. Wrigleyville stands out, but there are more pockets. Our Road Crew party was in one of those areas at Lincoln Station and had the feel of being in the Elmwood Village or Allentown. It was cool. It was also great to meet some great Buffalo people that now live in Chicago, and were excited to get a slice of home.
As for the game in Chicago, what can I say? It's tough. I like the song “Chelsea Dagger” but don't care to hear it for a while. I will say the national anthem at the United Center is the best in the league as the fans “roar” throughout. It’s such a great tradition.
As I’m sitting on the plane ready to take off for Winnipeg, I re-read the opening paragraph I wrote from the start of the trip. So far, this trip has been nothing like my anticipation. As for the home front, reports have been mostly positive. I'll spare you the details. It’s supposed to be -22 when we land in Winnipeg and feel like -40! That’s sure not like Atlanta, and my toes aren't ready.
OK, the cold weather in Winnipeg wasn't all that bad. The walk to the rink on Thursday morning was interesting as it was all inside. Underground for the first half, the skywalks for the second half of it. The cool thing was having performers (street musicians) playing their music in the skywalks. Danny Gare and I figure there are some people that live in Winnipeg that must rarely step outdoors in the winter.
And a very happy birthday to my youngest, DJ, who turns two today. I can’t wait to get home and see his awesome smile. And I still can't believe it’s been two years since I cut a road trip short to welcome him into this world.