I was driving into the big city yesterday to work out at the gym when I realized that our local junior hockey team, the London Knights, was playing in the evening. These young players, ages 16 to 20, were battling the Erie Otters for all the marbles. The two teams were tied at the top of the Ontario Hockey League standings with only two games left – last night in London and today in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“Go to the game, Bruce.” Okay, who am I to argue? Except that I figured all 9000 tickets would be gone. I’m so glad that, even though my pessimistic voice has its time, I usually don’t agree. So … I found a parking space within a block of Budweiser Gardens (Magic!) and strode towards the box office. My hostess, after conferring with her computer screen, said, “We have one ticket left, sir.” Oh my goodness! I took it with considerable glee.
Hours later, there I sat in the arena heavens, not caring at all that I was miles from the action. I was in the building and that was enough. I wanted to experience all those folks cheering for the home side. I wanted to feel the energy, win or lose.
Before the opening faceoff, a gaggle of little kids trooped onto the ice for the national anthems. As their leader swept into conducting, the children started “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Off key and loveable. And then … the voices stopped. The young’uns either got too nervous, forgot the words, or something. Silence. But only for a few seconds. What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life. I would say that a few thousand of us Canadians picked up the melody and ran with it. We sang our neighbours’ song. No Canada/US good/bad silliness. Just kind people who didn’t want to leave the kids hanging. Truly a wow.
The game was stunning. And London won! I sprang from my seat at every London goal. Joy flooded the arena. Ahh.
And now there’s one final game, tonight in Erie. If the Knights win, we’re league champions. If we lose in overtime, we’re still champions. If Erie wins in regulation time, they’re the top of the hill.
As I drove back to Union, my mind exploded. “Go to Erie tomorrow, Bruce.” But there won’t be any tickets left. (Sounds familiar.) “Drive the five hours there. Get a hotel. Go to the game!” I bet you can see where this is leading. There were a few single tickets left. Check. The Albion Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Erie Insurance Arena, will welcome me. Check. I’m all gassed up. Check.
Within half an hour, I’ll be on the road. I love it. Tomorrow morning, I’ll tell you more about my epic quest. Much fun.