I made it to Erie, Pennsylvania in just under five hours. The US customs guy told me to enjoy the game. Just what I was planning.
After a brewski and sandwich at the Erie Ale House, I walked towards the arena. Just like in London, fans were streaming in from the side streets. People were excited. I sure was. I couldn’t wait to sit beside Erie fanatics and tell them I was from London.
And that’s what happened. I sat beside John and Sharon from Jamestown, New York. Just in front of me was Sondra, a cowbell-ringing season ticket holder who was taking in the game with her husband. All four of them were decked out in bright Erie Otters jerseys – red, yellow and white.
I told my cross-border friends about Canadians singing the American national anthem on Friday. Her response? “We always sing ‘O Canada’ at the games.” (Almost all of the teams are Canadian.) So I decided to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” two nights in a row. An awesome quartet led us in the songs but we five gave ‘er too. Great fun.
My companions razzed me about the London Knights always getting favorable calls from referees. I told them I was deeply sorry that Erie would be relegated to second place after London whipped them. Back and forth with the banter. Most importantly, back and forth with the smiles. When Erie was struggling in their own zone, Sondra would yell “Get it out!” Naturally I countered with “Keep it in!” Oh we laughed.
Erie scored the first goal. All around me Erieites leapt to their feet and poured out the contents of their lungs. I sat and gave a good pout and in return was offered a high five … which I accepted.
Then London scored! I too was up like a shot, cheering and waving. I looked around at my neighbours. Most were smiling at me. I didn’t want to be an ugly Canadian but I did want to celebrate.
Erie’s arena seats 6500, smaller than London but at least equal in energy. How they love their team. The Otters beat the Knights 4-2 last night, scoring an empty net goal in the last few seconds. Erie Insurance Arena erupted in an orgasm of delight. I just loved being there. Human beings caught in the throes of joy, at least about 6480 of them.
This afternoon, I drive those same five hours back home. Am I disappointed we lost the game? Yes. Does it matter? No. People matter and I met some great ones yesterday.