Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The things we do for "family"

The Peerless was not at the Sabres game at Verizon Center last Friday night. We were out of town for the Christmas holiday. Why? Well, because this time of year brings families together to celebrate the spiritual and the secular, to rejoice in one another...

...and to endure some things one would never think of doing at any other time of the year.

Case in point -- on Friday, we joined some members of our family to trek to see a hockey game. Sounds okay so far, doesn't it? Oh, did we mention it was the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Philadelphia Phantoms?

We suppose that the consolation in this was being secure in the knowledge that we would get to see a hockey game in one of the most famous venues in the sport -- The Spectrum -- one that would be razed to be replaced by a hotel for an entertainment complex called, "Philly Live!" We're guessing that the exclamation point is needed as proof that Philadelphia is indeed alive.

The Spectrum cannot, given its advanced years (41 -- ancient for a sports arena these days), be said to be a great venue to attend an event. The seats are cramped, the rest rooms require descending a flight of stairs (do search parties have to look for bodies of visiting fans after games?), and it is generally dark and uninviting -- Philly fans adore it.

The teams that took the ice that evening did not have the look of prospect-laden rosters. In fact, both made one appreciative for the sort of relationship the Capitals have with the Hershey Bears -- two teams with talent singing from the same hockey philosophy songbook.

The AHL version of the Penguins looked nothing like their NHL parent, content to spend the evening dumping, chasing, and looking for spare change in front of the Phantom net. They happened to be rather successful at it, scratching out a 4-0 win. You had the feeling watching the Penguins that they were a quick team and even a hard-working one. But you also had the feeling that the franchise's "prospects" were all on the other side of the state.

On the other hand, the Phantoms just couldn't match the skill level of their visitors. We watched the home team go through nine (really) power plays and wondered all along, "who do they have who can actually put a puck in the net?" Given the final score, the answer was, "no one on this roster." It was a team that struggled mightily on offense and just wasn't up to the Penguins' quickness on defense.

But to be honest, there really isn't ever a bad night at a hockey rink. Besides, it was nice to see the Phantoms lose, after all. If the two teams could have gone to a shootout and 30 or so rounds before spontaneously combusting at center ice, it would have been better, fireworks always being a crowd-pleaser. It was especially nice since the two monsters I helped create -- my father (a Penguin fan) and my nephew (an comparatively unenthusiastic Philadelphia fan) becoming hockey fans at my prodding -- were in attendance.

We don't suppose there will be a movie made of our experience. You won't see "Christmas at The Spectrum" or "A Peerless Hockey Christmas" movie marathon on TBS next Christmas. But it was hockey over the holidays, and that can't be all bad...



Hooks Orpik said...

"But you also had the feeling that the franchise's "prospects" were all on the other side of the state."

Yep. Including two injured players who would be in the lineup if healthy (Letang and Kennedy) Pittsburgh has six players 22 years old or younger....And it doesn't help that 5-7 of Wilkes-Barre's best players have been in Pittsburgh too for most of the season.

There's some skill like Luca Caputi and Janne Pesonen (for the AHL level, at least) but all in all, yeah's it dump/chase and dig 'em out.

The Peerless said...

To be fair, Pesonen wasn't in the lineup, and this was one game -- we might have caught the Penguins playing down a bit to their opponent. But still, there didn't seem to be a certain NHLer in the group that took the ice.

They were infinitely better than the Phantoms, though. I couldn't see anyone on that roster cracking an NHL lineup, not at their current level of skill, anyway. They were difficult to watch.

pepper said...

Indeed, some hockey is better than no hockey. I'm having to spend the holiday week through New Year's Day in Austin, TX, and the closest pro hockey nearby is the Houston Aeros, 2 1/2 hours away. And Houston really is to be avoided, if at all possible.

Flying Cloud said...

What a warm holiday anecdote, Peerless, your writing, though always good, has been absolutely inspired lately. I spent another Christmas in Tampa, and saw Lecavalier and Co. win their 3rd straight, beating the Panthers something like 6-3 or thereabouts. The place was jumping and a good time was had by all, except the busloads of Panthers fans. Former Caps (now kitties)Zednik and Halpern, and Eminger and Pettinger (Bolts) aquitted themselves well, but Olie was on IR. With their new 'interim' coach Tocchet I expect the Lightning will climb as high as they possibly can, so all who dismissed them up until now may wish to re-evaluate before long. They certainly played our style of hockey the other night.