Last night my wife and I went to see the Checkers play the Admirals in Norfolk. This turned out to be an interesting evening for several different reasons. We had planned on going for more than a week, but learned on Wednesday the Stanley Cup would be in the house. Needless to say, I was excited.
When Friday afternoon rolled around we grabbed our Canes jerseys and set out to see the Checkers play for the first time. On the way out, my wife made sure she grabbed our Nikon D80 so she could get some nice pictures of the Cup. We dropped the kids off at my in-laws and set out for an hour or so drive, en route to the Norfolk Scope Arena We arrived a little late, but figured that to be no big deal. Well, we figured wrong.
I have been to a few Admirals games, and usually cheer for the home team. But on this particular night, I was excited to see the Checkers. For the first time, I was the enemy. My wife and I proudly walked up to the gate, me wearing my black Canes jersey, and her wearing a "vintage" red Canes jersey, carrying the Nikon. We were stopped by the bag checking guy who said he needed to check the camera bag. He said we need to make sure the next time we go, we leave that camera home, as the lens may be too long. I asked him what the regulations are, and he said "they haven't defined that". Then his partner, who was about 20 feet away, and never looked in our camera bag yells "they can't take it in". WTF? Then they guy asked us if we could leave it somewhere. Yeah, we'll walk almost a half mile back to our car and leave it there. Thankfully, we took a pocket camera too. Meanwhile, people with Admirals jerseys were walking in with similar, or larger, cameras. Again, we were the enemy.
By the time we got to our seats, we had missed the entire first period. So much for really enjoying my first Checkers game. When they started playing, it wasn't hard to figure out who the best player on the ice was. Boychuck simply doesn't belong there. He may be short in stature, but he stands head and shoulder above the rest in talent. He didn't score, but it wasn't for lack of trying. He's not alone. With Dalpe, Rodney, Fitzgerald, Nash, Bowman, Matsumoto, and on and on, the Canes organization has some talent in Charlotte.
With about five minutes remaining in the period, we set out to find the Cup. I was excited as I never thought I'd get to see it. We stood in line and waited our turn to get our picture. Someone put their newborn in the cup, and a couple people hoisted it. We finally got our turn after more than a half hour. I wanted to find the Canes on the cup, but the Arena staff member wanted us to hurry along. So I had to settle for the '56-'57 Canadiens. Either way, it was freaking awesome. I put my arm around it, and held it for a brief moment while our picture was taken. My wife said you could almost feel the energy of the Cup. I marveled at the condition of it. That thing is a train wreck. I had no idea what kind of condition it would be in. The dents, scratches, and other blemishes are evidence of stories that only the Cup itself could tell. There is so much character and history surrounding it, that I simply can't imagine. It is definitely a thing of beauty.
When we left our seats, the score was tied 0-0. When we returned, around the 12:00 mark in the third, the Admirals had the lead 3-2. We found another seat because someone had taken ours. No big deal as there were a lot of seats to choose from. I was surprised to see the chippiest player on the Checkers team was Justin Pogge. That guy has edge and will gladly push a player out of his crease.
The Checkers tied the game at 3 with 2:22 remaining. Needless to say, the people sitting near us didn't care for the fact we chose that spot. As I said before, we were the enemy on this night. This was my first hockey game ever where I cheered for the visiting team. The game went to overtime and the Checkers spent the majority killing penalties. The game had to be decided in a shootout. Dalpe was the lone scorer for the Checkers, but Norfolk was able to get two goals by Pogge who, by the way, ended up making 50 saves on the night. This game was also the first shootout I've seen in person. At the end of the game, several Admirals fans "politely" told us where the door were so we could find out way out. I thought that was awful nice of them.
At the end of it all, it was a fun night. The discrimination at the gate, the loyalty of the home town fans, these are just some of the little things that make sports so much fun to watch. The Stanley Cup was simply awesome. And despite the fact they lost, I enjoyed my first Checkers game, well half of it at least. I can't wait to see some of those kids playing on a nightly basis with the big boys.