Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

A Day In The Life Of Game 1

I had every intention of waking up at 0300 Saturday, updating the blog, getting on the road and making it to Dulles airport by 0530 for a 0640 flight to Hockeytown.  But the neighbors came over Friday and next thing you know the Yuengling’s gone with another case on the way.

Hit the rack at midnite, set the alarm for 3pm and drifted off to sleep knowing what the next day held in store.

3pm.  Yep.  I said PM.  Dumbass.  How I woke up is anyone’s guess. 

Up at 0430…somehow.  Hygiene took a back seat to haste.  On the road at 0515.  Arrived at 0600, on the plane at 0630.  Flight attendant walks by, sees my Wing jersey.  “Go Pens.”  Waited for my reaction.  Literally paused in the aisle, looking at me, waiting.  Stared at him a minute.

“You really have no idea what you’re in for.”

And thus began the trek to Hockeytown.  My own little episode of 24. 

Text message came in as soon as we landed.  Buddy of mine who was buying my extra ticket backed out.  Same guy who went with me to Game 3 in ‘98 in DC. Same guy who laughed when a Caps fan tried to karate chop me in the neck in the metro station after a Wing victory.  And, you’ll like this, the same guy goaded Dallas Drake into a fight in a Marquette bar in 1988 only to watch Drake kick the living hell out of another friend of ours.  I think I was hiding under a chair when it happened.

Anyway. He backed out.  Placed a frantic call to Kukla.  “Godfather, what do I do?  I need to sell this ticket.  If you help me, when the time comes and you need a favor, I’ll provide it.”

“Post it on the blog dumbass.”

And so we did.  Took Osrt 2 minutes to respond.  Amazing he could type since he was picking pacifiers up off the ground at the Tech Fest (or whatever the hell it’s called) in downtown Hockeytown.  “I’m in.  Gimme a ticket.  I’ll pay 4 dollars for it.”  Game. Set. Deal.

High noon at the corner of Woodward and Warren.  Meet Osrt.  Do the deal.

One hour later I’m at the A2Y bunker in St. Clair Shores.  It’s 1300.  Out to the boat. Out to the lake.  Catch two bass. Don’t touch either one.  Yucky. 

1630. Depart the bunker, on the way to Nemo’s for chow.  Sit with a couple old fellas from Windsor.  Start talking hockey.  Old time hockey.  Canadien (an) fans.  Told me about Budd Lynch and how he used to call games on TV in the sixties.  Talked about the Wings, about Brunnstrom and the fact that Ken Holland may have set the biggest bear trap of all time.  Surprised them by telling them Pavel Datsyuk led the team in hits this playoff.  Off to the Tiger game they went.  And me, my brother, my nephew:  on to the Joe for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Frigging Finals. 

1800.  Walking up to the Joe.  Pens fans in front of us.  Hijinks in store?  Negative.  Bigger than me.  “Good luck today.  Have fun.” That’s what I said to them.  They peered back. Wary.  Stunned.  We kept walking.  Hear them mutter.  “Not in Philly are we?”  Meaning:  more likely to get donkey punched from a Flyer fan than spoken cordially to. 

1815: Mecca.

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1820: Inside the Joe.  Mike Ilitch himself stops me and asks if I’ve seen Gordie yet.  Ok. It wasn’t Ilitch.  It was his cousin, a young Ilitch.  No. It wasn’t an Ilitch. But it was some dude working for the organ-I-zation.  And he was all about telling me where Gordie was.  Headed left.  Big crowd.  Pens fans surrounding Mr. Hockey.  Waiting to shell out the bucks.

 

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She was, like, “I got Yzerman’s autograph.”

A word about the Pens fans, and you’ll see more of them in a minute…have patience…good group of hockey fans.  Hundreds of them bussed up, drove up, flew up, hitched up from Pittsburgh.  No problems with any of them.  And I didn’t see any other Wing fans with any issues either.  The only dickeroo I met all day was the flight attendant.  At the Joe?  They had fun, at the start, yelled a bit, supported their team.  I’ve been in their shoes, on enemy territory, before.  And they did it right.

1845:  Meet the Godfather next to the Gordie statue.  He’s a kid in a candy store.  Been all over the place, talked to everybody.  He’s having the time of his life.

1855: Christy Hammond’s walking around.  She’s got a walkie talkie on her belt.  I think Uncle Mike was in constant contact asking about line combinations. 

1900:  Walking to the beer stand, the Molson one.  Some dude stops my brother, asks if he wants to ride the zamboni, says he’s got a deal for him.  This guy whips out a piece of paper, a contest winning notification.  Memo says to show the paper to a Wing marketing bubba and report to the East entrance with ten minutes left in the first.  My brother looks at him and says, “How much?”  The guy doesn’t miss a beat.  “Two beers.”  Game. Set. Deal.

1915: On to the seats.  Section 227a.  Up.  Up a bit further.  Up further.  Break.  Rest.  Further.  Osrt’s holding down the back row, beer in each hand.  No pacifier in sight.  We all sit down and in come the Pen fans.  One row in front. Full of ‘em. The next row, then the next.  The whole section.  Me, my brother, my nephew, Osrt and an ass-ton of Pen loyalists.  And they’re making a ruckus.

1945: The Joe’s filling up, but there are still rows of empty seats in the lower bowl.  I tell Osrt that if this place isn’t full we’ll never hear the end of it.  Wings have already done their pre-game skate and here was my impression:  Osgood looked like garbage.  They were kicking pucks past him from the blue line.  Hasek looked sharp. I was worried.  “Let’s Go Pens”...all over.  Surrounded by it.  Scared.  Skittish. 

2000:  Down go the lights.

 

Did you watch the whole thing? If not, go toward the end and you’ll hear us laughing when Fleury falls. 

2010 and that’s about the last time reference you’re going to see.  Still see pockets of empty seats in the lower bowl.  Yeah, you’ve read it was full.  I’m here to tell you it wasn’t.  Let me say this.  If you’re one of the shrivs with season tickets, corporate or not, and you didn’t go, or you didn’t give them or sell them or scalp them to someone who would have enjoyed those seats?  You’re a tool and an embarrassment.  Those tickets are sitting, unused, on your counter right now, or they’re in your secretary’s desk drawer…anywhere but where they should have been, in the hands of a real fan who would have chewed his arm off for the chance to go to that game.

Underway and both teams look tentative, but Pittsburgh’s pressing.  Osgood’s in our end and he’s looking great. I was, shocking, wrong about the warmups.

What was it? Ten minutes in? Twelve?  Lidstrom off the left faceoff circle.  Scores.  Yes, bitches.  The lead we need.  And the Joe frigging erupts.  I mean it.  Erupts.  Glance at the board.  No “1” up there yet next to “Wings”.  Staring at it. Waiting to see it.  Look down at the ice and notice Homer plowing his stick against the glass in the penalty box.  Not once. Repeatedly. 

Boos.  Lots of ‘em.  Can’t see the bench but I understand Uncle Mike ran into the hall to catch the replay, then back to chew ass.  How frustrating would that be, to know your team is getting the shaft. You know it.  And you can’t do a thing about it.

20,000 waiting for the replay.  Staring at the jumbojoebigscreenvision, waiting to see what Homer’s been accused of.  Nothing.  Showing Osgood’s last save.  No replay of the “penalty”, the wave off. Nothing.  And that’s frigging gutless.  Every fan in that arena wanted to see that replay and we never did.  Gutless.  I’d like an explanation for that one please.

You don’t think Homer’s marked?  Good call or not.  It’s not made on anyone else. Not a chance.

My brother’s gone down below, kid in tow.  I’m still not convinced that evil genius didn’t scam us for a couple Molson’s. If he did, good on him.  First period’s over and out comes the Zamboni.

See the little kid in red?  My nephew.  It’s going to take him a few years to realize just how cool that was.

 

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Start the second and the Pens fans are getting louder.  All around us.  The longer this game stays tied, scoreless, the better their chances.  Unfortunately for them Gary’s Baby Boy is invisible and so is his slew footing sister, Malkin. 

And then the weirdest frigging thing happened.  Malkin on the giveaway.  Sammy, of all people, is a dirvish behind the net.  And the bastard scores.  Osrt
is confused.  He’s looking around.  It’s too much for him to handle.  He starts doing jumping jacks right there in section 227a.  Samuelsson scoring has fried his brain.  He turns to the chick next to him, a Wing fan with her Pen fan boyfriend, and asks her for a bowl of Lucky Charms.

The Joe is rocking.  Pens fans are silent.  And it was then that I turned the camera on this guy for the first time.

 

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The guy on the right.  I never introduced myself.  But looking at him, I decided his name was Jules.  Long trip. Big game.  Expensive tickets.

And pain.

Second intermission’s over the Wing parade to the box begins.  But not until Sammy does it again.  Are you frigging kidding me? 

Back to Jules.

 

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Two straight goals from Sammy and Osrt is pretending he’s Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear.  He’s talking but I can’t understand a word he says, and it has nothing to do with the volume at the Joe.  Two goals in a Stanley Cup Final game from the Enigma Jr., William Tell, our whipping boy…and it’s just too much.  Osrt’s lost it completely.  He’s turned a napkin into a paper football and he’s asking Pen fans to hold their index fingers up so he can kick an extra point. 

A Pens fan in front of me waits for the crowd to quiet during a tv timeout and starts yelling “Let’s Go Leafs”.  It could very easily be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard chanted at any kind of event ever, in the history of my life (Rocky II reference).  But, of course, some idiot chick Wing fan takes the bait and yells at him to shut up.  He keeps yelling. She stands up, madder than ever.  “Let’s go Leafs.”  “Shut up.”  “Let’s Go Leafs!”  “Shut up!”  Their exchange continues throughout the tv timeout.  And what I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth.  I saw them exchanging numbers after the game by the Gordie statue. Please don’t have children.

Zetterberg drills Crosby and the only reason I know he did is because Osrt told me so.  I think he may have been the only one in the arena to see it.  Crosby, Gary’s Baby Boy, was a non-factor.  Malkin was a disaster.  The only impact he had was cheap-shotting Datyuk every chance he got.  Rumor has it Hossa hit a cross bar? I didn’t see it.  Their “big 3” were invisible from 227a.

Shorthanded and in barrels Charlie Frigging Buckets.  Does anyone need one worse than him?  Sprung loose by a pass from Stuart, I believe, and off he goes.  Turns the hyphenated French goalie into a pretzel and Game 1 is done like dinner.

And Jules? 

Stunned.

 

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The Joe is going frigging insane.  Osgood with a couple point blankers. Nothing’s getting by him.  Nada.  Zetterberg is shutting down Crosby. Draper won’t let Malkin breathe.  It’s become a clinic and everyone recognizes it.  From last round? No. From the Dive in the second? No.  The last two against Bubba? Nope.

It’s 1998 all over again.  This team can stifle any line, any star, any team.  And every fan in the place has begun to realize it.  One minute left in Game 1.  Wanna watch? Of course you do.

 

Again, if you didn’t watch until the end, go back and do it.  The salute from the Pens fan was unscripted and unbeatable.

What a night at the Joe.  I’ll leave you with this.  Paul mentioned earlier today that I had the chance to attend this game with a media pass.  There’s no way I could have done that, not with a game this important, in that kind of atmosphere.  I can’t talk today. My voice is gone.  I’m a lot poorer than I was two days ago and I don’t care.  I’d pay it again Monday if I could. 

Blogger’s access?  Not for me brother.  I’ll take a fan’s access any day of the week.

 

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Osrt and the Chief.

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com