Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leafs vs. Wings - My night at the ACC

Photography is hard.
Saturday night, I was at the ACC to watch the Leafs take on the Red Wings.

This was a big deal. While I did manage to make semi-regular trips to Maple Leaf Gardens, I've been living in Ottawa for the entire ACC era. I got to one game in the early days, but nothing since.

So this game marked only the second time in a decade that I've seen the Leafs play a home game. Unless you count every game they play in Ottawa. Which I do.

An occasion like this deserves a play-by-play. So here's an in-person breakdown of the Leafs first home win of the season.

6:50: We settle into our seats. The fans around me for this evening will include: "Guy who keeps yelling 'MONSTER' after every Gustavsson save"; "Guy who ends every sentence with the word 'yo' "; and "Guy who complains 'he cost us our future' every time any current or former Leaf is shown on the scoreboard"

And finally there's... well, there's really no nice way to say this... there's "nice young female Red Wings fan who doesn't seem to realize she's showing the entire section her butt crack every time she stands up". She's sitting directly in front of me, by the way.

On the bright side, the preceding paragraph was the first one in history to include "Red Wings" and "crack" but not "Bob Probert".

6:55 - True story: my phone refuse to connect to twitter from within the ACC. You win this round, Burkie.

6:58 - The Leafs show a clever pre-game video highlighting the eight-decade rivalry between the Leafs and Wings. It somehow leaves out Mike Foligno and Nikolai Borschevsky, but it does include a shot of Wendel Clark pummelling Probert, so I'll give it a B+.

7:00 - The Hall of Fame ceremony begins, with the introduction of various living Hall of Famers.

9:15: The Hall of Fame ceremony ends.

(I kid, I kid. Great ceremony. We all enjoyed every second of it.)

7:05 - Brian Leetch is introduced to the crowd. "He cost us our future!" protests the guy behind me, in his best Adam Sandler's mother voice. I can see his point. Maxim Kondratiev and Jarkko Immonen turned out to be awesome.

7:07 - The inductees drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. The Leafs are represented by Johnny Mitchell, in what may be the single best argument for maybe picking a real captain once and for all some time soon.

7:10 - The ceremony ends. All the inductees leave the center ice area, except for Brett Hull who circles around waiting for a breakaway pass instead of backchecking.

7:12 - Your referee for tonight's game: Kerry Fraser! I immediately start trying to figure out how many security guards I could fight off. Answer: zero.

7:15 - The game begins. Our seats are in the corner, four rows back of the glass. I'm literally a few feet from the ice, watching everything from the comfort of my seat. I feel like Vesa Toskala.

7:35 - The Leafs get on the board first, as Wayne Primeau beats Chris Osgood cleanly on a two-on-one. I'm not an NHL goaltending coach, but I'm pretty sure "getting beat clean by Wayne Primeau" isn't a good sign for the rest of the night.

7:42 - Gustavsson looks sharp tonight. "MONSTER" guy two rows behind me is already getting hoarse.

7:50 - I get to see Phil Kessel's first goal as a Leaf from about 20 feet away, as he swats home a Jason Blake shot that was going to go in anyways. This leads to an awkward post-goal celebration right in front of us, as Kessel apologizes and Blake pretends he doesn't care, then barely fights off the urge to smash his stick over Kessel's head as soon as his back is turned.

7:52 - Speaking of Jason Blake, is his "Come on Toronto, let's make some noise!" scoreboard appearance available as a standalone DVD? Because I'll buy it. Seriously, MLSE, name your price.

7:58 - The first period ends. Time to go figure out what everyone in the platinum seats is doing during intermission that keeps them from getting to their seats in time for the start of the next period.

8:03 - Fun fact: the restaurant below the platinum section serves a "Platinum Burger" that costs $38. It comes with foie gras torchon, sautéed shallots, and a picture of the starving African child you could have fed for a month with $38.

8:06 - People are walking into the restaurant, sitting down and ordering full course meals. During the first intermission. I'm seriously considering flipping over some tables.

8:11 - On the way back to our seats, we walk by the fabled platinum lounges. These underground bunkers can best be described as standard NHL luxury boxes, but without an actual view of the ice. For many hockey fans, that would be considered a problem. The folks at the ACC don't seem to notice.

8:15 - The teams switch sides for the second period, meaning Jonas Gustavsson will be guarding the net right in front of us. So if you're hoping to read any more close-up descriptions of goals, you're going to need to skip ahead.

8:27 - Jeff Finger scores to put the Leafs ahead 3-0. First Primeau, now Finger? If Rickard Wallin scores tonight, Osgood may hang himself.

8:32 - Every time Kessels on the ice, "He cost us our future" guy is borderline apoplectic. I'm desperately trying to think of a way to get within earshot and casually mention the Owen Nolan trade.

8:35 - Highlight of the period: Gustavsson freezes a shoot-in with his glove. After a delayed whistle, referee Eric Furlatt skates over to have an extended conversation with Gustavsson about delay of game rules. A few seconds into discussion, Gustavsson turns away, rolls his eyes, and pretends to be deeply interested in his water bottle. Furlatt keeps talking to the back of his head, leading to Mike Komisarek eventually coming over and subtley steering him out of the crease. As far as I know, Furlatt is still lecturing Gustavsson from Philadelphia right now.

8:50 - "MONSTER" guy is looking a little flush.

8:55 - Second intermission. Under advice from my doctor, I decide to stay in my seat.

9:17 - The Wings pull to within 3-1 on an early goal by Dan Cleary. I call the ACC game day staff and cancel my "Jonas, will you marry me?" scoreboard message.

9:28 - The Leafs restore the three goal lead when John Mitchell tips in a Phil Kessel shot. Wait, no, that wasn't accurate, let me try again: Phil Kessel's shot happens to hit John Mitchell's stick on the way into the net. Seriously, Mitchell had no idea. He stole that move from me, by the way. Except instead of going into the net, the puck ricochets into the corner. And instead of my stick, it's usually my groin.

9:32 - Gustavsson crosses the 30-save mark. "MONSTER" guy is no longer wearing pants.

9:36 - Despite a lifetime of attending live sporting events, I've never caught a puck or a foul ball. But my luck may be changing. Tonight, I caught Jason Williams' fibula.

9:45 - During the dying moments, Gustavsson skates over the Leafs bench, punches Toskala in the face, and returns to his crease in time to stop a 3-on-0.

9:50 - The final buzzer sounds, and Osgood storms off the ice. Or, more accurately, he storms over to the door leading off the ice -- and then gets rejected by an usher, who refuses to open the door because there's going to be a post-game ceremony and the Red Wings aren't allowed to leave yet. Apparently nobody told them.

So we get to see the entire Wings team forced to line up on the blue line to watch Gustavsson get "player of the game" honors. As Gustavsson awkwardly tries to figure out how to accept a trophy from Johnny Bower, the Wings look at each other with "wait, are we allowed to leave yet?" expressions on their face. High comedy.

10:00 - We file out of the ACC. After an almost ten-year absence, I've witnessed Kessel's first goal, Gustavsson's best game, and the first Leafs home win in seven months.

Is all of that completely, utterly, 100% due to me being there? No, of course not. The real percentage is probably only in the 80-90% range.

But let's not take any chances, ACC -- get those comped season tickets in the mail now. I'll be there for you. I'm all about the team.


  1. I've actually had tickets for those underground bunkers. It was a treat watching the game with those seats. The private hostess meant we didn't have to wait to buy beer between periods, it was all free too, free food, and our lounge was a 10 second walk to our seats. And there was in-seat service by our hostess, free again.

    Our tickets were free, I would never pay the $550 face value. But man did it feel great.

  2. I was there, also. You could actually see Jason Blake mouth the words "be a team player" to himself when Kessel knocked that puck in the net. I tried to record the "Let's Make Some Noise" scoreboard bit on my phone, but the guy behind me who wouldn't stop complaining about the price of everything ruined the sound ... the recording came out as Jason Blake exhorting the crowd to "make some f*cking $10 beer".

  3. Absolutely hilariously funny!
    Huge kudos!

  4. 9:45 - During the dying moments, Gustavsson skates over the Leafs bench, punches Toskala in the face, and returns to his crease in time to stop a 3-on-0.

    This one literally had me in tears. Great stuff DGB.

  5. Your section sounds like my section... I had this woman next to me who I assume was a Detroit fan. Seemed ok enough, except for the fact she had a single seat and acted every bit the loner she was...

    First time Bertuzzi steps on the ice, she screams out 'BERT!!' (Note: I sit in the 300s). Some people have voices that can reach across the ACC. Hers can't. Her screaming wouldn't even get noticed by Michael Landsberg's botox (he normally sits 2 rows in front of me). 2nd Bertuzzi shift, out of nowhere: "BIG BERT!" WTF? Quiet lady! He can't hear you, but you're screaming for no reason in my ear.

    My Father and I have some decent conversations watching hockey games. This woman kept trying to butt in... No.

    She disappeared for the 2nd period. Bliss.

    3rd period, she returned. Highlights were: assuming she had insightful things to say, when she didn't ("Stajan falls down too much." A random out-of-town score I wasn't paying attention to...) And the kicker: I made a comment that effectively predicted/jinxed a Red Wings goal... So she GRABS my arm and tells me "You should've stayed quiet." a. Stranger. Grabbing. Hello? b. Maybe saying that would work... Ignoring her all night didn't.

    You should come in for a Leafs-Sens game. It's like those games in Ottawa, except you can bring a book and read quietly.

  6. It's a good thing Kerry Fraser doesn't screw the Leafs in November, when it means something.

  7. Great post, as always.

    Whenever CBC did their crowd shots, I was actually on the lookout for a Durno jersey.

    I have no life.

    At least I'm not Toskala.

  8. During the dying moments, Gustavsson skates over the Leafs bench, punches Toskala in the face, and returns to his crease in time to stop a 3-on-0.


  9. Awesome, just awesome. You sure lucked out on a great game, DGB. This will be a night to remember for a long time me-thinks

  10. I once sat front row at the ACC for a Leaf game. A friend of mine with an incredibly wealthy girlfriend took me. And I too was quite horribly irked by the goings on in the restaurant and the lounge, where one might get the impression that the game was a bothersome interruption of their hobnobbing. I was also angered by the almost complete absence of people in their seats at the beginning of the second and third periods. Why spend that kind of money and not enjoy the game? So yes, the whole experience can be quite infuriating... until you try the roast beef sandwich with au jus sauce that they sell in the platinum lounge. There is an actual carving station, and the meat is so tender and juicy... well, I forgot my troubles real quick. They had me at au jus sauce.

  11. I was at the game too, I go to about 10 a year since 1992, and it was awesome! I have to say, for the first time ever there was no irritating d-bag anywhere near me. I went with a great buddy of mine whose fatal flaw is being a Red Wings fan he was in tears at how the mighty have fallen, and his brother who is a Leafs fan and was also at the game made fun of him the whole way home to Oakville!

    About the Platinums with the courtesy box underneath. I have been to a few games at these seats and I think the Barilkosphere will show some understanding to the denziens of those cellars when I say, in my experience the reason the Platinums are empty for the first 5 minutes of every period is that everybody is trying to pound down 2-3 more drinks before getting to their seats. Not necessarily because they are wiping the pate de fois gras off their chins.

  12. A calssic. Instant GD classic. So many laugh out loud moments...It was a tough pick but I will go with this one since it drew my boss to my office to see what I was laughing at..

    During the dying moments, Gustavsson skates over the Leafs bench, punches Toskala in the face, and returns to his crease in time to stop a 3-on-0.

    Don't ever change Buddy!

  13. wicked post. this one was pure gold, especially the Toskola digs. can we skip the "Monster" phase and just move on to calling him Gus? 6-3 is pretty tall, but would you consider Carey Price a monster?

  14. How dare Sidney Cros-- err, Jonas Gustavsson keep the Wings waiting?!

  15. @Jami
    Gustavsson actually got his "monster" nickname for his play, not for his height. I assume it was given to him by the Swedish version of Pierre McGuire.

    Great stuff as always DGB! Would have been a great game to be at.

  16. He actually got it from his coach here in Sween during last years playoffs - "And obviously Jonas has been a monster in goal for the whole playoffs so far".
    And thus it started - The Era of The Monster!

  17. Because I still think it's funny...November 9, 2009 at 3:01 PM

    Jiri Tlusty secretly nicknamed himself the monster, but nobody else agreed with it.

  18. Amazing. Unfortunately for me, I was taking a drink when I read about Gustavsson punching Toskala in the face and started choking on my laughter. At least I didn't spit it into the monitor. It's gold, Jerry, gold!

  19. Gee, I thought you would mention the blonde with the $10K boobs, unbuttoned blouse and unzipped pants sitting 2 rows in front. And the fact that the Leafs now have the all time lead over the Wings

  20. Guacamole is an awesome game time snack! For an easy to make guac recipe visit Go Leafs Go!

  21. 8:03 - Fun fact: the restaurant below the platinum section serves a "Platinum Burger" that costs $38. It comes with foie gras torchon, sautéed shallots, and a picture of the starving African child you could have fed for a month with $38.

    So sad but so true. I'm shocked there were actually people paying attention to the game down in the 100's.