My relative silence around here lately has been entirely due to an unusually busy winter, which I'm going to blame on THESE TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES. (Have you noticed that everything can be blamed on that?)
Anyway, there have been a couple of fringe benefits to this lack of free time. One has been that I've actually completely missed the last three Flames games, so I've only had to experience the agony of the loss for the moment I learned the score, rather than three hours of watching the game.
Another is that, in desperation to relax, I impulsively decided on what I call an "emergency vacation," which has landed me in Central Florida ... home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And so, tonight, I will attempt to negotiate the crowds and debauchery of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest and enter the St. Pete Times Forum to watch the Lightning take on the New York Islanders in perhaps the most nondescript NHL game of the season.
I find it funny that I've ended up seeing a game here. For all my hockey love, and having been to more than 20 CHL arenas, this will only be my sixth NHL rink (Saddledome, Pacific Coliseum, GM Place, Air Canada Centre, Scotiabank Centre). It's just worked out that way ... been to plenty of NHL cities during the season and the timing hasn't worked out.
But of course, entering that building isn't just like walking into any old arena. That's where that old bastard Dave Andreychuk (whose bar, by the way, I'll be eating my pre-game meal at) raised the Stanley Cup as the Calgary Flames looked on back in 2004. The most crushing moment of my adult life.
I'm going tonight — at the insane price of $59 for a pair of tickets, two hotdogs, two beers and parking — to exorcise those demons.
I will wear my Flames hat, lay my hands on the foundation and absorb the badness, then cheer for the Lightning in the game.
Because, well, how can you cheer for the Islanders?