As many of you may or may not know, I traveled to Prague, CZE for the NHL Premiere to watch our (trolls and Carp aside) beloved New York Rangers face off against our adopted Tampa Bay Lightning. This guest blog will just be a collection of memories, hockey related and non-hockey related, I had on my trip.
Both teams offered packages for the trip. However, Tampa’s included a longer stay, more hockey events, and was just an overall better deal. So I booked with them. A surprisingly large number of Tampa fans took up the offer as well, more than the official Rangers contingent. In the crowd, however, Rangers supporters far outweighed the Tampa fans. I did, of course, purchase my own tickets as to fly directly out of JFK instead of Tampa.
The flight there included a stop over in Paris, where, after accidentally going the wrong way through customs, a large Frenchman with an automatic rifle ever-so-kindly redirected me. One of the scariest
moments of my life. On the way across the Atlantic, the planes were equipped with touch-screens on the back of each seat. I, of course, had a small child behind me who relentlessly tapped the screen, playing Tetris or something and shouting each time his blocks didn’t fit quite right. No sleep for me.
The first day was a short one. Mostly included venturing outside the hotel. I think I ordered pizza or something, along with some rip-off Mountain Dew that made me want to vomit. Not much else.
The second day featured a tour of Prague. Most beautiful place I’ve ever been, rich in history and culture. The city was also big on public restrooms (one I walked through at a later time was the remnants of an underground prison or something). I was reassured and reassured by the tour guide that we needn’t pay for this specific restroom she was taking us to. I guess it was foolish of me, but for some reason, I didn’t have any money on me. And so after I answered nature’s call, and was exiting the bathroom, the Czech woman behind the counter started SCREAMING. I didn’t seem to notice, of course, being my unobservant self. Shortly thereafter, an older man approached me and told me that he covered my charge. I said that I didn’t even realize I had to pay, and when I told him I didn’t have any money at the time, he gave me a pat on the back and said “Hey, anything for a fellow Lightning fan, right?” I smiled and nodded.
The following day included watching the Lightning practice at the O2 Arena, a really neat venue. After the practice, which, to be honest, was kinda boring, there was a meet and greet with the fans. There were hors d’oeuvres out, including these delicious chicken wings in a ginger-sauce. Since I didn’t really care for any of the other selections, I made myself at home in front of the hot plate. And knocked over the display of deviled eggs as I tried to grab some of the farther back wings. As I turn around to begin cleaning up the mess, who do I see bent over collecting some fallen eggs? Oren Koules. He was really chill about the whole thing, too. I am the only person in the world that can say Oren Koules helped me pick up deviled eggs (most likely). After that minor incident, the players came out. I met and got signatures with many, including my personal favorite Marty St. Louis (what a guy), Radim Vrbata (now of the Phoenix Coyotes), South African Olaf Kolzig, and the disappearing act that is Paul Ranger. I don’t know what ever happened to him, he was a good defenseman. I think he left for personal reasons and just never got back into the game. They were all really nice dudes. But then there was Vinny Lecavalier. You know what he did? He snubbed me! Walked right by me – bfffft – never said a word. I guess I was lucky he was in a good mood, coulda been a lot worse.
The games themselves didn’t exactly live up to all the hype. As we know, our Blueshirts won both by the score of 2-1. I think good old Wade “CT Whale” Redden and Scotty Blowmez had goals. Anyway, Stamkos hit the crossbar on a shot. That was the fastest live wrist shot I’ve ever seen.
I did switch seats with a partially-paralyzed Vietnam veteran so that he could rest his one leg on the stairwell. The crowd was really interesting to me. I felt like I was at a tennis match, noise only came after a goal was scored, a fight broke out, or if it was generated by us North Americaners. There was also this smoking room, which I immediately had to exit due to severe risk of asphyxiation (I don’t smoke, I just wanted to check it out). Anyway, the bus to the arena posed a hazardous quandary. Up until this point, I had been accepted as a brother-in-Bolts. But I was NOT going to be prevented from wearing a Rangers sweater to these games. When I heard there was a keg on the bus (which may or may not have been true), I had to get out of there. Fortunately, the Rangers official tour was staying across the street from our hotel, and I was able to bribe their tour guide to let me on the bus.
The McDonald’s in Prague executed my order perfectly, while the McDonald’s right up the street from me hasn’t gotten it right in years. I once asked for a “hamburger with nothing on it” from this establishment, they gave me a bun.
I also purchased a small painting from a local artist. The transaction took about an hour and a half and three credit cards later, I finally had my piece of art. If I were to go back to that shop today, I’m sure I
would find a “Closed Indefinitely – Vacationing in Rome” sign on the front door.
There’s plenty more I could talk about, but I think that’s enough for you boneheads. Youse all rock.
PS: First one to get the Seinfeld reference wins five lunch points!