Monday, February 25, 2008

Hartford - the Harvard of Minor League Hockey

Post #46 Topic: Just a small town girl

Short Post:

Went to Hartford on Saturday night to do what I have been for a very very long time dying to do; See a Hartford Wolfpack game. The wolkfpack are the NY Rangers AHL affiliate. Essentially, Hartford serves as a mini-storage facility for the Rangers’ prospects who have yet to earn their keep at the professional level (although the AHL is considered professional hcokey), or for those fringe prospects who have yet to be packaged as the “extra” in a deadline deal.

But Hartford wasn’t always so low on the hockey chains. In fact, die hard Hartforders will tell you that the Whalers have won a Stanley cup more recently than the New York Ranges themselves. To those dedicated “franchise” fans, it matters not whether the Chalice was lifted above the insurance capital of the North East, or in one of two Carolina’s (the name CAROLINA Hurricanes suggests that the victor was in fact a united Carolinian effort).

So why did I want to go to such an event? Partly because of the history. The Civic Center in Hartford is officially a historical hockey site. Greats from Ron Francis, to Brendan Shanahan to Chris Pronger have graced the Hartford ice. Although the franchise is now defunct, as a relatively young hockey fan its nice to trace my roots back to the origins of what is now one of the most meaningless franchises in all of sports – Stanley Cup or not (see Tampa Bay).

Partly because I had already driven to Hartford to go to the bars. I know, this is a stupid reason to go anywhere (except New Orleans), but I was already there and had a couple hours to kill in between my second viewing of Roxbury (for which I can now officially say every single line) and the commencement of my standard Saturday night activity… commemorating the close of the shabbas. Ironically, I couldn’t even get into the bars. I got rejected for having a fake id. Remember having a fake id, and how embarrassed you were when all your friends fake id’s worked and yours didn’t leaving you in the cold looking like a deer in headlights? Well take that embarrassment and multiply it by 50. Fortunately, the arguing skills of a “to-be” attorney will always trump that of fat, washed-up, tooth-missing bouncer from Hartford… so score one for the good guys, and take one (or 13) away from Hartford’s aggregate beer consumption over the course of that Saturday night.

Partly because the Rangers have a couple of real-good prospects playing down there, guys that could be substantial impact guys within no more than a year. And I wasn’t disappointed. Rangers recent 1st round pick from Finland, Lauri Korpikoski netted two goals (one on an empty net but who’s counting). Russian phenom, Artem Anisimov although going scoreless also demonstrated why the Rangers have labeled him a “can’t miss, future cog in the organizational wheel”.

Partly because the trade deadline is approaching. The Rangers don’t have a lot of roster players that can be moved (for various reasons that you can find on any other (inferior) sports news site). Instead, what the Rangers have is a breadth of prospects that, unlike any point in recent Ranger history, can be utilized almost exclusively in order to bring back the PP QB that the blueshirts are so desperate for (dear god don’t sign Brian Boyle to a 5 year deal…). I wanted to see what was in the deck, and the cards are certainly looking good.

With that said, there’s something refreshing about the Wolfpack and their fans. Imagine an NHL type atmosphere, only slightly more concentrated in a slightly smaller stadium in a slightly less relevant town. You still get the fans with the jerseys with the players names on the back, despite the reality of the AHL being that players come and go often far too fast for any fans comforts. You get the cheesy chants, the heckling of opposing players. You even get the deep-seeded hatred for the cross-town rival (the ‘Pack were battling the Sound Tigers of Bridgeport… The ISLANDERS farm team). You even get the cheesy promotions… my rowmates were fortunate enough to each be offered a $25 dollar gift certificate to Hartford’s finest restaurant… Dominos.

These fans really are dedicated. They get there an hour early to start drinking, and don’t leave until the 1st star of the game has been announced. And for the night, I became a Wolfpack fan. Afterall, I challenge any of to come up with a better way to erase the memory of a stunning 6-5 defeat to the Canadiens after leading 5-0 then celebrate with a team that actually holds leads (they won 5-2).

Having returned, I have to say that minor league hockey is impressive. Other than die-hard fans of professional teams, few people stay current with the AHL’s day to day going-ons. But for 6,000 people in those stands (that’s the reported number but it looked more like 600), the Wolfpack is the bigs, and the Hartford civic center is the world’s most famous arena.

Other Notes

I heard this joke last night but I had to repeat it. “I wear a lot of axe body spray, but I live in the ghetto so technically its called ask body spray.”

Is Hot Rod the new Roxbury??? Stay tuned for details.

What percentage of animals that are called man-eating _____ (such as man eating snake) actually eat men. And if they eat men, how do we know? That’s like the tree falling in the woods argument? Or maybe its like the chicken and the egg… one of the two.

Does febreeze work as breath freshener? I one time called up a spray-cleaner to uncover whether it was safe to make pledges drink it. Surprisingly, the woman on the other line assured me that the stuff was safe to drink (someone’s being mismanaged). Maybe if I squirt a little toothpaste and PLAX into my febreze bottle and mix it up I can get minimize my toiletries.

Cuban girl from thursday night... If you're reading this, oh nevermind.

No comments: