A Stranger in an Awesome Land


Us sports fans can be a little wacky sometimes. If someone takes a 2 day cross-country trip to go a friends wedding or their sisters high school graduation… people don’t think twice. But if you want to travel up to Vancouver for Game 2 of the Los Angeles Kings versus the Vancouver Canucks in their first round series… and go to the game with a complete stranger that you’ve only talked to via various blog, twitter and email conversations… then all of a sudden I’M the crazy one?

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THE ROYAL HALF GOES TO VANCOUVER!

 

And that’s exactly what I did this past Saturday as I boarded a plane in Los Angeles, had a quick layover in Phoenix (Frequent Flier Mile Ticket, you know?) and landed in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. My Blogger Buddy™ Benched Whale had graciously accepted my offer of attending the game together and having her show me around town. Then… a few enlightened moments later… she be-friended me on Facebook to make sure I wasn’t some creepy, 55 year old dude. (Luckily, I’m only a 33 year old creepy dude. A veteran leader, if you will.) Feeling confident that I didn’t look like I was going to do anything crazy to her over the course of the weekend, we solidified our plans. I bought decent seats to Game 2 off of Stub Hub and I was on my way.

To read all about my crazy adventure as the sole Los Angeles Kings fan in a blue and green sea of Canucks fans… check it out after the jump!

 

 

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I’m not in Kansas anymore. Or even Los Angeles for that matter.

I’ve only been to Canada twice before. Once to Guelph, Ontario for a hockey camp when I was a kid and the other time to Montreal for a bachelor party I hardly remember much of. So I was excited to see Vancouver as everyone I know has raved about how great of a city it is. And when I landed at the airport, I immediately saw just how different Vancouver is than Los Angeles.

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A system of inter-connecting tunnels known as “Public Transportation.”

Thanks to the Winter Olympics, you can now take the Canada Line right from the airport into downtown Vancouver. Benched Whale had given me great directions to take the subway to just a few blocks from my hotel room and it gave me a chance to see a lot of Vancouver right at the start.

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Canada is so polite they even created a memorial for Team USA’s Silver Medal finish during the Olympic Games.

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I can assure you… you will not find a parking sign like this anywhere in Los Angeles.

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Wow, that Shane Doan photo has really crossed over into the mainstream.

But let’s be honest. I wasn’t here to sight-see… I’m in Canada to watch some hockey! So Benched Whale met me at my hotel and we headed out to Downtown Vancouver for a little pre-game festivities. We headed to a bar called The Library Square Public House… and even though Library is in its name… I can assure you that nothing book-related went on here.

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Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

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Before.

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After.

Now, Benched Whale was rocking the current Canucks home jersey. And I’ve never been much of a jersey-wearer, so I had my Gretzky-era Kings t-shirt and my Dionne-era purple hat on to represent my team. And walking to the bathroom was a complete nightmare. I now know what hot blonde girls feel like… cause all eyes were on me at the bar. But then… I saw this:

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A Smythe Division Champions Canucks Rally Towel.

This Canucks fan caught both me and Benched Whale trying to take photos of his towel and they liked us so much… they bought us each a shot of tequila. It was an hour and half from game time… we were 3 pitchers and 2 tequila shots in. And then the backups arrived.

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Success! A Kings fan. He and his wife were also at Game One. And you can’t really see it here in the photo, but her Purple Velvet top had “Kings” embroidered in the back. Benched Whale especially liked that.

Both Benched Whale and I wanted to get to the game early so we could experience the full craziness of the Vancouver fans in a playoff atmosphere. I mean who is more passionate about playoff hockey than Canadians?

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These guys were playing Taking Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
You really can’t get more Canadian than that.

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And just like that… we were in GM Place.

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Oh my god… what have I gotten myself into.

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These guys actually looked me up and down, then said “nice hat” as if I was the strange looking one.

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I tried to buy this over-sized, autographed Ryan Kesler plaque for Benched Whale…
but she already had the Shane O’Brien one.

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Benched Whale was quite taken with the fact that this woman paid a lot of money to have holes in the back of her knees.

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They start ‘em young in Canada.

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A retrospective of the 30 Greatest Canucks of All Time.
I kinda wish all the teams in the NHL did something like this at their arena.

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Wow, Patrik Sundstrom made it on the list?

GM Place is actually quite impressive. Somehow, I thought it was built in the last few years but didn’t realize that it was actually built in 1995. It’s a different vibe than the Staples Center for sure, mainly because all the corporate suites aren’t in the middle of the arena, breaking up the lower and upper bowls. Without those suites there, it feels like the building is just a sea of fans cheering. But then I saw something that did give away its mid-90′s launch date.

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Neon section signs.

After grabbing a couple beers, Benched Whale and I headed into Section 302, Row 1… where the Kings shoot twice. That should tell you how great of a person Benched Whale is… not only was she bringing this Kings fan into her Canucks world… she was even willing to sit where the Kings shoot twice. That my friends, is class. We walked in during the end of warmups and this is what I saw.

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Oh, and then I turned around and saw this.

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And then I turned back around and saw this.

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I have no idea what it means either.

Being the fact that I was the only person in the entire upper bowl wearing Kings gear, I looked around and didn’t really see anyone being too anti-Kings. Until these guys showed up.

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I don’t know if you can see it, but that’s Queen Latifah underneath the “Y”
and I’m not sure who the blue-haired drag queen is under the “D.”

For the last week, Benched Whale has been talking to me about the Canucks pre-game ritual and the rising performance of the Canadian Anthem. Here is the anthem from Game One. But I have to tell you, in person, it was really stunning.

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At first I thought it was great that the Canucks have a young player line up with them each game…
but then Benched Whale informed me that the Canucks had signed Cliff Ronning out of retirement.

 

And then the puck was dropped and in typical Los Angeles Kings fashion… they stunk up the joint. And to show you how amazingly efficient the people of Canada are… this is what was on the back of the Drew Poughty and the LA Queens sign.

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“Not Quick Enough.”

This must be a normal chant at GM Place, because the entire crowd started chanting it as soon as Jon Quick gave up two… well, quick goals. And when the Canucks score… the place explodes.

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The only downside to GM Place was the incredibly long lines to take a piss in between periods. I felt like there were three bathrooms for the entire upper bowl.

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Yeah, super fun waiting in this line while wearing Kings gear.

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And the Canucks are always marketing… even when you’re at the urinals.

Benched Whale and I replenished our beers and headed back to the seats for the 2nd period, with the Kings down 2-0. When the Canucks score they play a instrumental version of Green Day’s “Holiday.”

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And when the Canucks came back onto the ice for the 2nd period, they skated to Phish’s “Chalk Dust Torture.” I guess I should have seen that coming when I was walking to the arena earlier.

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Drug soaked hippies.

But how can you really blame the Vancouver Canucks Marketing Department for having poor choice in music when they have these guys come out during the 2nd period?

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Nothing like rockin’ out while a woman tries to sneak by without her purse hitting you.

And then, in a flash, the Kings tied the game up. And I lept and screamed like I never have before. And these two guys said if I kept cheering for the Kings they were going to throw me over the ledge.

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Yeah, this ledge.

I will say… all the fans loved giving me a hard time. But when I or Benched Whale would explain that I flew up to Vancouver to watch my favorite team play in the playoffs for the first time in 8 years… they gave me a little respect. That’s the thing… they might threaten and snarl… but at the end of the day they are Canadians… and they are just too nice of people to actually throw me over the ledge. And besides, I felt safe because of this.

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Benched Whale said if I yelled “Kopi!” one more time she was going to report me.

And then, this happened.

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And I had traveled 1072 miles (1725 km!) to see my favorite hockey team even the series up at 1-1.

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If you look carefully, you can see me in there.

Naturally, the building was quite deflated as it all happened so fast. Benched Whale and I headed out to the streets of Downtown Vancouver where it was the quietest it had been since I arrived 8 hours earlier.

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It’s ad with Roberto Luongo wearing jeans. Your guess is as good as mine.

We went to a bar called The Black Frog and met up with a few of her Canuck fan friends. Even though I was in a foreign land with people I’d never met before, hockey fans take care of each other. We talked about the game and when I complimented someone on his cool Bertuzzi jersey, he pointed and said “look over there”… I turned away to look… and then he punched me in the back of the head. I was miles away from Los Angeles, but I truly felt at home.

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Or maybe not.

Tune in tomorrow to hear more about the mis-adventures of Benched Whale and The Royal Half in Canada. Including a guest appearance by JeanShorts of JeanShortsNBaggedMilk.

The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season Ticket Holder since 2002. He has seen the following goaltenders play in person for the Los Angeles Kings… Kelly Hrudey, Grant Fuhr, Byron Dafoe, Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin, Cristobal Huet, Roman Cechmanek, Mathieu Garon, Adam Hauser, Jason LaBarbera, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Dan Cloutier, Yutaka Fukufuji, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones.You can follow The Royal Half on Twitter @TheRoyalHalf.