Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Magic Paper

I pay way more attention to hockey than I need to. This is a byproduct of a mild internet addiction. Sometimes I would rather sit and idle on the computer than read a book and this means that I visit a lot of websites with little purpose. I sit down and my keystrokes look something like this "face DOWN RETURN CRTL+T gma DOWN RETURN twit DOWN RETURN RETURN....". You'll note that I do this so regularly that instead of actually typing out the websites, I'm just using one handed combinations and my history to guide my hands. This happens automatically. It's sort of a problem...

But this isn't about this particular problem. This is about hockey. I pay too much attention to hockey. I keep tabs on standings, scores, and stories from around the league. I pay special attention to the Leafs, but ask me at any given moment and I can probably give you a brief on a few stories from teams around the league. All of this information is very useful when talking to Jason because he follows hockey even more closely than I do and so our conversations often involve debates about obscure Western Conference players with breakout seasons and coaching change rumors. When you're a Leafs fan, you need something else to talk about when they are losing.

All of this talk got me thinking that there ought to be a way to make this whole wealth of knowledge more useful. I had heard stories of guys who made money playing fantasy hockey for money. People make money off of their armchair athlete status all the time. Maybe I could turn my hockey knowledge into some kind of money making machine thus preventing me from needing to draw a salary. Visions of glory and wealth entered my head.

Now the easiest way to make money off of sports is by betting on games. Easiest is maybe the wrong word. It's not really easy because the amount of randomness that occurs in a sports season is just incredible and betting on games is by no means a sure thing. Just when you think a team can be dependably terrible or dependably awesome, they turn around and play amazing hockey. This is why people watch sports and this is why sports betting can be such a sinkhole. It gives the illusion of being predictable, while still being random. And that's just for single game bets...

You see, Ontario has a law against betting on single sports events. What this means is that if you want to bet on a sporting event, you may not bet on the outcome of just that game. Ontario law requires that you place a wager on at least three events. The rationale behind this is not clearly stated, but I once heard a radio program that stated the laws were made in a time when the sporting world lived in the shadow of the "Chicago Black Sox" scandal. For those of you who don't know, this was a time where a number of players received money from organized crime so that they would throw the series and influence the outcome of bets placed on the world series. This was bad and this kind of thing could be replicated by other athletes looking to make a little money on the side. By forcing people to bet on at least three games, the possibility of rigging the system is greatly reduced. Now if you want to make money, you would have to pay off athletes on three separate teams. Not a very easy plan to carry out and it's much less likely to be successful.

All of this legality means that if I want to make money by betting on Hockey, it will have to be Pro Line and I will have to bet on at least three games. I take a moment to calculate these odds. Pro Line only pays out if you guess all three outcomes correctly. They bump the payout to compensate for this so a $4 bet can become a $24 payout, but the base probability of guessing correctly are 1 in 8 which is not that great. My guaranteed scheme was not looking so good now that I was crunching numbers.

On Thursday I bought my first ticket. After cleaning out my piggy bank, I put $4 on the card. I filled in the bubble sheet to predict my picks: Chicago over Minnesota ("Chicago's second in the league, they've got to be good"), Toronto over Dallas ("The Leafs are on a six game winning streak right now") and New York Islanders over Pittsburgh ("I like the Islanders..."). Ok so maybe my unreasonable love of the Islanders was misplaced, but New York often gives Pittsburgh trouble and I thought it could happen tonight. I collected my ticket from the cashier, took it home, and set it on the window sill. Amanda was working away on something for school and had the TV on.

"What's that?" she asked

"A Pro Line ticket. I want to see if I can make money from Hockey" I replied, optimistic that she would understand my heartfelt desire to make us both rich.

"Are you sure that's such a good idea? Some people get really addicted to the lottery..."

"I am not one of those people!" I insisted. I was shocked that she would even suggest such a thing. I am the very example of self control....(that was sarcasm by the way. I am not the very example of self control). I started sulking and following the progress of these three games which now held the fate of my $24 potential payout. If there was one thing this was going to do, it was going to make me watch more hockey games. Now I had a financial stake in the outcome.

Then I watched Chicago get scored on, the Leafs suffer a complete meltdown at the hands of the Dallas Stars (They're in TEXAS!), and my beloved Islanders play exactly like you would expect when facing the best team in the league. Everybody I picked lost. 0-3. I was extremely lucky. There is a 1 in 8 chance that I could pick all three games wrong. Good job Ben! What had I done wrong? I decided that I had not searched carefully enough. I hadn't really looked at recent records which would have tipped me off to Minnesota's recent success or Pittsburgh's steady record. I decided I had made bad choices.I would try again tomorrow. I would be more careful. I would pick correctly.

The next day I researched carefully and picked New Jersey, Colorado, and Montreal. I researched each team carefully and thought I had picked correctly. The night looked promising. New Jersey and Colorado jumped out to early leads. Things were looking up. Carey Price, the Montreal Canadians goaltender held my $13 in his glove hand.... He dropped it. Montreal lost. At least this time I had picked two right. Admittedly it was a bad idea to bet on the Montreal game. Their opponents were too close to them in skill. It was not an easy decision. I needed to pick better. Tomorrow will be better!

"You know, that's what gambling addicts say" Amanda called from the next room. She was right but as I headed out to get Pizza for our dinner, I had decided that I would try once more. Pen in hand I selected Montreal, Toronto, and Columbus. Columbus at least would be a sure thing.  They were playing Buffalo. Buffalo is the worst team in the NHL right now. Columbus had put together a respectable win streak coming into this game. They were playing in Ohio. This would assure me at least one correct game...

With picks in hand I went to the store to fill out my bubble sheet. I pulled the sheet out and picked up the pen.

It was broken.

What would I do! I had pizza to pick up and only twenty minutes to fill out a ticket. I had to get these picks in or all would be lost. I rushed out of the store and into the night looking for that sign that indicates an OLG retailer. I panicked for a moment. Where was another ticket reseller. There was one in the subway but that would cost me a token and look kind of weird. There must be one somewhere...

Finally I found one on the next block. Thank goodness. A wave of relief and euphoria came over me as I filled out my sheet with my picks. I handed in my ticket and received my third slip of paper printed on this wonderful feeling blend of paper that almost feels like money. It's intoxicating...

I had a problem. If it wasn't clear before then this was it. I had discovered the seductive allure of giving my money away for the possibility of wealth. I needed to stop. How would I stop?

Buffalo helped me out. They beat Columbus 5-2 on the road. Coupled with Toronto and Montreal losses, this sealed another 0-3 ticket which was a miracle in and of itself. I was spectacularly bad at this hockey betting thing. I think it was time to throw in the towel.

"Amanda, I think I'm giving up my career as a guy who bets on hockey games. It's too hard to print on a business card".

"You got all of your picks wrong again didn't you" she answered with that look she gives me when she thinks I've done something stupid. I promised to give up my Pro Line career and return to honest work.

But this Saturday I was thinking my chances are pretty good....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mattress Shopping

Last week I said that I should probably start thinking of more interesting things to do with my life if I'm going to write a story every week. I thought that would mean that I needed to be doing things like skydiving or seal hunting. I don't think I will need to do either of these things though. This week's story is about how I went mattress shopping.

You may or may not know that Sears, the department store chain, is closing a number of its stores because of restructuring. We could take a moment to reflect on the decline of department stores, but when I think of Sears I just think about the overpowering smell of perfume and women wearing too much foundation smiling over the makeup counter and this leaves me with little nostalgia for Sears. A side benefit of the decline of Sears is that everything must go. I'm not talking about this in the sense that "all 2012 models must go" though. I am talking about this in the "we sell every speck of matter remaining in the store because we don't want to pay to move anything" sense.

I am introduced to this idea by Victoria, fiancee of best friend Jason, my former manager, and a recurring character in the TV show that is my life (to borrow a concept from "About a Boy"). She has been on the lookout for a new queen sized mattress for quite some time and while visiting the Sears closing sale chaos, discovered that they had an entire pile of them for $75 each. In the interest of taking advantage of this opportunity, she sent me a message asking if I could book a vehicle from our car sharing program to help her move a mattress if she were to purchase one. Seeing the incredible deal and wanting to be helpful, I agreed. I booked one of those white vans that children are warned never to enter and made arrangements to meet Victoria at the mall at 1 PM the next day which would give us about an hour to purchase, move, and load the mattress before she had to return to work.

When I arrived at the van a 12:30, I noticed that the van was very tall. Much taller than me and probably taller than anything I had driven before. The Sears I was driving to was in the middle of a mall in downtown Toronto and so in order to be able to pick it up, I had to park relatively close to the mall in one of the busier parts of Toronto. I would probably have to make use of an underground parking garage, but how would I get in with a van so tall? Upon arriving at my first choice of parking garage at 1 PM, I discovered that I would not. I tried to drive into the garage and watched as the roof of the van came ever so close to that sign they use to indicate the height of the parking garage. This van was just not going to fit all the way in this parking garage. I was going to have to find another way.

I sent a voice activated text message to Victoria "I think my van is too tall to park underground. Looking for another spot". She reccomended one a few blocks over from where I was. I started driving through tortoise-like Toronto traffic as I watched the clock. 1:15 I gave up on finding a spot that was close and parked 3 blocks away from the mall at a lot across from the bus station. There I encountered the least helpful parking attendant ever. I approached the window. "What do you want?" I thought the fact that I wanted to park was kind of self evident but apparently it was not. I spent the next five minutes wrangling with him to understand the procedure.

It is now 1:30. I enter Sears and begin looking for Victoria. As I search, I reflect on how crazy the mall looks at this point. The sale to clear out the store has been going on for a number of weeks and they are past the "amazing deals" stage and on to the "I can't believe everything is so cheap" stage. The bedding went from a wide array with different sizes and materials to endless shelves filled with flannel double sheets. Yellow sold stickers were plastered everywhere indicating someone had bought something but had not picked it up yet and all those vultures circling it should leave it alone. Each cash register looked like a barricade with two staff stationed behind it and endless lines of people with armfuls of merchandise in front of them. Every staff member has that look that says they checked out of this place three weeks ago when the closing sale started. Everything is a mess. When I find Victoria on the third floor things are even worse. Shelving and furniture which needs to be sold has been piled around the margins of the store making it look like a strange sort of obstacle course. If someone were running tours, they could take people to the "miscelaneous shelving" section or the "naked mannequins" section. Such a state of chaos I have never seen. It is the closest I have ever seen to the whole Genesis "God hovered over the waters" kind of chaos.

At 1:40, Victoria and I went upstairs to try and find a person we could buy a mattress from. This was difficult because no one really appeared to want to be there, and any sort of organization that once existed in that place was gone. Approaching a cash register on the fourth floor, we were luck enough to find two ladies set up behind their barricade haggling with a lady who was trying to get a discount on some $5 tin buckets. In her defence, prices were not labeled clearly and it was crazy enough in there that I'm sure there was a miscommunication. We zeroed in on the one girl who did not appear occupied and approached her directly. "There is a mattress we want to buy. It is $75 plus tax. What do we need to do?" Our target looked relieved that we knew what we wanted. "Let's ring you through, and I'll take you downstairs to take it out of the store". As the girl rang Victoria in, I looked down at my watch and thought about the four blocks it was to the van. It being 1:50, I was probably looking and moving a queen mattress 4 blocks in downtown Toronto by myself. This would not go well. Visions of a mattress on legs knocking pedestrians into street traffic floated in my head. What would I do?

The girl took us down to the mattress and places a yellow sticker on it. We had our prize...and it was 2:00. Victoria had to leave. I bid her goodbye and told her I would handle things from here (if by handle you mean potentially commit involuntary manslaughter but I wasn't letting her know anything about that). As soon as she left I sent Jason a message. "This is going to make a really great story later" "... I'll be there in 20 minutes". I can always count Jason to show up in a pinch like this.

The Sears staffer helping me then said "Do you have a vehicle here?". "Boy do I ever have a vehicle m'am". I told her of my van. "Then I'll call for someone and you can just pick up the mattress from shipping". This was the best news I had heard all day. Visions of pedestrian bowling were now replaced with two guys in orange vests directing me back to a loading area where they place the mattress in the back of the van for me. "You'll need to give him a hand" she said, destroying my moment of imaginary joy. This actually turned out to be super interesting.

I thought the storefront was crazy but the back was even worse. The stock room which led to the cargo elevators was so full of stuff that two elevators were completely inaccessible. What elevators were available were completely filled with stuff. Showrooms in the back traditionally reserved for swimwear had no become staging areas for the army of mannequins to takeover mankind. As I walked past I noticed that the mannequins went on for as far as I could see. Arrival at the loading dock turned up even more chaos. What would have normally been a mildly congested loading area had become a dumping ground. Shrink wrapped furniture littered two of the three loading docks preventing them from being even remotely useful. Staff wandered aimlessly to their next job as central communication had broken down considerably. Everything was a mess. "Things are pretty bad" said the guy who was helping me move down the mattress. No kidding.

The rest of the process went as smoothly as you could expect. With the mattress down in the loading area, Jason and I loaded up in the van and drove into the bowels of the mall. This was an underground area that was definitely tall enough for my van. Security directed us to the correct loading area and after pulling out our mattress, we were gone and returning the van. After pickup and drop off of the vehicle was included, the whole process took three hours. Jason and I celebrated our triumph over this corporate apocalypse by taking in the movie "American Hustle". It was a fitting way to end what had become the most interesting thing I had done all month.

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that you shouldn't go to a liquidation sale unless you are prepared for total chaos. I learned what the inside of a cargo elevator looks like, what happens to staff when the end is in sight, and what happens when things get really cheap. All of this has left me with plans to never set foot in a store in liquidation ever ever again.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Before we Go Any Further

Amanda and I have been watching the West Wing. I told her she needed to watch smarter television. She asked me what that meant. I said "you know, like the West Wing..." (a statement which speaks to the quality of media I consume). I couldn't come up with any other examples but luckily The West Wing is seven seasons long so I have time to find something else.

Yesterday we were watching an episode where Sam, a character responsible for writing speeches for the president, is having a discussion with a group of aides who represent members of the US House of Representatives over a line that the aides want inserted into a speech. "The President wants real tax cuts for the working class while his opponents want faster jets and bigger swimming pools". Sam tells them that he won't use the line in the speech. The aides are incredulous. The congress-people they represent really want this line in the speech and they don't understand why Sam refuses to use it. Sam explains (after criticizing the writing) that the line wouldn't persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with the president's position. It's a divisive instead of persuasive.

I have written some persuasive pieces before. Persuasive writing is important. Sometimes a well thought out argument is the only thing that is going to change someone's mind. I don't think a lot of persuading happens on the internet though. People read what they agree with. The post slanderous comments on things they don't agree with and then avoid that particular source like the plague. I don't see a lot of persuasion happening on the internet. Instead I see a lot of flaming and long shots thrown at each other over tall walls.

This year I'm quitting with the persuasive pieces. Chances are that's not what you were coming here for anyways. If you're reading this at this point, it's likely because you either know me or follow me on twitter and you like my wit and insight, not my persuasive powers. I have decided to dispense with the stuff that's not necessary in favour of more of what is valuable in my writing.

I'll be making a post every Wednesday morning. I'm not necessarily writing every Wednesday morning, but content will go up each Wednesday so that there's something to read. Since we're giving up on persuasive pieces, I'll be writing stories instead. You are going to see more of this and this and not so much of this (even though it was a lot of fun to write). I hope that's okay. I'm not really going to be persuaded to think it's no.

So now that I am presented with a both a schedule and with limitations, the real hard work comes about. I can't just take a position on some nebulous issue. I have to have some real sequence of events to recount in order to write something each week. What will I write about on weeks when absolutely nothing happens? I was thinking about this today and so I needed to sit down and reconstruct my week in a text document. I remembered key dates tied to specific events. I went to a party on Friday night. The following morning I picked Amanda up from work, but before I did that I had to go get groceries. Then that reminds me that we saw a movie. "Was it Thursday? No it must have been Wednesday because on Thursday I posted a tweet about that movie". I spent about ten minutes deconstructing my week and pretty soon I had a list of events. Now I just needed to choose what I would think about so I could develop it into a post.

When I looked at the week, I discovered a problem. I couldn't find an event in the week that I could write about. The party involved other people and I didn't want to leave anyone feel that I was talking about them without their consent. There were some good conversations with Amanda, but some of those are private and some of them just didn't make for very good storytelling. There are some other items that are interesting but I'm not sure that I want to share them This plan to write stories was not going very well so far. What shall I do? I decided to buy myself some time by writing about this process (ha ha, fooled you!) but I have also decided that I probably need to start looking for adventures, because if I spend the entire year writing about what it's like to just sit inside the apartment all the time and browse the internet then I might go crazy.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fresh Ice

My alarm rings. It's 5:30 AM. There's a pot of coffee already waiting for me in the kitchen so I roll over and get dressed. I started getting up this early when I started working for Starbucks. When you have to work at 5:30 AM, you start to learn how to get up hours before sunrise and make it work. Now I do it for the extra hour or so of quiet time it affords me before I have to go to school or before Amanda wakes up or what have you.

On this particular morning, I have a purpose in mind. I've been itching to get out skating for a couple of weeks now and a trip to Nathan Philips square the other day didn't really cut it. Too many people, and too much chance of running over someone. We just ended up shuffling around the rink as we caught up before leaving and sharing some drinks. I needed to find somewhere less crowded and on this morning there's nothing going on so it seems as a good a chance as any to go.

I walk the 2 kilometers to the skating rink. I'm trying to save some money and don't have a transit pass right now. "It'll make a good warmup anyways" I say to myself. Plus the walk to the park is through a plush neighbourhood with overly inflated property values thanks to a million people who want to live here. Yes I do literally mean a million people. It's actually closer to two million,  but I'm sure not everyone living in Toronto would want to be here.

I arrive at the address I put on the map only to discover that it is not nearly as obvious to find the rink as I thought it might be. It don't see it from the street and I don't see anyone else with skates I can follow. I look for signs or other cues that don't require talking to anyone. Questions are the worst.... I eventually figure out that it's tucked away in the centre of the community centre I am at. It's outside, but the centre is built in a U shape and they've chosen to build the rink in the middle of the U so it's close to the changerooms.

I'm here to skate because I'm still a little shaky. When I was 5, I did skating lessons and mite hockey and all the things a good Canadian boy ought to do, but I protested so much every Saturday morning that my parents refused to support my plans to become the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs any further. Honestly, I just wanted to play video games anyways so I'm not sure it really mattered. It matters now though. Now I'm an adult and I play floor hockey with guys who are the product of a national development system that holds around 447,000 registered under 20 hockey players. I want to play hockey, but my skating and stick handling skills are not so great so I'm here at the rink to try and work on one of those things. Maybe when I can skate we'll switch things up and start playing shinny.

I find the dressing room only to discover that there is shinny happening at the same time as what I thought was a public skate. I am immediately confused. Where should I go as the only person with no hockey stick? I gather up all my courage and ask someone in an orange vest. She tells me to go to the other ice pad. I really should have thought of that myself.

When I step on to the ice, it is empty and freshly resurfaced. A treat beyond treats at a public rink. My last few skating trips have been on public rinks so marked up that you did more walking that gliding. I take a few quick strides and nearly fall over before realizing I need to start a bit slower. A few laps around the rink help to remind me of all the skating I learned approximately two decades ago. Then I set to work trying to practice the things I'm bad at like turns and stops and skating backwards. Yes, my skill set is limited at this point. I told you I was here for a reason.

I spend about twenty minutes on the rink skating in circles in total solitude. This really couldn't have worked out any better for me. I am the sole owner of every single scratch on the sheet of ice and I am feeling much more comfortable on my skates than I had been half an hour ago. Almost time to go. I spend my last few laps pushing hard so that I'm panting on the walk home.

There's something to be said for having a culture where everyone does the same things. When everyone plays hockey, it's easy to find people to play hockey. If everyone listens to the same bands then it's easy to find people to go to a concert with. It takes less work. It's more rare to find these kinds of activities now though. Everyone has their own sport (anyone for disc golf?) or just their own interest that are pretty specific. It takes work to find others who are on the same level of interest as you in these kinds of things. For someone with stunted social development like myself, this usually dooms one to sitting inside and watching TV (the most passive of activities). Maybe this hockey thing will break me out of the shell though.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Winter Classic

All Photos Courtesy of Jason

Sometimes I hear about a band or a show or an event and I think "If that ever comes to town, I will do whatever it takes to go". This is how I feel about Radiohead. This is also how I felt about outdoor hockey games.

In the last ten years, I have watched the NHL schedule a number of outdoor hockey games. The concept was incredible to me. Go outside and watch a regular season hockey game outside in the snow and in sub zero temperatures. When I saw the first one, I thought that if it ever came close enough to where I was that I would do all in my power to go. This year the 2014 NHL Winter Classic came to Ann Arbor Michigan which is close enough for me. I resolved to go.

Getting tickets was a challenge. When the event was first announced to take place in 2013, I entered the ticket lottery where you could win the opportunity to buy tickets (this is about the chance to win the opportunity to pay $250 per person which is not exactly what I would conventionally call winning). I did not win. Much to my surprise, the event was cancelled because of a labour lockout and it was reschedule to 2014. When the ticket lottery opened again, I entered and much to my surprise I received a notice that I had won the opportunity to purchase four tickets to the game. What fortune!

I resolved to take my best friend and fellow Leafs fanatic Jason to the game. We had discussed what to do if either of us won the ticket lottery and mutually agreed that we would take each other. When I told Amanda that I had won, she insisted that she come. Even though I told her that it would be cold, uncomfortable, crowded, and a logistical nightmare (I know, I'm a good salesman...) she insisted that she come. The fourth was quickly filled by Jason's girlfriend (now fiancee) and we had a foursome for the trip. It is a good thing that I explained the perils to Amanda because perilous would be the way to describe it.

On the day of the event, we set out early for Michigan. Few people were on the road when we left at 6:30 and it looked as though travel would be smooth. The GPS told us that we would arrive at 10 AM. Plenty of time to make it to the 100,000 plus stadium at University of Michigan. As part of the advertising for the game, the Maple Leafs had placed signage at all the rest stops on the 401 west of Toronto to advertise the game. When we stopped for breakfast we discovered the signs along with a hefty crowd of Leafs fans who were also travelling to the game. We were not to be alone on this trip. A news report stated that as many as 50,000 people were making the trip to Michigan for the game. There would be lots of others who were making the same trip as us.

Not pictured: Victoria
We decided to go through Port Huron instead of Detroit for fear of congestion. Our trusty GPS still read 10 AM. We sailed through the border after a series of questions about our employment situations and our places of residence (you would think they were concerned about illegal immigrants or something...). We marvelled at the incredibly cheap gas (80 cents a litre). We noticed that it started to snow.

The weather had told us that there would be snow. It said to expect 5-10 cm. From the snow now falling, this estimate appeared to be wrong. There was enough snow that as we passed through Detroit, traffic slowed to a crawl. Our GPS adjusted our arrival time and it moved to 10:30, 11, 11:30. We began to get nervous. Finally traffic broke and we sailed to within 7 miles of Ann Arbour...only to get caught in a convoy of hockey fans. There is a lane reduction halfway through Ann Arbor and when you sent 100,000 people through a snowstorm to the same place, that tends to cause some traffic problems. We crawled to Ann Arbor as the GPS read 12, 12:30. We arrived at our intended parking spot 1 PM. At 1 PM the game was scheduled to start. We hoped perhaps they would delay the game on account of all of the snow. Surely they wouldn't leave so many out in the cold.

We parked in a mall that was some distance from the stadium. Parking here was free (wheras parking next to the stadium was going for something like $60). We intended to take a shuttle bus to the stadium, but by the time we arrived there appeared to be no shuttle buses running. Anxious about missing the game, I pressed us to walk to the stadium. Anothe group of fans told us it was only about ten minutes to walk. They were very wrong.

Did I mention earlier that this was not 5-10 cm of snow? It was snowing quite heavily as we walked to the stadium. We walked, and walked encouraged only by the occasional sounds of announcements reverberating from the stadium. They misled us. It was a very long and cold walk. After 45 minutes and 2.5 miles we finally arrived. We had missed the first period but at least we were there.

As we stepped inside the stadium, we were not prepared to comprehend how many would be there. I come from a town of 120,000. There were somewhere near 105,000 people in the stadium. As we drove over we tried to fathom how that would look. We did not do a very good job as we spent the first twenty minutes after taking our seats looking around and saying "wow, this is a lot of people".

The Amanda and Victoria went off to search out some memorabilia and warm themselves up while Jason and I sat down to watch some hockey. The first period had ended with the score 0-0. Luckily we had not missed anything and now we sat down and watched with intensity. The game went back and forth. Detroit scored, then shortly after Toronto scored. Each time one team did something, a roar went up from the crowd. People stood and cheered after goals. Toronto fans booed Daniel Alfredsson (a long-standing tradition). Never have I had the opportunity to enjoy a hockey game with so many people at one time.

The game was good. You can probably read a better recap from a sports website. In the end we were lucky to miss the first period because by the end of the game, we were so cold that we were ready to give up. If we had tried to sit for the whole game, it might have been a disaster. We got up to leave and shook the feeling back into our hands and feet. Then we began the extremely difficult work of trying to get back to the car. Getting in was difficult, but getting out would be even worse. We decided to try and catch a shuttle bus back to the mall where we had parked and discovered that half of the stadium had the same idea. We walked and walked until we found a place where we could wait for the bus. As we waited, we watched shuttle busses sit there in the incredible gridlock that is created when 100,000 people try to leave the same place. Eventually busses started moving and the sidewalk slowly began to clear.

At this point a voice came from behind us "Ben!". It was an old rommate named James and his brother who had come to attend the game. We had wanted to find them, but "needle in a haystack" was a phrase used to describe the odds of finding them. The rest of our wait for the bus went much quicker as we caught up and reminisced about the game we had just experienced.

Eventually a bus came to get us and took us slowly back to the mall. I cannot emphasize enough what I mean by slowly. The bus took an hour to get us back to the mall. That is fifteen minutes longer than it took to walk. We passed the time by talking with other friendly folks who were on the bus with us. Though we had been enemies in the stadium, the common goal of getting home led us all to become quite friendly. As we drove, we overheard the frustrated CB radio calls of the bus driver "I need some busses back here at the stadium", followed by "we're trying but we're all stuck in gridlock". The city was obviously not prepared enough for the size of the event.

We got off the bus and back to the car. Between waiting for the bus and driving in total gridlock, it had taken us two and a half hours to make it this far. Now we had to work our way out of the mall, an equally busy process. An hour later and we made it to the main road. At this point we followed the wisdom of our GPS and took city roads instead of the interstate and managed to avoid more gridlock. At 10 PM we finally arrived at our final destination for the day. A hotel room in Windsor. Sleep could not have come quicker if I had tried.

It was a crazy thing to do. We spent close to ten hours in a car, all for the opportunity to walk two and a half miles in -11 C weather and heavy snow just so we could sit outside and watch a hockey game. If you were to describe this to anyone else they would tell you that you were crazy, but it was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had and I'm glad I went.

That being said, this was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and one I won't be needing to repeat.