Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alas...

It was not meant to be.  As I've already mentioned, yes - they were tired, yes - there were injuries, and no - they were not the same team that played in the first two rounds, not even close.  And I think anybody who watched our post-season in its entirety will concur with that assessment.  But that's not to take away from the outstanding effort by the Pens.  They played hard and absolutely deserved the win.  

However, I will also say that I really really really hope the Blackhawks snap out of it and come back against Detroit because there's no way in hell I could ever pull for the Wings to win the Cup.  And after the interactions I've had with most (by all means, not all...but definitely most) Pens fans during this too-short series, I don't think I could bring myself to pull for them either.  I hear that the Buffalo fans from the 2006 playoffs were way worse but we were in London then so we didn't have to get to experience that.  So, for me, the Pens take the cake for the disrespect they showed in our house and towards our fans in the parking lot before and after the game.

This was the message on the LCD that runs around the arena before the game - NO RETREAT  NO SURRENDER.  And I'm proud of our guys because they fought till the very end.  Even after Cam was pulled and the Pens scored an empty netter, they hustled and scrapped till there were all zeroes on the clock.  As a fan, that's all I can ask.  We gave them a standing O for the last couple of minutes and during the handshake line.  So if they had to lose, I'm ever so glad it happened at home so they could get the thank you sendoff they deserved.

It's been a fun ride.  The whole city was behind this team.  Crabtree Valley mall put up banners...

and even had a sand sculpture made.

All the city buses had GO CANES! flashing on their route displays.  Businesses all over town put posters in the windows and tons of cars (including both of ours) were sporting flags and magnets and honking at each other when we passed.  It was a great atmosphere and I'm so happy we were able to be here for it this time.

So, all is said and done.  We attended every single home game of the playoffs and here's what we have to show for it.  A collection of rally towels and a stack of ticket stubs...

What next?  Why, season tickets for next year, of course.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No matter what...

Yesterday, Jason and I had absolutely no commitments and decided to start our day by heading out to the RBC to watch the 'Canes practice.

Interestingly, they were giving Leighton (our back-up goalie) quite a bit of practice.  Obviously, I'm making no assumptions here but Coach Mo did let it slip that Cam may be nursing an injury.  That would certainly explain some of the softies that got around him in the last two games.  

  Wardo gets some practice saves....


After practice, we headed around back to try and get a few autographs.  It was a pretty successful mission!

I loved that Brindy was carrying his skates and his jersey out with him.  Perhaps to put some home-grown mojo on them?  Who knows...

Eric Staal looks tall on the ice but you don't realize just how big he is till he's standing over you, basically dwarfing everyone.

Chad LaRose signing Jason's jersey...

Jussi was so cute - he said "Velcome" to every fan who thanked him for the autograph.

Tuomo Ruutu was just about the sweetest thing I have ever seen.  The Finns in general (Rutuu, Jokinen and Pitkanen) have reportedly been in awe of the fan support here in Carolina and you could see it written all over Rutuu's face.  He seemed so happy and grateful that there were so many fans there.

When all was said and done, we got Seidenberg, Staal, Whitney, Samsonov, Ruutu, Brind'Amour, Walker, Pitkanen, Cole, Jokinen, Leighton, Eaves, LaRose, Ward, Cullen, Wallin and Bayda.  Not a bad showing for 40-ish minutes of hanging out near the exit.


Now, all we can do is wait the few hours till puck drop.  And tonight it's do or die.  Statistics are not in our favor.  Only two teams in NHL history have ever come back from an 0-3 deficit - the 1942 Leafs and the 1976 Islanders (who, by the way, happened to be going up against the Pens in that series).  I don't know where the guys' spark has gone.  Maybe they're exhausted.  They're certainly injured.  The Pens have only had to face the real 'Canes in game 1 of this series.  The players on the ice in games 2 and 3 were shells of their former selves.

I got a pretty hilarious comment over the weekend (which I chose not to publish because I typically try to keep my interactions with the public limited to those who at least have the mental capacity of an orangutan and this commenter clearly did not make the cut) which said "Wow the Canes really suck" (amongst other pearls of wisdom).  Ahhhh, yes.  They "suck" so bad that they're in the Eastern Conference Finals.  They "suck" so bad that they've won a Stanley Cup in the past 3 years (with a large portion of the same squad that's playing now).  When was the last time the Pens won the Cup?  Oh, right...I think it was around the same time that my bedroom walls were plastered in New Kids on the Block posters and I was spending my Friday nights playing Girl Talk and watching Full House and Family Matters.

Here's what I know:  This Carolina Hurricanes team plays their best hockey when their backs are up against a wall.  This Carolina Hurricanes team has worked a few miracles so far in this post season.  This Carolina Hurricanes team has beaten, arguably, the best goalie in the world in Marty Brodeur.  This Carolina Hurricanes team, ranked number 6, has beaten the number 1 ranked Bruins.  This Carolina Hurricanes team has more heart than I've ever seen in any other sports organization, period.

So, while the odds are most definitely stacked against us, I know they can do this if they can just get their game back.  One shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time.  Just win tonight.  That's all they have to do.  Just win.  No handshakes tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This is 'Canes Country

Despite the horrific outcome of last night's game, we had a helluva time tailgating for the several hours leading up to the puck drop.  This is what the west parking lot at the RBC Center looked like at about 4:00.  I guess you could say we like to tailgate down here in the south.

Joe and Amy provided ribs and chicken with bbq sauce and corn on the cob while Jason and I took the easy way out and brought a cooler stocked with beer and some store-bought fixins.  It was quite the spread.

The boys spent almost the entire afternoon playing cornhole - probably the most popular tailgating activity.  A close second is slap-shooting hockey pucks into a trash bin.  (Here's a tip: try not to park near the slap-shooters.  Their aim is never great after the first five or so beers.)

Cornhole alley... abandoned only for food and beverage.  I think I counted six games going on at once on our stretch of pavement alone.

Relaxing between matches.

The real party was in the cheap seats though.

But I couldn't let that be the only photo of me and Amy to exist...because...ummm...well, do I really have to justify that?  I mean, look at us.  We look ridiculous!

Unfortunately, the fun ended in the parking lot.  And not just because of the loss.  But because of the Pens fans in attendance.  It was 100% the worst home game experience of my life. The cops came into our section multiple times to deal with them and the Pens fans actually decided it was a good idea to argue with the police. Smart!  They were drunk, rude, disrespectful and all-around obnoxious and it made a bad loss beyond miserable.

In fact, the Pens fan behind us (accompanied by a 'Canes fan) was drunk and toppled over onto us (crashing down mainly onto Joe and Amy) in the first period and then kicked Amy in the head when he got up for another beer run at the end of the second.  (No, of course it wasn't deliberate but the point is that he was drunk and careless.)  I grabbed his jersey and yelled at him and he just shrugged me off so I turned around to his friend and unleashed my fury on him, saying he'd better get his friend under control, in a shower of F-bombs.  The jackass finally apologized when Joe came back and strongly encouraged him to do so.  And I've heard multiple similar stories from others today.  

So, thanks Pens fans!  What a joy you were!  But let me assure you this.  No matter what happens on Tuesday night, whether our season ends or whether we live to fight another day, Caniac Nation will NOT let you ruin another game in our house.  If we lose, we will stand and cheer for our guys louder than you can comprehend because they have given us an amazing post-season with miracle comebacks and underdog heroics.  If we win, we will give them a sendoff back to Mellon like you've never heard.  Loudest house in the NHL?  Damn right.  But you ain't heard nothing yet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A hockey fan's prayer

Well, Jason is finally back home from London.  And the house is spotless.  And I didn't have to lift a finger to make it that way.  And that's pretty much the extent of goodness in my life right now.

You see, without going into too much detail, the 'Canes got their asses handed to them last night in Shitsburgh (Again, sorry...I know it's a cheap shot but as I have said before...it's hockey season.  We can be friends in July.)  I was so mad that as we were leaving the Carolina Ale House, I took a swing at some festive red, black and white balloons.  I really wanted to wrestle them to the ground and punch them till they all busted but thought better of it.  Personally, I could do without being hauled down to the big house for assault on party supplies, wearing my 'Canes number 17 tee and face tatts.

Dear Jesus, 

I'm sure you must be a hockey fan.  Please give Cam Ward his mojo back.  Please lay your miracle hands on Tuomo Ruutu's foot.  Please give Erik Cole a shoulder made of titanium so that he may forecheck Crosby and Malkin into next century.  (And if you have time, maybe see that Cooke is afflicted with a venereal disease of some kind?)  Please give the refs a collective conscience.  Please do whatever you can to right the wrongs from this series.  Please let the good guys win.

If you can help with these simple requests, I promise to be a very good girl and not ever make bad words out of our opponents' cities' names again.

(Man, that was so beautiful, I almost want to make a cross-stitch out of it and give it out for Christmas gifts.)



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My embarrassment. Let me show you it.

Tonight, I got a hankerin' to clean out our fridge.  Maybe it's because the cleaning ladies are coming tomorrow and I'm terrified of them opening the refrigerator and finding 2-week-old steak leftovers and some soggy brownish salad greens.  Because, you know, JUDGEMENT.  The cleaning ladies, they pass it.  

Well, I don't know what's worse...  The scene I described above (by the way, old steak and limp lettuce - hungry yet?) or what we're left with after tossing out all the crap that's past its prime:

Let's see...that's good beer, good beer, good beer, Coke, Coke, water, water, water, water, pimento cheese...

...aaaaaaand Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, baking soda (for that just cleaned, fresh smell!!!), 12 oz. Miller Lite x 5, Miller Lite tall boy x 2, High Life Light x about 150, Diet Mountain Dew (both fully leaded and caffeine free versions) and root beer.  Not pictured, in the door shelves, are various and sundry condiments and two bottles of bloody mary mix.

Wow.  That might be the most redneck refrigerator EVER.  In our defense, all those cans of beer are leftover from our tailgating adventures from a week and a half ago.  (At home, we drink the good stuff in the bottles from the first pic.)  

Sooooo, to pad this thing out, I may have to run to Whole Foods and buy some expensive cheeses and charcuterie.  (That's what fancy people eat, right?)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The super aunts and the dance

I made another trip to Charlotte this weekend to attend Katie's (of the infamous "nieces with the pieces") ballet recital.  Since we had been in London for the past three years, this was the first time I'd been able to go to one of her recitals.  In one of those "Ain't that a kick in the head" twists, Jason still hasn't been able to attend one of Katie's recitals since he had to go back to London for work.  So since Jenny's husband also had to stay in Raleigh for work purposes, the super aunts decided to ride to Charlotte together.

When Jenny and I arrived Friday night, the girls had just been put to bed but weren't quite asleep yet and requested the super aunts to pay them a quick visit.  It is very telling about Anna's personality that one of the first things she said to me was "Hedair, tomorrow I go on STAGE!"  Ummm, except if you recall - this was, in fact, Katie's recital.  She was having a hard time dealing with the fact that the spotlight was all Katie, all the time this weekend.  (We'll be back in two weeks for Anna's turn.)

That's Katie in the front...

So cute I could die.

Later in the afternoon, Anna suckered me into a few rounds of Candyland.  Candyland is her number one favorite thing to play...unless, of course, she sees she's about to lose.  Then she will react in one of two ways.  She will either 1) get mad at you and refuse to continue or 2) if she's feeling exceptionally gracious, she'll wait for you to win and then say "Congratulations, Hedair.  Ten more games, okay?"  

This is her reaction when she draws the Queen Frostine card, which allows her to jump nearly all the way to the finish line.  She will FREAK OUT if you dare to draw the Queen Frostine card.  And she will always rejoice and celebrate if you happen to draw the Mr. Plum card, which sends you back to almost to the starting point.  Joe and Amy are tirelessly working on "sportsmanship" with her.  But does it really matter?  I mean, look at that face.

We even brought Liam with us.  Liam enjoys many of the trappings of infant life...bottles, blankies, activity mats with dangling toys, rolling over, pacifiers and desperately trying to get his feet into his mouth.  However, you'll be shocked to know he didn't give a crap about the recital.  


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Cardiac 'Canes

I don't even know where to begin. This has been such a freaking roller coaster...  After a horrible loss in Boston last Sunday night, we were very very hopeful for a win in Raleigh on Tuesday evening.  Well, suffice it to say that definitely did not happen.  Another poor showing.  We felt dejected.  Our team had completely blown a 3-1 series lead.  Now it was tied 3-3.  Going into the Garden.  I was not optimistic.  In my heart of hearts, I still believed we could do it.  But my logical side said that it was not likely.

Well...heart beat logic in Boston on Thursday night.  It was a grueling game.  And everybody (both teams) hustled hard and hit hard.  It could have been anybody's game really.  But it was ours.  Ours in sudden-death overtime (almost multiple overtimes), but still ours.  

Poor Jason was in London and had to watch on a crappy feed over his laptop.  But we stayed on the phone with each other for the entire game.  We had been through every single playoff game together so why let a few thousand miles stop us?  But going into the third period, Jason's live feed gave out and we had no option but for me to lay the phone by the tv and let him listen to the play-by-play.  And so it was.  Jason in a hotel room 3,000 away and me sitting in the living room floor hugging my knees, watching a frenetic OT period full of amazing saves (on the part of both goalies) and attempt after attempt to put an end to this.  

With about a minute and fifteen seconds left, Ray Whitney tried to land a puck but was blocked by Tim Thomas.  But Scott Walker had positioned himself right in front of the goal and picked up Whitney's rebound and chipped it up and over Tim Thomas and into the net. 

To put it mildly, I freaked OUT.  I grabbed the phone and just started screaming "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!" over and over to Jason.  I was so jacked that I couldn't even lay down for bed till about 12:30 and even then, I couldn't fall asleep till sometime around 2:30.

Friday morning, I was on a mission.  Get all our tickets for Round 3.  So I showed up at the RBC Center early and got my wristband - 62nd in line.  

Even Stormy showed up!  (Much to the delight of the 3-year-old I had in tow.  She thought it was extra hilarious when he got behind the glass and sat down at one of the sales terminals like he was going to sell tickets.)

By the time I had our tickets in hand and left the box office, the line was wrapped part way around the arena.  And little did they know that once you get inside, the line snaked back and forth a few times...  (Personally, unless you were among the first hundred or so, I can't see the benefit to waiting in line versus buying through Ticketmaster.  Even at 62nd in line, I had a difficult time getting enough seats together for the section we wanted.  

But now we're ready to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference Finals.  Ever thought about what would happen if you threw a penguin into a hurricane?  Yeah.  I hope this series will have that result.

On a serious note, before I close this out I wanted to say that Scott Walker's wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer during the series against the Bruins.  The prognosis is good and she is expected to make a full recovery but I still can't imagine having to hear the word "cancer" in a doctor's office.  Scott was incredibly emotional in interviews after his game winning goal in game 7 and on Friday, when this was announced, it became clear why.  It also explained why many of his teammates said things like "No one deserved that goal more than Scotty." and "It couldn't have happened to a better guy."  I know all Hurricanes fans have Scott and his wife in their thoughts and prayers.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finn it to win it

Let me start by saying that I knew I should have written this post before Sunday's game.  For those not following (likely 99% of you), we lost in spectacular fashion in Boston on Sunday night.  We just didn't have it together and the Bruins were on fire.  They forced us to play their style of hockey, as opposed to the other way around (as it had been for the past three games).  It was a heartbreaking loss.  And it ended very very badly with one of our players throwing a punch.  There is much MUCH debate out there on whether or not it was justified and on whether or not it could be classified as a sucker punch.  

I'm not sure how I feel about it really.  I think the guy kind of had it coming as he was bullying one of our smaller guys who never fights and a fellow 'Cane was just coming to his defense.  On the other hand, it was embarrassing and not how I want our team to be known.  To fuel the fire, our guy was automatically suspended for one game but then released to play and ordered only to pay a fine.  And that has only added to the hatred the Bruins have for us.  They will definitely use that hate on the ice tonight.  I fear we have "poked the bear" and I'm scared.  So, tonight - we march into hell.  This is a must-win game for us.  We win at home tonight, and we knock the B's out of the playoffs.  We lose tonight, and we have to play a game 7 in Boston.  I can't even imagine how brutal that place will be after what happened on Sunday.

So, with all that said, I attempt to relive the glory and the euphoria of Friday's game...

I really don't know where the Carolina Hurricanes would be were it not for our Finns.  And Friday night, it was the Jussi Jokinen show.  More on that in a bit.  But first - it's tailgate time!

Carolinians have perfected the art of the tailgate.  And for this, we take no small amount of heat from some hockey clubs in the north.  They don't get it, they say.  There's no tailgating in hockey, they say.  Personally, I think they're just bitter they didn't think of it first.  We had a pretty sweet set up.  A cooler full of bevvies and a Bojangles Tailgate Pack isn't a bad way to kick off the festivities.  

But after a couple of hours of hanging out in the parking lot, it was time to get down to the business at hand.  

Chaaaaaaaara, Chaaaaaaaaaara, Chaaaaaaaaaara... YOU SUCK!  (Seriously, I really hate that guy.)

The superfans...

And our co-superfans for the evening...  (Candice even got a free "Caniac Mom" pin thanks to her ever-growing baby bump!)

What an amazing game...  With the exception of the last part of the second period, the 'Canes had the Bruins running scared.  I can't say we played a great second period, but thankfully - neither did the B's.  Other than that, we freaking OWNED them.  

Some Bruins fans are whining about the officiating, but I've got news for them.  Here's the truth:  Regardless of officiating, the Bruins did not play well enough to win that game.  Period.  Whine all you want, but it wouldn't have made a difference.  (In all fairness, I have to say that there were also plenty of Bruins fans who recognize this and know that they were outplayed, plain and simple.)  

Celebrating the 4-1 victory!

Two out of the three superstars of the game (announced at the end of each win) were Finns.  First up, Tuomo Ruutu.

And finally, Jokinen, who scored the OT game winning goal in game 3.  He was so stoked about the great crowd that he was clapping for us.  (It was the loudest I've ever personally heard the arena.  Others who were here for the Stanley Cup win back in 2006 have said that night was the only time it has been louder.)

After the party, it's the afterparty.  Of course, after such an epic win, we rocked the post-game tailgate.  Very-pregnant-Candice was an excellent sport and hung with the best of them.

The night finally came to a close with a trip to Char Grill.  Jason attempts to correctly fill out our order ticket, despite the extraordinary amount of beer coursing through his veins.



But enough of that. Time to focus on game 6. We MUST end this tonight. Playing Hurricanes style hockey. In our house.

Friday, May 08, 2009

In other news...

In an effort to bring you more non-hockey related entries, we took a couple of photos last night.  Jason and I both got off work about an hour early so we decided to head over to Sawmill Taproom to enjoy the patio and some adult bevies.  

Jason, of course, goes for the hard stuff and orders a Big Boss specialty brew.  (Side note - If you fellow Raleighans don't know yet, Big Boss is a local brewery and produces some particularly fine beers.  And, tomorrow is their brewery tour day!  They do it the second Saturday of every month.  We've done this before and it is an exceptionally good time.  Queue up a little early though to make sure you get in!  It's becoming quite the popular activity.  Support your locals!)  

While I enjoy a little light reading and a light beer...  Hold it.  Wait just a minute.  Let's zoom in on this a little...

Just when you thought this post was non-hockey related, I pull a fast one on you....

Sorry...  (Not really.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

You knew it wouldn't last

Sorry guys, but it's back to hockey for a couple of days.  Feel free to leave now if you can't handle it.  Here we go...

Last night, the Hurricanes put a southern-fried beat down on the Bruins.  Welcome to 'Canes Country, y'all.  

Jason and I got so amped on the way to the arena because we were listening to 99.9 The Fan on the radio and when they asked Aaron Ward (a former 'Cane, now a Bruin) about how it feels to come back and play in Raleigh, he mentioned that it's one of the toughest arenas to play in as a visitor because of how loud the fans are.  

We got the reputation as "the loudest house in the NHL" back in 2006 during our Cup run and Aaron Ward (who was on our team that year) confirmed that he's played for a few teams and it's true - no where is it louder and more intimidating than in Raleigh.  Even some Bruins fans on the HF boards commented that they couldn't believe how much the crowd gets into it here and how loud our arena is.  Folks, coming from a northern hockey club - that's a serious compliment.

The 'Canes storm the ice.  (Pun-tastic!  Get it?  Hurricanes??  Storm???  Is this thing on?)

Oh yes, I was rocking the face tats.  I am the superfan. 

It was a great game.  The Bruins scored first but we didn't let that get us down.  The crowd got crazier, the team hustled harder and finally responded in the 2nd period with a tying goal...and another goal to take the lead a mere 69 seconds later.  And that's Hurricanes hockey.  They feed off that momentum unlike any other team I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, Boston scored again to tie it up and we were facing sudden death overtime.  At 1 minute and 26 seconds left in the break before the 4th period started, the 'Canes take the walk through the tunnel and back onto the ice.  I get chills every time I see that.

Cam Ward made some unreal saves in the first minute or so of the overtime period.  The Bruins had tons of scoring chances and were drilling our net but Ward saved the day.  In the end, with less than 3 minutes of the overtime gone, one of our great Finnish imports - Jussi Jokinen - puts the puck past Tim Thomas and just like that...we win. 

Stormy hits the ice to celebrate

And gets so caught up in the moment that he breaks into the worm.  How in the hell you can do the worm in a massive furry pig costume is beyond me!  Don't question it. Just dig the pig.

Now, the Hurricanes lead the best of seven series 2 games to 1.  Game 4 is tomorrow night and you can bet the RBC Center will be rocking.  Bring it, Bruins.  We've got some of our famous southern hospitality ready to dish out.