Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bon weekend

I'll be the first to admit that before last year's playoff run, I was merely a Carolina Hurricanes fan. Which is not a bad thing to be mind you. (Unless of course the team is collapsing in epic fashion before your very eyes - as they are currently...but I digress.) But something special happened last spring. I became a hockey fan.

In my free time, I would read up on rules and penalties and free agency and look at what more knowledgeable fans had to say about certain plays. By the end of the playoffs, I could tell you all about forechecking and backchecking, drop passes and lead passes, wrist shots and flip shots, breakaways and wrap-arounds, power plays and penalty kills, zones, dekeing, icing and offside.

And no one was more surprised than me when I kept watching the games after the Canes were knocked out in the ECFs. That's when Jason knew a true hockey fan had been born.

One of the things I had been the most bummed about since being here in Brussels was that we were missing out on our season tickets. I missed hockey. So Jason starting working his Google magic and found out that we have a hockey team here just outside of Brussels - near Leuven. We noted that they had a home game coming up this Saturday night and made it our business to be there.

The rink is in Slap Middle Of Nowhere, but conveniently, this particular slap middle of nowhere is only about 25 minutes away from our flat. We got there, paid our 7 euro each, got our hands stamped and made our way to the ice.

I was so stupid excited by the time the puck dropped that I didn't even really notice that I was freezing. Note to self: Hockey rink much colder when five feet away from ice. Noted.

Don't you love how a flimsy net is all that's protecting those kids watching from behind the goal? No glass. I repeat: NO GLASS.

Check this out... You could stand right up at the boards and watch the game. Somewhat different than your typical NHL arena experience.

We did that for the second period and it was terrifying. Exhilarating and terrifying. When the players would gain any momentum towards our general direction, I would cringe and take a couple of giant steps backwards. There were a couple of collisions into the boards that nearly took a few spectators out.

During the warmup skate, I glanced over to a poster on an opposite wall. Then I did a little double-take. I thought I saw a Hurricanes logo but I figured I was just being a homer and immediately dismissed the thought. (My vision is terrible, by the way. So it was very blurry.) Then, a few minutes into the first period I put on my glasses so I could, you know, actually follow the puck. I happened to glance towards the poster again and lo and behold, mine eyes did not deceive me afterall!

You could say I was excited. I mean, of all the 30 NHL teams in the league, what are the chances of seeing an ad featuring our star center and assistant captain in a rink in Slap Middle Of Nowhere, Belgium??

Leuven Chiefs defeated {insert name of unpronouncable Belgian team here} 5-3. It was a pretty exciting third period considering the Chiefs were up 5-0 going into it.

A couple of interesting things about the post-game rituals... (I don't really think "rituals" is the right word there but I can't think of a better one at the moment.)

At the end of the game, each team lines up separately and exchanges high fives, fist bumps, hand shakes, stick taps, words of congratulations, words of encouragement or what-have-you with their own teammates.

Then, they line up for hand shakes with the opponent. I just thought it was interesting since, in the NHL, you only do hand shakes once you've knocked the other team out of the playoffs. It sort of adds a touch of civility to the game and shows a bit of respect for each other as players in a way.

And if that wasn't enough, after the hand shake line, both teams lined up facing the crowd and started tapping their sticks on the ice as a way of showing their appreciation to the spectators. Once the visiting team skated off, the Chiefs stayed and made a bit more noise on the ice and then raised their sticks in a sort of salute to the cheering fans before skating off themselves.

It was such a great experience! And so different from any other sporting event I've been to. I'm really curious if it's the same in other hockey leagues around Europe. If so, it would certainly explain the intense admiration our Finnish players seem to have for the Canes fans...

Sunday was pretty much a lazy day. We hung about the flat in our pj's till almost noon and made a totally sick breakfast of eggs, bacon-hashbrowns and ciabatta toast. We did finally venture out to cross another pub off the 10 Best list. Au Bon Vieux Temps (loosely: "The Good Old Days") was the victim this time. And like La Becasse, it was situated at the end of an unassuming little alleyway.

We opened the menu and saw, wonder of wonders...miracle of miracles, we had unwittingly walked into the pub that serves The Best Beer in the World! (According to whom, we are unsure.)

But of course, the Mister had to try it. Though it was certainly tasty, he still prefers de Garre.

We attempted to hit another one on the list, which was really more of a cafe than pub. But the bitch in there was so rude that we got up and walked right up on out of there. Do not, I repeat, do NOT mess wif da Sangers. We are f-ing hardcore. Hardcore!

1 comment:

Sara said...

Thank you for that.... the last line made me laugh really hard!!