While it’s not quite puppies (okay, here’s Tyler Seguin with Marshall), let’s talk about something fun. Like the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I woke up with a stomach bug, barfed 20 times and still dragged my ass 3 hours to Long Island. Why would I do such a thing?
To be in the front row for the Capitals @ Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum! I always sit at the glass for warm-ups but it was my first time being so close the entire game (and probably my last, unless Chuck marries Tyler & Marshall). I’ve always wondered what it was like down there, so here are my thoughts from the good seats.
1. The ticket was $50. If you’re traveling or live near a team that struggles with attendance, check StubHub. The three nice Canadians behind me also bought their tickets 24 hours out for $50 each and we had a bargain basement blast.
2. The front row is awesome. I was practically on the bench, right next to backup goalie Kevin Poulin. I was the first person in the arena who was not an Islander. At any moment, Doug Weight might have yelled at me. It was very cool to hear them talking, calling line changes, making plays. Watching up-ice rushes at speed, with bodies in every lane and shots caroming everywhere, gave even me a new appreciation for how players see the ice.
3. At the same time, it’s also not that awesome. In Nassau Coliseum, the bench is on a riser. The front row is not and it’s an extra foot back from the boards. That’s why I look like a Hobbit in this picture and Poulin looks like Gandalf.
4. It’s extraordinarily cold down there. In the much-maligned Coliseum, insulation was not a priority. Other buildings are less frigid, but after 2 hours cold is cold. I thought about asking Poulin for his sweater, since he clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
5. The biggest, most obvious truth about the front row is you can’t see. Even if everyone is still and you stand up, this is it:
Or you could slide forward and awkwardly get in everyone’s face like a creeper.
But in motion, half the ice is blocked and you watch on the Jumbotron overhead. So you trade half the game on TV for the other half up this close:
And being that close is, er, distracting. Except during TV timeouts where it’s pretty much watching beads of sweat roll down John Tavares’ face while the guys in your section holler pickup lines at the Ice Girls through the glass.
Obviously knowing I would be so close (and not feeling well), JT shaved off his mustache one day before the end of Movember. He is the only player I’ve ever seen whose hair sticks out the top of his helmet.
I didn’t have any Caps gear with me, and ended up not cheering much at all for fear of being sick again. Mostly I wallowed in my cold, amazing seat and hoped the Caps would win while at the same time feeling bad for the Islanders. Tavares had about 8 amazing scoring chances and his frustration was palpable. A few rows back, a guy in a Caps jersey and Red Wings hat (what?) yelled, “MIKE GREEN, YOU’RE NOT GOOD!” every time Mike touched the puck. If I need to throw up again, I was headed right for him.
The game was exciting. The Isles pulled ahead 2-1 with under 2 mins to play, then Nicky B scored a shorthanded goal at 19:11. Everyone got a point before Ovi brought home the +1 in overtime. I may have jumped out of my child-size seat.
In the end, if I never sit that close again it’s okay. I actually prefer the cheap seats, up high where I can see the entire ice and yell inappropriate things with no chance of the person I’m yelling at actually hearing me. Still if you get the chance, it’s well worth it to experience hockey in a completely different way.
Side Note: A Farewell to Barns
Much of my front row experience was exclusive to the Nassau Coliseum. We know it’s the most hated arena in the League and the Islanders are moving out in 2015. The cramped single concourse layout with sloped ceilings, terrible bathroom lines and a damned door to the outside cold every 10 feet makes it the arena equivalent of an Atari. But I must say the Coliseum has a certain old-time hockey charm. Like an aged college arena, it feels nostalgic. The fans were as decked out and lively as any place I’ve been. I saw my first ever NHL game at the Coliseum back in 199-something, and a little piece of my hockey youth will be laid to rest when they lock these doors. I was glad to go back one more time.Tags: john tavares, New York Islanders, washington capitals