“It’s just, somehow I thought by now, I’d be farther along the road.” — Tamarack
Back in the 2001-02 season, when I was still residing in Kingston, the Jackets made one of their rare visits to Toronto. Despite the apparent fact that it’s necessary to sell one’s soul to acquire Leafs tickets, I was able to log onto Ticketbastard and buy a single ticket in the alcohol-free family zone a few weeks before the game. The Via Rail schedule was well-suited to this trip — ACC is next door to Union Station, last train to Kingston left at around 11PM. So I left my car at the train station in Kingston, made a day of it in Toronto before the game.
Although I’m generally quite capable of enjoying a hockey game without alcohol, and in fact at the time, I was more accustomed to going to college or junior games where they didn’t even sell alcohol, the fact that I wouldn’t be allowed alcohol in my seat for this game made me want to drink more than anything. So I met up with my friend Brent, who worked in downtown Toronto, and had dinner before the game, while I powered down three or four pints of Creemore in the space of an hour. Realizing that game time was approaching and I still had to take the subway down to Union Station, drop my book bag in a locker, and then make my way up to the nether reaches of the ACC, and do it all with a bit more than a healthy buzz, I told Brent I needed to get going.
“I gotta get there before the game starts — if I miss five minutes, the Jackets’ll probably be down 3-0 before I’m in my seat.”
Bless the punctual TTC, I made it with a couple minutes to spare before the puck dropped. And lord help me if the Jackets weren’t down 3-0 within five minutes. I was seated next to a friendly Leafs fan in a Tucker jersey (Blue Jackets fans in most other arenas are more of a curiosity than a nemesis to the home fans). When Ron Tugnutt was pulled in the first, I said it was unfortunate, since he was a local guy and no doubt had a lot of friends and family at the game. She agreed and felt sad for Tugger.
Several people tried to smuggle alcohol into the alcohol-free section, but a stern usher stationed herself at the entrance to stop them.
It wound up in a 4-1 loss for the Jackets, and I took the late train home, where a loudmouthed drunk made it impossible to sleep for most of the trip.
Seems like so long ago. Six years later, I watched from the comfort of my living room, where alcohol is always allowed, and…sigh. Plus ca change…