Well, let’s just dispense with the game part of last night quickly. It wasn’t a great performance by either team. It was, in fact, a pretty boring hockey game. Columbus got a lot of shots, but couldn’t beat Kipper. Calgary got fewer shots, but Pascal let in a softy. Not the kind of night you want to see from a team ostensibly still in the playoff fight.
As for the game experience, I’m going to rank Calgary right behind Nashville as my favorite place to watch a game away from Columbus. It was a fun place to see a game.
We took the C Train (light rail) down to the game, which was nice and convenient. Hint, hint, Columbus decision-makers. The C Train station is connected to the Saddledome via a skywalk or “Plus 15,” so no facing the harsh Calgary elements (although it’s really been fairly warm here this week).
The fan-friendly aspects blew Nationwide out of the water. Entering the building, I expected to get the search and frisk, open the coat, pull up the jersey, etc., that we get at Nationwide, but nothing whatsoever. +1 Calgary. We stopped and bought some food — chicken fingers come with fries for $7, no need to pay an extra $4 for the fries. +2 Calgary. Beer is $7, which is par for the course, but at least I didn’t have to get carded or get my ID scanned. +3 Calgary. Oh yeah, and they still sell Molson Canadian, and not just that Labatt Blue crap. +4 Calgary. And I even saw people allowed in the building with backpacks on. +5 Calgary.
The bad part was getting up to our seats. The Saddledome is now one of the older buildings in the league, and it lacks some of the creature comforts of a place like Nationwide. Namely, escalators. We had to walk up stairs to our seats, which were way up top. Imagine walking up stairs from the lower bowl plaza in Columbus to the Sky Terrace. Now imagine doing it at 4000 feet above sea level when you’re used to living at 500 feet above sea level. Oh yeah, I was not going back down for anything once I finally got up to my seat. I sent an e-mail to the Jackets radio broadcast about the elevation and how the Jackets prepare to play hockey in it, but I don’t know if they read it on the air, or, if so, how they answered it.
The crowd was a late arriving one, kind of like Columbus. At puck drop, there were still a lot of empty seats, but they filled in well over the course of the first period. It was “Western Night,” and although I didn’t see too many fans in Western garb, they did have a number of vaguely embarrassing country music and rodeo themed promotions during the TV timeouts. But still nothing as cringeingly awful as “Hip Hop or Not.” +6 Calgary. Also, no Kiss Cam. +7 Calgary.
As befits a rather somnolent game, the fans weren’t especially spirited. They did get some chanting going at times. And they were pretty critical of their Flames throughout the night. One of the guys sitting next to us kept comparing it to Junior B hockey. I didn’t spot any other Jackets sweaters in the crowd, although because we were sitting up under the curved roof, we couldn’t see most of the rest of the seats. There were a couple teenage girls in our section with homemade RUSSELL #2 t-shirts — pity he was a scratch in his home province. No flak or harassment for wearing an out-of-town jersey, although I did get a few quizzical looks. Doubt many Jacket fans make the long haul out there for games!
After the game, I stopped and picked up some goodies at the Fan Attic. Prices were pretty reasonable for stuff, less than in Ottawa, comparable to Columbus. Then it was back on the train and home. All in all, a decent night of watching hockey, in spite of the Jackets not cooperating and making it a perfect night.
I did take a few pictures, although we were so far up that they’re not that great. When I get back to Columbus next week, I’ll do a quick photoblog. And now, off to Banff.