One of the best parts of being a hockey fan to me is meeting other hockey fans. So when one of your best friends who is a hockey fan and you get together one day to look over your favorite teams' schedule, and one of you suggests going to Canada to follow that team, it makes for a once in a lifetime trip. I'll be writing about each destination on this road trip (Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver) over the course of the next few days, as these destinations are often not tops on the Dallas Stars' fans 'visit' list.
In order to understand the Edmonton experience fully, I have to start you back in Dallas at 3 AM. That's when we woke up to go catch our 7 AM flight. Because, as you know, getting to the airport two hours before your flight is what you have to do. My friend and I leave at 4:15 to get to the airport, and we get through security and check-ins and start a day that would be filled with nothing but airport waiting. We have a layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, only two hours, which we figure we could easily eat some breakfast and kill that in no time. When I turn on my phone, I have a message from the airline that our flight has been delayed, and we are now scheduled to depart around 12:30.
It's only a one hour delay, so hey, how about lunch instead and maybe a drink or two (hey, this is a vacation!) to kill the time? We then get our flight pushed back two more times, and I (being the anxious traveller of the two girls) am getting concerned about our arrival time. We're slated to land in Edmonton at 4:30, which gives us about an hour and a half to get through customs, find travel to our hotel, check-in and get to Rexall Place. My heart sinks when I see our flight has been pushed back to where we are now leaving at 3:30, estimated arrival of 5:30. Luckily, it was just the hockey gods and their hilarious sense of humor playing tricks on us. We get to Edmonton at 4:30, as now scheduled, and several hours after originally thought.
I think we confused people at the airport in Edmonton. "Why are you here? Who are you with? And you're here to see hockey? You're from Texas? How long are you here, and where all are you headed? And it's for hockey?" Yes, we two girls from Texas are here to see hockey. Yes, we are Stars fans. Yes, it is for hockey. And then we hear what no traveller going through customs ever wants to here: "We need you to bring your bags and come this way."
Did we make it to the game on time? Find out after the jump!
The dog they had at the Edmonton airport was sniffing our bags, and smelled something interesting in my friend's bag. So we continue on with the "Texas hockey" line of questioning while we have her bags searched through. Of course, we are a bit anxious now because who knows how long this is going to take and it's not like we had planned to be late arriving to begin with! We eventually make it through, and we're off to find a way to the hotel. We decide on a shuttle bus, jump in, and we are off.
We have just enough time to get to the hotel, check-in, make ourselves somewhat presentable after 5+ hours in an airport, and find our way to the LRT to get to Rexall. Luckily, that was easy and it's only two stops down from our hotel. We get there with plenty of time to spare. As we enter the concourse, our signs that we made (and yes, carried through the airport and arrived somehow no worse for the wear) are reviewed closely. My guess is that is to make sure there's nothing obscene or foully worded. Our signs do pass inspection.
We proceed to find our seats, and as the Stars come out onto the ice for warm-ups, we realize we're at the wrong end. We grab our stuff, and go down to the Stars warm-ups end to place our signs on the glass and get some pictures. First sign up says: It's Burrrrrr-ish in here! and is decorated with snowflakes. Adam Burish, upon seeing it, grabbed a puck and tossed it over the glass, and we made a young Stars fans' day when we gave him the puck. The next sign was: No shirley temples, this is hockey! Love ya @enystrom23. Steve Ott appeared to give us a wink at that one, and I have to admit, it was pretty funny if you're familiar with where that quote comes from. (If you haven't already, check out the Mike Millbury vs Jeremy Roenick discussion about Eric Nystrom's hit on Kris Letang, and you'll get the reference.)
Our last sign has: Flights to EDM/VAN: $720. Bus to CAL: $1. Hockey tickets (this is not Dallas, Stars fans are lucky!): $380. Seeing the Stars take the ice in Canada? PRICELESS. I have a whole slew of tweets containing the signs on my twitter feed, check them out! We are told about halfway through warm-ups that we have to sit down so that the people behind us can see. That is one thing I love about the AAC, home of the Dallas Stars: you can stand on the glass to your heart's content for warm-ups on either side. What a change that is!
I won't give my take on the game, outside of a few interesting comments I have about the fans, as I know the other guys and gal here have probably done a way better job at that than I could. I was surprised the Oilers fans weren't louder. I guess my expectation for coming to Canada would be that the crowd would be so loud and into it from the get-go. But not in Edmonton. The fans there I think are a bit jaded at this point, and the only thing they did do was boo Sheldon Souray (and that lasted about a period before they didn't even have the energy for that consistently.)
The only time they got loud was when the Oilers did score to end Kari Lehtonen's shut out bid, and several fans behind us were like "How do you like that?!" We simply pointed at the scoreboard where the Stars were still winning 3-1. To me, the points are more important than a shutout is (although it would be nice for Kari to get one every now and again...)
We yelled "STARS" during our anthem, which a guy gave us the dirtiest look for before the guy next to him informed him we were from Dallas.We saw several Stars fans there. A guy wearing a Michael Ryder jersey with his friend wearing an Adam Pardy jersey. One young kid in a Vernon Fiddler Stars jersey. Another guy in a Minnesota North Stars Mike Modano jersey (worn with an Oilers hat and an Oilers shirt under.) A few Loui Eriksson and Alex Goligoski jerseys were also seen. I can honestly say I'm pretty sure we had the only Tom Wandell and Kari Lehtonen jerseys in the whole place. Every time an Oilers fan would see us, we'd inevitably get the "What?" look, and then a slight heckle, before telling them we were from Dallas.
That seemed to make the fact that we were Stars fans somehow acceptable, and then we were asked a dozen times "Why did you come to Edmonton of all places?!" Most agree that our trip sounds amazing. Which it will be! The best part of the whole night happened randomly. As we're leaving, I see from a distance...what's this? A Defending Big D "STUDLY WONDERBOMB" shirt? I have to check this out! The lady wearing it was a big Sheldon Souray fan (she thinks he's just handsome) and she got the shirt as a gift for Christmas. I give the best Stars gear award to her for Edmonton. That. Was. Awesome.
All this time at Rexall, I had no internet connection. I really don't want an $800 phone bill when I get home for international data usage, so it's all wi-fi for me. We hadn't see friend of DBD Art Middleton all night, and as we're heading around the concourse to go find the Wayne Gretzky statue to take our picture with it, we ran into him! Talk about some luck! We had a great time saying hi and catching up a bit. Thanks to Art, we took our picture with The Great One and we grabbed some dinner and a drink and savored a huge two points gained on the road in cold and snowy Edmonton in the company of Stars fans. We're off to Calgary for tonight's game. Wonder if we'll be heckled even more this go round for our Stars gear and our signs? Bring it on, Calgary!