A Great White North Trip: My Experience In Calgary

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Edmonton and Calgary just might be polar opposites in my mind. We left Edmonton and jumped on a bus that took us through snow covered country side down to Calgary. It was a very picturesque drive, but it being so early in the morning the day after the Edmonton game I'm sure I didn't appreciate it nearly as much as I should. Where the atmosphere in Edmonton was kind of grey and somber, Calgary was sunny (yesterday anyway) and more lively.

We got to Calgary and decided to go do some exploring (really we were just looking for some food.) We had all of Saturday afternoon to entertain ourselves, and I happen to know a guy playing college hockey up here. So what do we do on Saturday night? Yep, more hockey for us! It ended up being a pretty brutal loss.

The most interesting part to the night was when the opposing team scored a goal and they played "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night" by the Black Eyed Peas. Poor musical selection don't you think?

We also got to experience mass transit here, which will lead to quite an experience I'll tell you about after the jump.

Calgary has what is known as a "free zone" where you can get on and off the train without paying any money. Well, just for your reference, if you get on in the free zone and get off outside of the free zone, you'd better purchase a ticket before you get on the train. Do you know how much of a fine it is if you don't? $150 CAN. How do I know this? Because we didn't know you had to do this, and we got to the Saddledome and were promptly stopped by two cops asking us for our tickets. So don't do that.

Mass transit is something that Texas really doesn't have, and since nothing about the DART is even close to my house, I've never used it. I've been on a subway once in my life, when I visited Toronto and had Toronto natives with me. But I'm learning quick up here! My sense of direction, sadly, has not improved in new surroundings.

When you arrive at the Saddledome, it's one of the more uniquely shaped arenas I've ever seen. It quite literally has a saddle shape, bowing in the middle. It makes the acoustics in the arena really awesome, as the sound doesn't get lost in the caverns of a dome would. We got to the arena super early because we didn't know where will call was, and that's where we needed to pick up our tickets. There's only one concourse there, and you access your seats from different sets of stairs all around the arena.

We walked over to find where our seats were, and we met probably THE nicest person so far on our trip. His name was John, and he was the usher assigned to our section. He gave us a hard time about our Dallas apparel. We told him we were from Texas, and he asked if this was our first time in Calgary.

John gave us a tour of the entire layout of the arena. He told us where we could find certain foods (he recommends the mini donuts!), where the nearest women's restroom was, and even introduced us to Brad who was the best guy to get beer from. Brad even remembered what kind of beer I had ordered when I went back for another, and that shocked me because there was a TON of people there. The service from every place we stopped at was just excellent. The Calgary Flames deserve some major props for their people there - the nicest most helpful arena staff I've ever encountered in any sport.

The "not standing for warmups" must be a Canadian thing, because we asked Gerald down on the glass where the Stars warmed up if that was allowed, as it hadn't been in Edmonton. He said that they don't allow it generally because they want people behind you to be able to take pictures and see as well. I understand where that is coming from, and I will say at least the boards didn't come up to basically my eye level last night as they had in Edmonton. (In Edmonton, I was basically at hip level with the players on the ice. It made for one fascinating experience, and I swear the game is faster than ever sitting with that view point.)

While we were waiting for warmups to start, a lady wearing a Stars jersey asked if we had been in Edmonton on Friday night on the glass. I guess you could say we were recognizable. She started following the Stars when Andy Moog was in Dallas, and has been a fan ever since. She and her husband live in Saskatchewan and traveled to Edmonton and Calgary to see the Stars play.

We ran into several Stars fans randomly, and I noticed two things about them. The first is that most of their jerseys are the old school star jerseys. The second is that most of them are just blank jerseys, with no player names and numbers. When we were walking out after the game, we had two girls randomly yell "GO STARS!" at us as they walked by. Funny how like recognizes like.

I was very impressed at Calgary fans. They were all into the game, and when you're there it's a sea of red Calgary jerseys. Almost everyone it seemed had one on. They were loud, into the game, and also gave us funny looks when we yelled out STARS during the national anthem. The in game presentation was also really cool. They have a trumpeter that goes around to different parts of the arena and plays "Charge!" and other little diddies like that. I couldn't help but think how cool it would be for "Deep in the heart of Texas" to be played on a trumpet at Stars games.

During the game, a lady came and sat down next to us. She's actually from Arlington, and is here on business. She saw some people wearing Stars gear around town and found the team was in town and came out to see the game. How funny she ended up next to two Dallas fans. The older gentlemen behind us gave us some funny chirps throughout the game, but his funniest line was, as the game headed to overtime: "Don't worry, we're terrible in overtime. Even worse in the shootout!"

It seems as though everyone told me to do two things when I went to Canada: eat poutine and go to Tim Horton's. We had poutine on Saturday night, and I had no idea there were different kinds. We tried five different kinds, to be exact (we were out with three other people, so everyone ordered one and each was something different.) Philly cheesesteak, chili, yamtastic (fries made with yams instead of potatoes), some kind with jalapenos. It was all very delicious, though I give the edge to the chili flavor - it tasted very similar to a frito pie.

We have been in Canada now for several days, and we finally did get some Tim Horton's. There's one right across the street from our hotel, so we went and got some timbits and drinks (I don't drink coffee - crazy, I know - but their hot chocolate is divine.) It must have snowed at some point last night between us getting back to the hotel and awake this morning, as it's snowy and slushy outside. But the walk across to Tim Horton's was well worth the cold and wet.

We're off to Vancouver tomorrow. We're two for two so far, can we make it three for three?

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