My Winter Classic: A Perfect Moment in Time
Yesterday was the best day.
By the time I finally fell into my own bed last night at 1 am, I’d walked 13,000 steps (according to my watch), eaten far too many greasy, spicy things than can possibly be good for my digestive health, screamed myself absolutely hoarse, made the long drive down 35 to Austin, and watched the most exciting game of hockey I’ve ever seen. (And that includes playoff wins!)
But that’s getting really far ahead of myself. The early part of the day was marked by frustrating logistics. Getting down to the game wasn’t the easiest of tasks, even though trains run right to the front door of the Cotton Bowl Stadium. I’m not sure if the Dallas transit systems just didn’t anticipate the number of people attending (even though the ticket sales were, you know, there) or if they just don’t have the trains available, but we had almost given up ever boarding the consistently packed trains coming through our station and ordering a Lyft from one of the downtown stations, when some extra buses finally came to our rescue.
The buses were pretty cool though. We’d been standing waiting for the trains with a big mix of Nashville Predators fans and Dallas Stars fans, but only the Stars fans peeled off for the bus. The party atmosphere definitely kicked up a notch on the bus, though that may also be because the buses were heated and we’d been standing around in the cold.
I haven’t been to Fair Park since I came to the State Fair my sophomore year of college (back in . . . 2000), so I definitely was not prepared for how sprawling the complex is. The bus dropped us off on one end and I had to meet a friend at the other. Eventually we gave up and had her come to us, but while we were waiting we had a celebrity sighting. I got to watch Robert Tiffin (he of Editorial and Afterwords fame) watch former Dallas Star Ales Hemsky walk through the gate, which was pretty fun. If you weren’t aware that Robert’s a big fan, you are now.
You’ve probably heard this, you probably saw it if you were watching, and you definitely experienced this if you were there—but the grounds were super crowded. I can’t talk about the day without mentioning it at least once. I remember New Year’s Eve when the Stars were doing Party on the Plaza and the plaza was so crowded you threw yourself into the stream and let it take you where it would because there was no aiming at anything, and this was almost as bad. I can’t really count that as a detriment because there wasn’t much anyone could have done given the venue, but I definitely brushed up against more people than I’m genuinely comfortable with. After I got to my seat and left to go to the bathroom before the pre-game show started, it took me 40 minutes to navigate the crowd between me and the restrooms. This was maybe 20 feet down the concourse.
Remember when they said no one cared about hockey in Texas? pic.twitter.com/e05HVsFCSn— Winter Classically Merrin (@merrinish) January 2, 2020
We didn’t hang out in the Midway before the game because of the crowds, which didn’t really matter because they all followed us into the stadium. It had also taken so long to get there that we didn’t want to miss any of the pre-game show. I was truly unprepared for how good our seats were going to be. Our group had sprung for a more expensive ticket price, and after finding where our seats were, I did not regret a single penny that had gone to paying for them. We were high enough up that we had a really good view of the ice, and low enough that we felt like part of the action.
These seats were worth every penny pic.twitter.com/tJ8A7QbqGw— Winter Classically Merrin (@merrinish) January 1, 2020
We were on the pig-racing and sword-swallowing side of the field, which means we were also close by when the horses freaked out at the fireworks during the anthem and when the sword swallower messed up his own gag by dropping his bowling pins. I don’t know if they showed the anthem on TV, but I’ve never heard so many people screaming “STARS” in my entire life. You just had to let the noise of the day wash over you and add to it as necessary, which I absolutely did.
I saw puck drop, but I’m going to have to make a confession here, I left my seat shortly after and went to get in a food line, because by that time it was 1 pm and I hadn’t eaten since 7 am and I was absolutely starving. So I was in line when Corey Perry elbowed Ryan Ellis and got ejected from the game, and I was in line for the two subsequent power play goals. Because the lines were so long, I didn’t get back to my seat until almost the end of the first, but I got to miss the wretched parts of the game, so honestly I’m mostly okay with that.
(I am sad I missed Perry’s walk of shame, but at least there’s a million fun memes of it.)
My section of the stadium basically never sat down during game play, which was nice because bouncing around kept me warmer, and because I’m too tall for the seats and couldn’t sit without cutting the circulation to my lower legs off. Even with the crowds, any time I sat down was probably the most miserable part of the day.
Obviously the second and third periods were better than the first. I don’t have a ton to say about the intermission entertainment except that I’d never heard of Dan and Shay before they were announced as the entertainment, and pig racing is hilarious.
A short aside about the pig racing: when Ro “Ham” Josi won it all, the Predators fan in front of us turned around and said “at least he won something today,” so those fans were all right. At some point in the third he turned around and thanked us for being cool about everything. We gave them high fives after the game. They were disappointed but practical and definitely in it for the experience.
You’ve read the recaps and probably watched the game yourselves, so I’m not going to get into much of the nitty-gritty here. When Blake Comeau scored at the end of the second, we’d been begging for a dignity goal for so long that I was genuinely shocked they got it done. We laughed, we hugged, we screamed our brains out, but that moment had nothing on the third.
Mattias Janmark tying the game was huge, but Alexander Radulov and the go-ahead goal is a slice of time that will live with me forever. Lifting my eyes to the overcast sky and absolutely screaming my joy to the heavens was amazing. We jumped, we hugged, we literally cried, we pumped our fists in the air to the goal song along with more than 85,000 friends.
Perfect days don’t exist. I’ve been chasing them for years, but perfect moments do and that was one of them.
The goal from Andrej Sekera was just icing on the cake, and I could have done without the Stars turtling up to close out the third period, but since all’s well that ends well, I’m not going to quibble about that today. The final buzzer was the trumpeting sound of angels announcing the good works of the hockey gods, and that last bouncing hug around Ben Bishop is going to stick with me.
We stopped in at the Midway and rode the ferris wheel to close out our day. We believe that’s what Jamie Benn, noted fan of really high heights, would have wanted.
It wasn’t perfect. It was crowded and messy and the lines for everything were really long and Corey Perry definitely Corey Perryed. But it was filled with perfect moments, perfect slices in time that I’ll have with me forever, and I got to experience it with some of the best, funniest, coolest people I’ve ever known. And that? That’s what counts.