Road Trip to the 2012 Winter Classic and NYC

For the past few years, I've made a point to go on a hockey road trip. I pick a new city and go to catch a game in a different arena.  (Last year was Pittsburgh; the year before was Dallas)  When my favorite active player Brad Richards signed in New York, I was excited at the prospect of heading back to that great city for my annual road trip. When the Winter Classic was officially announced to take place between his Rangers and the Flyers in Philadelphia, I day dreamed about being able to double dip with that game and one at MSG. I went ahead with plans to go to New York City the first week of January. I didn't really think that I'd go to the Winter Classic, but it never left my head.  Fast forward to mid-December. I signed in to Facebook one morning, and the New York Rangers posted a link to sign up for a chance to buy tickets to the Winter Classic. It said that tickets would be available on a first come, first served basis. The message was posted "4 seconds ago." I paused for a second thinking, why bother? But, "4 seconds ago." Those were good odds. I clicked the link and filled out the form. The confirmation said I would be contacted the next day by a ticket representative.

The next morning, my phone rang at 7am. I'm not a morning person. Not in the slightest. I was not happy. But I looked at my phone, and it was a 212 area code. My heart leaped. I was convinced it was a call to say, "sorry, all gone." Nope. I was one of the lucky ones to actually get tickets. Wow! While not cheap, it was an amazing opportunity. January is our rainy season in California, so I really doubt a Winter Classic will ever be able to be held out my way. Plus, Mathieu was playing in the Alumni Game, and it would give me a chance to see both of my guys play in the same weekend (which, if you remember was a chance I had dashed by Dave Tippet in Dallas a few years ago. I'm still mad).  It was all too good to pass up, so I bought the tickets.

Leading up to departure, I had reservations. What was I doing? It was such a big deal. I'd be gone for so long. I was traveling alone. I needed to find someone to go to the game with. The cost was adding up. The night before I left, I was more anxious than excited. I resolved to just go with the flow, and make the most out of anything.  

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. This trip turned out to be almost too spectacular for words.  As per my usual recaps, here is a bullet list of highlights:
  • Attended the Alumni Game, and watched Mathieu play in one more game. Other highlights were seeing Bernie Parent put on the old mask and play goal and Eric Lindros and John LeClair connect for a goal. And Eric Desjardins is still amazing.
  • Rang in the new year with good friend Joe, and a ton of NHL legends. Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mark Howe, Stephane Matteau, Eric Lindros, Ron Hextall, John Vanbeisbrouck, Jeremy Roenick, and Mike Richter were all at the hotel bar toasting to midnight. Not everyday I get to say "Happy New Year" to Hall of Famers.
  • Observed the nuttiness that is the Mummers Parade down Broad Street. 
  • Ate an authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak. (Walked 4 miles round trip for it. Totally worth it!)
  • Took in some of my country's history by visiting Independence Hall (where the Constitution was signed), the Liberty Bell, and the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin.
  • Ran up the Rocky steps.

  • Noticed that Philadelphia has a massive number of statues. On top of their buildings, in the middle of the street, in parks. I saw statues of famous people (Washington, Penn, Rocky) and by famous people (Rodin).
  • Watched an outdoor NHL hockey game with 46,000 people on a freezing cold evening. It even snowed for awhile. 
  • Saw my favorite active player score the GAME WINNING GOAL at the Winter Classic. Luckily it stayed the game winner despite a penalty shot awarded to the Flyers with just seconds to go. I thought it would surely be tied after that. Henrik Lundqvist, you amazing goalie and beautiful (BEAUTIFUL!) man!! 
  • Took a subway full of Philly fans after the game and survived. Luckily, I had no problems. but I saw some nastiness here and there. Just enough to confirm the reputation of the fringe.
  • Saw a piece of Einstein's brain at the Mütter Museum.
  • Took my first ever real train ride, from Philly to NYC. Amtrak isn't really a big thing in California, so I've only really been on subways and light rail.
  • Slept under the shadow of the Empire State Building.
  • Spent an entire day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw an unfathomable volume of priceless art and artifacts. 
  • Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Saw the famous Christmas tree and Rockefeller Center all lit up.
  • Bought fabric for new pillows at Mood (Project Runway fans will get the significance).
  • Saw a Gutenberg Bible and the original Winnie the Pooh character dolls at the New York Public Library.
  • Attended a hockey game at the famous Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won in overtime. B-Rad had a goal, but it was later determined to be tipped in front. Assist... Goal... it's still a point. 
  • Attended said game in the presence of the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton.

The atmosphere, the penalty shot with just seconds to go, the game winning goal scorer, the snow... the Winter Classic couldn't have been any more perfect. The great people and great places I was lucky enough to be surrounded with the whole time made the whole trip one of the best experiences ever. I'm still trying to absorb it all. 

And to think, I was worried it would be a waste of time and money!

Note: A big shout out to Sarah D. for all of her help and guidance around her native Philadelphia. Having a local give me the real scoop on the city made the planning so much easier.  Another big shot out to Joe, for being my NYE buddy and train travel companion. And super, giant shouts go out to Cathy and Kate for all that they did for me, from being my "dates" to the games (respectively), to all of the directions and help around the city. And of course for letting me crash on their futon for a night. 

Also, if you like looking at other people's vacation pictures (I do; but I know I'm weird), here are the links to my Facebook albums:

Winter Classic and Philadelphia


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