Thoughts and observations from the Niagara IceDogs’ 2017-2018 home opener against the visiting Erie Otters to kick off my fourth season of IceDogs hockey since relocating to St. Catharines:
1. Don’t ask me why, but the drivers on the road on the way to the rink seemed to be in a particularly ornery mood. Maybe because it was Friday night.
2. I passed by two people with dogs and both had their canines on leashes. This is not the Old Country.
3. Sign of the times: A woman sitting in a park with her head down busy with her phone and not paying the slightest bit of attention to her children.
4. Odd sightings en route: A biker sitting in a bar was a spitting image of the poor sap whom Arnold Schwarzenegger targeted in the opening scene of Terminator 2. Not more than two blocks later, the cyclist I spotted on Welland Avenue bore a striking facial resemblance to former IceDog Brendan Perlini.
5. Maybe I’m just noticing them more, but many, shall we say, diverse characters were coming out of the woodwork as I made my way through downtown. One of the strangest was a woman lying on the ground who was so disoriented after getting up that she nearly staggered into me. I don’t want to know the substance she was under the influence of.
6. The purpose of this headless mannequin on St. Paul Street is …
7. Why our civic leaders are celebrating the installation of a crosswalk half a block from a traffic light as a great accomplishment is something I don’t quite understand.
8. The long line on the Rankin Gateway of people waiting for the privilege of getting in.
9. When we were finally allowed in around 6:05, ravenous and rude rent-a-copettes were again rifling through bags and purses just as they had been back when the building first opened. In response to complaints, the practice had since been greatly relaxed, but it’s apparently back and with a vengeance. I hope it’s not the case of the new general manager looking to flex his muscle in order to impress his masters at SMG.
9a. Being among the thick crowds, I was able to run a pass pattern to avoid them and sneak in a juice box. Take that, SMG!
10. Outrageously priced souvenir item of the night: A baby outfit for $15.
11. This season’s menu and prices at the concessions, which did a booming business:
11a. The two women seated to my immediate left each had a mozza burger and three beers and shared a tub of popcorn, spending more than double the cost of their respective tickets in the process. And they probably drove home.
11b. Seeing how much cash people blow at the concessions, it’s no wonder the governments they elect spend money so wildly.
12. Obligatory scoreboard and center ice shots:
13. The usher at section 106 who was standing in the middle of the aisle acted as if she was doing me a big favor when she got out of my way. The role of an usher is to help patrons, not to obstruct passageways. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
13a. Note to IceDogs ushers: Being a volunteer does not entitle you to annoy the living daylights out of paying customers.
14. There was a booth from a radio station offering a chance to win tickets to see Elton John at the Meridian Center. The school project I was forced to do on him in Grade 4 is the only reason I even know who Elton John is.
15. New sponsors this year include Niagara Airbus, whose service brought me from Pearson Airport to my new home on the historic day of August 1, 2014 when I became an Ontario resident, as well as OPSEU, which is advertising on the ice and on one of the Zamboni machines. Like I always wondered with MGEU, why do they feel the need to advertise? It’s not as though public sector employees can go to another union.
16. Sadly, Horizon Utilities remains a sponsor. I still do not understand why does a publicly owned utility with a monopoly has any need to spend money to promote its brand. And why the municipalities which own Horizon/Alectra do not put a stop to this frivolous practice with an iron fist.
17. I liked this clever IceDogs-themed ad:
18. There were many familiar faces in the crowd. Perhaps I’m becoming one of them. After all, this is a small town.
19. Among the crowd of 4,768 that, if anything, was under-reported, was a big contingent from the Commonwealth who came to see their team, including the group in my row. Seated to my immediate right was a 40-something teenager who spent the entire night trying to become the next Howie Meeker. Her favorite player appeared to be Christian Girhiny, whom she first called “Pogo” then later “Coco.” Her calls of “hit ‘em,” “skate, Jordan,” “Jordan, what are you doing?” and “get up there, get up there” were pretty tame, but I nearly jumped when she yelled “Shoooot!”
20. Seated in the section to my right was a woman in her 20s with “LOVE ME Always and Forever” emblazoned on the back of her blouse. Are people that desperate for affection?
21. Sadly, the band was back, but at least they weren’t too obnoxious.
22. The presence of so many higher, designer numbers on this year’s roster is further proof Marty Williamson is no longer in charge.
23. I’ve officially lost hope that the glass will ever be cleaned in that building. Worse yet, the floor beneath my seat was so sticky that I had to keep moving my feet during the game to avoid the risk of having my shoes permanently adhere to it. I suppose the off-season wasn’t long enough for them to clean the place properly. *eyeroll*
24. Before the game, I did another eyeroll as they again showed the “Hockey Night in Niagara” graphic on the scoreboard. Funny, but I don’t see any other Niagara municipality rushing to help pitch in to help retire the debt and share in the cost of maintaining the building. Yet they’re more than willing to share in the glory and celebrate the IceDogs as a regional team. Yes, that remains a sore point.
25. Among the hockey operations staff introduced before the game was the IceDogs’ new director of analytics. Seriously? This is junior hockey, not the NHL. Let the kids have a little fun, for the love of Pete(tm).
26. Dear public address announcer whose name I will not repeat since he loves to promote himself so much: We know that St. Catharines, Thorold, Mississauga and Oakville are in Ontario. When giving the player’s hometown in the introductions, you don’t have to repeat it each and every time. Even if we didn’t know, the fact that we’re at an Ontario Hockey League game might give it away.
27. It was a nice touch to honor longtime season ticket holders and others in the IceDogs family who had passed away in the off-season with a moment of silence before the game.
28. The Grand Avenue Public School choir handled the anthems poorly and sadly, did part of the Canadian anthem in Quebecese. Not cool.
29. The winner of the “Move of the Game” was a little kid named Gavin, the same name of the lead character in Shattered Dreams, my fifth book.
30. When visiting the washroom, I noticed many people using the sinks as well as the urinals. Once again, this is not the Old Country.
31. Oh by the way, there was a game going on. The first period was relatively uneventful, and despite the rash of penalties called in the second, it wasn’t until the 16:45 mark that the IceDogs opened the scoring. Erie answered just over a minute later, but the IceDogs regained the lead early in the third and put the game away with two more late in the period.
32. In the third period, I laughed as Elijah Roberts tried to put a spinerama move on an attacking Erie forward at the Otters’ blue line. Kid, you’re not the second coming of Serge Savard.
33. The IceDogs saluting the crowd after the game:
34. While waiting for the bus after the game, I spotted a guy wheeling a bike to the platform. He likely didn’t know it, but his bike needed a new cog. He also seemed to have a great deal of trouble figuring out how to read the board showing when the next buses are coming. They taught us that in Grade 8, but it didn’t look like he had gotten that far in school before dropping out. Or flunking out, if they allow that these days with the “no-fail” policies in place.
35. On the bus, the back door opened automatically and all but one departing passenger thanked the driver. You’ve heard this before, but this is not the Old Country.