COLUMBUS, Ohio – Home.
We touched down in the capital city shortly after 3 p.m. local time, putting a bow on a five-day road trip through three cities, two provinces and two time zones (three if you count EST). It was entertaining, enlightening, beneficial, and above all else, fun.
I was able to blog from each of the three western Canadian cities on the trip, hopefully giving you a bit of a peek into what it’s like “out there.” We started in Edmonton, Alberta, which is flat as the summer day is long, but it’s also a town that (for some reason) gets a bit of a bad rap around the league.
Yeah, yeah, so we spent 30 or so hours in Edmonton, but I thought it was a fine town and one that was a cool place to spend a couple of days.
VANCOUVER – We all have fears. Every single one of us. And if you say that you don’t, you’re lying.
So just to get this out there, I have two solidified fears: snakes top the list in any way, shape or form. Snakes in the toilet, snakes in the sky (admittedly less likely than the first), snakes in the ducts of my downtown loft, snakes waiting around every single corner.
And second on the list, we have “insecure or unstable environments at a significant elevation.”
Okay, so it’s a rather precise thing to fear, but once you’ve experienced it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
According to Dictionary.com, a gondola is defined as “a passenger compartment suspended beneath a balloon or airship.” In Edmonton and Calgary, they refer to their press boxes as gondolas (or maybe they don’t officially, but people around the arena call them gondolas) because there are similarities between the two – except for the balloon or airship thing.
For someone who has the fears outlined above, it’s an absolute nightmare.
But, as they say, face your fears!
You’ve never seen someone with legs as short as mine make them seem even shorter. My strides were separated by maybe two inches when I walked up the metal stairs at Rexall Place and over the connecting bridge to the press seating.
The walk takes you over top of the upper bowl and the press box hangs, suspended, on the same eye level as the suites. It’s weird, terrifying, and cool all at the same time.
If you’re not blinded by fear you can feel the gondola move beneath your feet. That’ll wake you up.
Another arena with a suspended press box is Madison Square Garden (it’s called the Chase Bridge), and it’s eerily similar to Rexall Place. The best part about these setups, though, is the view of the ice; you’re right on top of the rink, peering down to the ice surface with a perfect perspective on the action.
Here’s another good thing about gondolas: no snakes.
Tonight’s vantage point at Rogers Arena is more traditional, your standard press box. It’s the ideal setup for tomorrow night in Calgary, where at the Scotiabank Saddledome, we’re teed up for one of the “most terrifying walks in hockey” as someone described to me this week.
So, what’s the best way to handle this irrational and slightly embarrassing fear?
The only way a true digital and social media professional knows how: record it on my iPhone.
VANCOUVER -- If there’s a cooler and more beautiful city on this continent, don’t tell me. And if you do, I will disagree.
Shortly after midnight Pacific time (while you were all soundly asleep back home in Columbus), Blue Jackets Air touched down in Richmond, British Columbia, site of the Vancouver International Airport. It’s about a 30-minute drive into downtown Vancouver from Richmond, and even in darkness, it’s gorgeous.
As soon as you hit the Granville Bridge and drive over the island and into the city, it explodes right in front of you. We came into town straight down Granville St., and if you can’t find something to do on Granville St., you’re not looking hard enough.
Vancouver’s a big city, yes, but it feels like so much more than your standard metropolis with banks, insurance companies, bad traffic and public transit.
EDMONTON – Alright, yeah, yeah, it’s cold.
Ok, it’s not that bad. I’m being dramatic.
We kicked off this three-games-in-three-cities-in-two-provinces-in-four-days road trip on Monday morning with a 10 a.m. flight out of Columbus. Two hours later, we were on the ground in beautiful Fargo, N.D., so I can check it off the list of places I’ve actually been to that I never thought I would ever visit.
And 25 minutes later, after Blue Jackets Air got herself a healthy refueling, we were back in the air and en route to Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve been here before, kind of sort of, if you count the airport (which I do, kind of sort of) when I was trying to get to Vancouver as soon as possible for vacation.
The first thing I noticed on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel was “holy $#!%, the river is frozen solid.” And not just “we might be able to play a game of hockey here” solid, but like, you could possibly land an airplane on it.
I should have been wearing a sign that said “I’m American” because it was pretty obvious I’m not from around here. But I’m happy to report that I’m a fan of Edmonton. It’s perfectly Canadian.
Like when I went outside to take a photo of Rexall Place and a nice gentleman asked me: "Hey there bahd, are the Oilers still on the ice?"
"I have no idea. Maybe?"
"Alright thanks, bahd - cheers!"
Just like I dreamt it.
Oh, something else: our team hotel has a resident dog named Smudge. And Smudge also has a statue of himself inside the hotel lobby, for those times when you’re wondering if this particular hotel has a resident dog.
I’m hoping Smudge and Torts get to meet at some point before we leave.
After getting settled at the hotel, we headed to Rexall Place for an afternoon practice (4 p.m. local time). It’s cool for me to be on this particular trip and see the Blue Jackets’ final game in this building, because it’s one of the NHL’s most iconic. You see the banners in the rafters, the Wayne Gretzky statue out front and get the generally old-school vibe of the place, and you know you’re in a special rink.
And now, for the first of (hopefully) a few installments: FOOD REVIEW.
We had dinner at the Craft Beer Market downtown Edmonton, a few blocks from our hotel. Not only do they have 100 craft beers on tap but they have some really weird stuff on the menu, and I’m all about the weird stuff.
Exhibit A: fast food sushi.
It’s basically a cheeseburger and fries – cooked, mind you – wrapped in bacon and topped with pickles and jalapeno cream cheese, served like sushi.
Stand down, skeptics, because it’s ridiculously good.
Over the next few days, I’ll check back in and give you an inside look at life on the road. Hope this blog, and its subsequent mention of cheeseburger sushi, didn’t ruin it for you already.
It has certainly been a tough-luck season on the injury front for Sergei Bobrovsky.
A groin injury suffered Dec. 8 vs. Los Angeles (in the final minutes of regulation) caused him to miss the next 17 games, and in that span, he went through a setback that delayed his return date beyond initial three-week diagnosis.
And in his second game back from that injury, he was forced to leave the game with a lower body injury. Joonas Korpisalo took over from that point and made 12 saves in relief.
Bobrovsky had played 31:30 of the Blue Jackets' 4-2 loss to Calgary before departing. He did not return, was not on the bench and if he is out for any amount of time, the Blue Jackets will be recalling a goaltender (likely Anton Forsberg) from the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday.
Scott Hartnell is back in the Blue Jackets’ lineup tonight after sitting out Tuesday’s game as a healthy scratch.
If you’ll recall, Hartnell was the cause of a too many men on the ice penalty in the third period of Saturday’s game against Colorado, a penalty the Blue Jackets managed to kill off in a 1-1 game that they eventually won late in regulation.
On Monday, Hartnell addressed his teammates at the end of practice and apologized for the penalty. It compounded his recent frustration with not contributing offensively, but his coach doesn’t want him to change a thing when he gets back in tonight.
Well, maybe not change, but curb the discipline a bit.
“I don’t want a different Scott Hartnell,” Tortorella said this morning.
John Tortorella has spoken on numerous occasions about building a culture of accountability – “it’s a nice word to use in the summer time,” he says – but certain moments throughout a season reinforce it naturally.
In the third period of Saturday night’s game against Colorado, Scott Hartnell was involved in a skirmish/exchange of words near the Avalanche bench, causing him to be late to the bench on a line change. The Blue Jackets were called for a too many men on the ice penalty, sending Colorado on the power play in a 1-1 game.
Tortorella didn’t like it and Hartnell didn’t play the rest of that game. Today, near the end of practice, Hartnell owned it.
With the team doing its end-of-practice stretch at center ice, Hartnell stood up and apologized to the group, and Tortorella was the first to start banging his stick on the ice in appreciation before the rest of the team followed suit.
With a surplus of defensemen on their roster, the Blue Jackets needed to make a move.
That move came yesterday when they placed Kevin Connauton on waivers. He did not make it through waivers, however, with the Arizona Coyotes claiming him on Wednesday. So now, the Blue Jackets are down to eight defensemen and have an open spot on their 23-player active roster.
Connauton was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night in Brooklyn and had appeared in 27 games for the Blue Jackets this season (one goal, seven assists and a +10 rating). In his first season with Columbus a year ago, the 25-year-old Edmonton native scored nine goals in 54 games after being claimed on waivers from Dallas.
“It looks like a beautiful building,” John Tortorella said of the Barclays Center this morning.
“It’s a pain in the ass to get here.”
He was half-joking, of course (or was he?), after the Blue Jackets wrapped up a morning meeting and prepared for their first-ever game in the new home of the New York Islanders, a Metropolitan Division team with which they’ve brewed a subtly-intriguing rivalry.
The last two meetings in particular have been feisty affairs, the latest a 3-2 overtime win for the Islanders at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 12. The Blue Jackets fought back to force overtime before giving up a 2-on-0 break in sudden death, leaving poor Curtis McElhinney to fend for himself against Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo.