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Old 01-09-2005, 08:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Need a Hockey Fix? Go to Canada!

Just read this article from the San Jose Mercury News. Very nice article aimed at people in San Jose getting over hockey withdrawl but I think it pertains to everyone.

Link is in the article name.

Quote:
Hockey, eh?

SHARKS FANS DESPERATE FOR A SPORTS FIX SHOULD HEAD NORTH TO THE GAME'S HOMELAND

By David Pollak

Mercury News

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - It's midafternoon and, driving slowly through the well-manicured West End residential district near downtown, you've managed to find the sports talk station on the radio.

``If you're not working hard every night in a place like Kamloops, the whole town knows it,'' says the caller, a grown-up analyzing the hockey ethos not of highly paid NHL veterans, but 17-year-old kids in the Western Hockey League who have dreams of playing in the big time.

And that moment confirms what brought you here in the first place:

Need a hockey fix? Go to Canada. Better yet, go to Kamloops.

The National Hockey League lockout that many think will become a season-long shutdown when owners meet this week doesn't mean fans of the sport have to do without it. Splurge. Take the money normally spent on Sharks tickets or satellite TV packages or replica jerseys and head north.

Yes, there are options closer to home. But do it right. Between now and the March 20 end of the WHL season, go to the game's roots. Find your way to the smaller cities of the major junior leagues that are the NHL's primary feeder system.

Hard-core fans will argue that means heading to Ontario, the province that produces the most NHL players. Or the plains of Saskatchewan or Alberta, to towns with classic names like Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat.

But make it easy on yourself. From the Bay Area, take a short non-stop flight from San Francisco to Vancouver, which got its own WHL team, the Giants, last season.

Canada's third-largest city is also a good jumping-off point for drives to two other WHL towns -- Kelowna, where Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan has a place of honor on the wall of the resort city's prime hockey bar, and Kamloops, where present NHL all-stars Jarome Iginla and Scott Niedermayer played as teenagers.

Hockey may be the excuse, but the beauty of this trip is that attractions extend beyond the game.

Vancouver is a vibrant city flourishing in North America's most spectacular natural surroundings. Hit the road to Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley -- think Tahoe in the wine country -- and the scenery can be even more striking, at least what could be seen of it through the falling snow.

Most WHL games are on weekends, and the December schedule provided the opportunity to watch games in the three cities on consecutive nights.

Back in the day, major juniors teams played in World War II-era arenas that held maybe 3,000 people and had a certain mustiness about them. Not anymore.

Today most of the WHL is more like a mini-NHL, and what's lost in old-school ambience is made up for in comfort and better sightlines. For anyone used to NHL ticket prices, these are a bargain: $16-$18 in Vancouver, $15 in Kelowna and $14-$16 in Kamloops (all prices in Canadian dollars).

On this trip, though, the journey is almost as important as the destination.

Checking out the distances -- 240 miles from Vancouver to Kelowna, 130 miles from Kelowna to Kamloops, 217 miles from Kamloops to Vancouver -- it seemed efficient and doable.

So how did everything end up rushed and a little frantic?

For one thing, those are Canadian winter miles. Any trip north of the 49th parallel carries an expectation of cold, but British Columbia's coastal setting made it less daunting than other provinces. The thing is, once you head inland and upward, December showers became serious flurries. Three-hour drives became five-hour treks.

Couple that with the fact that daylight disappeared by 4:30 p.m. -- note to self: next time, check sunset listings -- and you end up driving across a mile-high mountain pass on the way to Kelowna in the darkness, gripping the steering wheel tightly.

Then it hits you. WHL teams manage bus rides that are far longer and far more treacherous than this one on almost every road trip. And you realize that maybe that explains the intensity of the games. Maybe surviving those rides on icy roads makes you even more fearless on the ice itself.
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Old 01-09-2005, 09:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hahaha, somehow I find it impossible to imagine someone from San Jose contemplating what it's like driving from Vancouver to Kelowna up the coq and over the connector in January.... Better have 4wd and winter tires.

[edit]

I really like that article though... Canada loves hockey, more than baseball, football, and basketball combined.
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Old 01-10-2005, 04:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Our you could pay me a visit in Rochester. My boys are taking names and kicking ass....

http://www.amerks.com/

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Old 01-10-2005, 07:52 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Moose Jaw!

That's my favorite name for a town



River Rats... What a lame name for a hockey team!

I'm all about:


Yay Puckman!
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Old 01-10-2005, 09:21 AM   #5 (permalink)
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AHL is good too..I saw the first game of St Johns Maple Leafs vs. Binghamton Senators at the ACC and it was a blast. Also my first time ever going to a hockey game too!
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Old 01-10-2005, 05:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I went to a couple of these guys games:

Its too bad they only lasted a couple of years!
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Old 01-10-2005, 06:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Great article. However, the author used the phrase "grown-up." Who the fuck uses that after puberty? Bleah.

Me? I'll stick with my LIAHL rec. league hockey. And I don't need snow tires.
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Old 01-11-2005, 07:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah I too get my fix from the adult rec league here in S.J. but I sure wish that hockey was a little more readily available here in CA. I can Drive 2-3 hrs down to Fresno but...
I'd rather play. So just my Rec. League and the Vegas Tournament in March.
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