Friday, January 10, 2014

The Bridgestone Winter Classic, 105 thousand people, a reluctant new leafs fan and a promise made

I may be the worst person and keeping secrets...ever! Not the kind of deep personal secrets that no decent human would ever think to share, but the fun kind, the no poker face, the don't spoil the surprise party kind, the secret Christmas present kind.

Back at the beginning of October my cousin Krista called me up with an awesome idea for a birthday gift for her husband and a Christmas gift for Kevin. Since it was infinitely better than any gift I would have likely dreamed up, I jumped at the idea (and spent my whole Christmas Budget in one go).

Tickets to the Bridgestone Winter Classic, at the Big House in Auburn Hills.

For those of you who aren't into hockey, this is the annual outdoor NHL game, played on New Years Day each year, often in a football stadium, typically involving two American Teams (although lets be honest, you're not likely to see a match up between the Kings and the Ducks). This year's match up proved to be the perfect gift for these guys, since it was between their two favourite teams, the Detroit Red Wings and for the first time, a Canadian team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Having bought the tickets so long before Christmas, it was a struggle not to let the secret out, especially considering how excited I was for the game, and the road trip to go with it. My strategy, tell everyone I possibly could except for Kevin. This included total strangers, colleagues, friends and family. On Christmas morning, I'm pretty sure he was the only one to find out. And since the tickets were waiting for us up in the Sault, what would I wrap up? A set of hand warmers to be opened first. Followed by a hand knit scarf (blue and white of course). Finally, I stole his very own Toronto jersey from his closet and wrapped it up, inside of which I tucked a printed copy of the photo of the tickets.

Needless to say, I'll be hard pressed to top this Christmas morning surprise!

So we celebrated New Years Eve, and were in bed asleep by 12:15, so we could hit the road bright and early for the drive down to the Big House.

We bundled up nice and warm in the mall parking lot, 2 miles from the Stadium, and despite poorly organized shuttle buses, and hour and a half waited in lines going nowhere and a subsequent 2 mile walk, we made it to the game on time!

Us and over 105,000 blue and red eager hockey fans!

I cannot describe the experience, the sense of awe, that walking through the tunnel and into the stadium had on me, it was overwhelming. If only it held the power to keep me warm. Despite many layers of clothes, hand warmers crammed into boots and gloves and the heat of the crowd; winter prevailed. The constant driving snow and wind (directly into our faces of course) and the freezing temperatures were just too much. I must admit I watched half of the 3rd period from inside the relatively warm merchandise shop (and picked up a super cute shirt!).

But I was out there for the goals, for the cheers, for the edge of your seat end of the 3rd period (a tied game), for the overtime where we may have been saved by the buzzer (half way through to switch sides right during a Detroit breakaway) and through the shootout from which the leafs came away victorious!

It was an amazing day and a perfect game, even if our 50 dollar six pack of tall boys was freezing as fast as we could drink them! And a memory I'm sure we'll all cherish!

If you were one of the other 100 thousand of so die hard fans who braved the cold, let me know about it in the comments!

And if you're wondering, I am reluctantly now a leafs fan! It would seem that along with my fingers and toes, hell also froze over at that game. So maybe now they'll even win the cup! And the promise made? If they do it this season, I'm getting a kitten!

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