Five games in five days in four arenas. What a trip! I won't speak for Frozen Pill or The Colonel, but the following are my impressions:
Most fired-up fans: Capitals. They're still on a high from last season's run to the playoffs, and are expecting even more this year. The Caps' home opener against Chicago had a distinct playoff atmosphere. Not a season-opener I'm-so-glad-it's-hockey-time-again atmosphere, a we-want-the-Cup-and-we'll-crush-anyone-who-gets-in-our-way atmosphere. The Phone Booth was rockin', and I expect it to continue into May.
Best fans: Doing my best to set aside personal bias here, but...Rangers fans, hands down. When the Blueshirts are winning, the fans love 'em, and when they're struggling, the fans still show up...to let them know how badly they suck. Win or lose, though, they're proud to be Ranger fans. As a fightin' Texas Aggie (and a Ranger fan), I can respect that.
Worst fans: Surprisingly, I was very disappointed by Penguins fans. During the National Anthem, we three OGA hockey crusaders were the only people in our section with hands over our hearts. When an active duty soldier attending the game was recognized and his name was flashed on the scoreboard, the applause was tepid, at best (a stark contrast to the standing ovations given to servicemen and women at Dallas Stars' games). Lack of patriotism aside, the fans didn't seem to really be into the game...against Philly, for Pete's sake! Wake up, Pittsburgh!
Most beleaguered fans: Islanders. Even though my loyalty doesn't extend east of the Brooklyn bridge, I feel sorry for these folks. I give credit to Isles management for trying to make the games as enjoyable as possible (good food at Nassau Coliseum - best hot dog of the trip!), but they still have work to do, both on-and off-ice.
For starters, the Isles have a section of the press box reserved for bloggers, to whom they issue credentials. This is a great idea, a great way to reach out to the fans and get them involved. OGA contacted the Isles...SIX TIMES...to try to obtain said credentials, and received no response. None. Not a word. Next, when the lineup and scratches for the Sabres were announced, the graphic on the scoreboard was for the St. Louis Blues. Also, after one Buffalo goal, the goal lamp was left on for quite some time after the puck was dropped to re-start the game. All of the above paled in comparison to the woeful product on the ice. As a Ranger fan, I found myself actually feeling pity for the Isles. C'mon, guys - justify my hatred!
Most comfortable arena: The Verizon Center. Modern, with wide concourses and easy ingress/egress. Reminded me quite a bit of the AAC in Dallas.
Coolest arena: Mellon Arena. Literally. It was the only stop on the trip in which I wished I'd worn more than a t-shirt. Also, we sat five rows from the top of section E29 (2nd deck), and felt like we were just above the ice. Best seats of the trip.
Madison Square Garden: I'm at a loss to categorize The House That Tex Built, but I have to talk about it. MSG reminds me of the Roman Coliseum. Sitting in the Blue Seats is the only way to fly, as that's where the best fans can be found. Definitely not for families, unless you consider "Slap Shot" or "Goodfellas" to be family movies. It was a dream come true to see two games at MSG, but...can someone turn on the A/C?!?! I've never perspired so much through a hockey game that I didn't play in. That aside, I can't wait to go back.
It was truly a great trip, and OGA looks forward to doing it again next year. Where will we go? At this time, we have no idea! Could be a trip to the East again (Boston-Ottawa-Montreal), or down South (Florida-Tampa-Atlanta-Carolina), or maybe a Midwestern trip (Chicago-Detroit-Toronto-Buffalo), or something else entirely. When we figure it out, we'll let you know. In the meantime, OGA will keep you posted on the playoff prospects of your favorite team. Keep checking back here for updates!