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Saturday, September 11, 2010

The NHL Weekend Roadie: Singing the Blues

In the first two installments of The NHL Weekend Roadie, we OGA Boys touted a four-games-in-three-days East Coast swing and a three-in-three West Coast walkabout. For the third weekend of the upcoming NHL season, OGA goes straight up the middle for two games in two days in The Gateway City, St. Louis.

The itinerary:

NHL Week Three (Friday, 22 OCT – Sunday, 24 OCT)

Friday, 22 OCT: Chicago @ St. Louis – The New and…Improved(?) Blackhawks make their first appearance of the season in Saint Loo on this night - the second meeting of the young season for these old Norris Division rivals (they play in Chicago on Monday, 18 OCT). Last season, the OGA Boys drove from Dallas to St. Louis for the Blues-Blackhawks game on 2 JAN, and it was well worth the trip. Blues fans are among the best in the league, and they really get fired up when the Hawks come to town. On this night, the house will be rockin’.

Saturday, 23 OCT: Pittsburgh @ St. Louis – Crosby, Malkin & Associates roll into town for an all-too-rare visit. I’m calling it right now: Blues’ Coach Davis Payne starts Ty Conklin against (one of) the goalie’s (five) former team(s), Cam Janssen goes at least two rounds against Eric Godard, and BJ Crombeen (6’2”, 210) drops the gloves with Mike Rupp (6’5”, 230) and battles him to an epic draw. Who wins the game? Who cares? It’s gonna be fun to watch.

Back-to-back games in the same city. What more could you ask for? Another Penguins game? Okay, fly into Nashville on Thursday, 21 OCT for Penguins @ Predators, then rent a car and drive the 309 miles to St. Louis in about five hours on Friday morning. On Sunday, it’s an easy drive back to Music City for your flight home.

HOTELS – Currently on Hotwire.com (where prices change all the time), a 3.5-star hotel room near the airport can be had for just $55/night on the weekend of 22-24 OCT, while 3.5 stars downtown (within walking distance of the Scottrade Center) will cost you $69/night. If money is no concern, skip Hotwire and stay just two blocks away from the arena at the Union Station Marriott for $169/night, or four blocks away at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch for $139/night. (NOTE: the OGA Boys booked the Hyatt Regency through Hotwire last January for $69/night)

FLIGHTS – Strategically located in Middle America, St. Louis is a short flight from most locales. Direct flights are available from 22 of 29 NHL cities. (Toronto is the only Canadian NHL city with direct service to St. Louis, while San Jose and Buffalo are the only American NHL cities without it.)

FOOD – There are at least two good reasons to eat at St. Louis’ Iron Barley: oak roasted pork tenderloin and schnitzel with spaetzle. Both entrees are Certified OGA Tested and Approved. This small, crowded-but-worth-the-wait restaurant won’t disappoint. On the other hand, if you have the opportunity to sample some authentic St. Louis-style pizza…PASS. Two main features distinguish St. Louis-style pizza from the rest of the pizza universe: a thin, cracker-like crust and Provel cheese. The thin crust is fine. Provel, on the other hand, is a blend of Provolone, Swiss and White Cheddar cheeses, the end result being a taste similar to Cheez Whiz, and a texture reminiscent of half-dried Elmer’s glue. If you’re one of those kids who ate glue back in grade school, it’s a trip down memory lane.

TICKETS – The Blues split their home games into five categories: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Value. Single-game ticket pricing varies accordingly. Both games of this roadie fall into the Platinum category, so good lower-level seats will run a minimum of $65 plus additional facility charges, service charges, convenience fees, transaction fees, etc. (Thank you, Ticketmaster!) Said fees vary according to the base ticket price, but a $65 ducat will cost you $74.70, plus a transaction fee of roughly $2-$4 (and more, depending upon which method of delivery you choose). As of this writing, great seats are still available for both games.

GETTING AROUND – The Gateway City is easy to navigate by car, but the Metrolink light rail system is also quite hassle-free and runs from the airport to the Scottrade Center and beyond. Metrolink doesn’t run everywhere, though: Iron Barley, for example, is a cab or bus ride from the nearest train station.

The third NHL Weekend Roadie is an easy trip, perfect for those who don’t want to spend a sizable chunk of their time on the road. Two guaranteed-good games in two nights. Passionate, friendly fans. A great city with some great food (Provel-laced pizza aside). Time to make reservations, buy tickets and pack a bag, hockey fans.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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