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Monday, November 8, 2010

NHL Weekend Roadie: The Widowmaker

This installment of the NHL Weekend Roadie is aptly named, “The Widowmaker”. The name is apropos because, when you tell your Significant Other you’re taking this trip, she’s going to kill you.

If you’re single (or looking to become single), you’ve passed the first major hurdle. Next, you have to ask yourself some questions, such as:

1. How close am I to my family?
2. How dedicated am I to The Great Game?
3. Can my bank account withstand a roadie of epic proportions?
4. How long can I survive on arena food before scurvy sets in?

If your answers to the above questions are, “Not Very”, “VERY”, “Probably” and “At least a week”, then read on.

The itinerary:

NHL Weeks Seven AND Eight (Friday, 19 NOV – Monday, 28 NOV)

Friday, 19 NOV: Washington @ Atlanta – This epic roadie kicks off in Hotlanta with a tilt between Southeast division rivals. The last time these teams met at Philips Arena, Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed on the ice and exited the arena on a stretcher, but Atlanta rallied for an emotional 4-2 win. While this game (hopefully) won’t be quite so dramatic, it promises to be a good one.

Saturday, 20 NOV: Nashville @ Carolina – Today, you’re up early and on the road, as you’ve got a 411 mile, seven-hour drive ahead of you. As mentioned in a previous post, plan on getting to the RBC Center early to tailgate with the Hurricanes fans. After the party, the real fun begins: a game between regional rivals. Will ‘Canes rookie Jeff Skinner go all highlight reel on the Preds? Will Shea Weber, like Stella, get his groove back? It’s worth the drive to find out.

Sunday, 21 NOV: NY Islanders @ Atlanta – Remember that 411 mile, seven-hour drive? Well, you’re doing it again today. This game starts at 5:00pm, so plan accordingly – these are two up-and-coming clubs, so you won’t want to miss any of the action. Which goalie will collapse first – Pavelec, or the Isles’ Rick DiPietro?

Monday, 22 NOV: Boston @ Tampa Bay – Tampa is 456 miles/7.5 hours from Atlanta, so you might want to consider driving part-way after the Thrashers-Isles game Sunday night. Your fourth game in as many nights features two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, so it shouldn’t disappoint. This will be the first time to see newly-minted superstar Steve Stamkos and 2010’s No.2 draft pick, Tyler Seguin, on the same sheet of ice.

Tuesday, 23 NOV: REST – Hey, after four-in-four and 1278 miles, you’ve earned a day off. Sleep in, then head over to Indian Rocks Beach for lunch at Keegan’s Seafood Grille. Explore Tampa if you like, but above all, take it easy.

Wednesday, 24 NOV: NY Rangers @ Tampa Bay – If the Rangers are playing anywhere in Florida, expect an energized, sellout crowd. The Blueshirts are currently playing the best hockey of Coach John Tortorella’s tenure, while the Stamkos-led Lightning are surging. This Thanksgiving-eve matchup might just be the highlight of the trip.

Thursday, 25 NOV: American Thanksgiving – The holiday gives you another day off. Call your family from the beach and quote Jimmy Buffett to them: “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.” They’ll hang up, of course, but you’ll be able to say you did your familial duty. Enjoy the rest of the day. Have some turkey and dressing…or mahi-mahi and a margarita, perhaps. Watch football if you must. Tomorrow begins the last leg of your epic journey.

Friday, 26 NOV: NY Rangers @ Florida – Your 229 mile, four-hour drive today should be a breeze. As with Wednesday night’s game in Tampa, expect a sellout. Don’t let the Panthers’ current 5-7-0 record fool you – heinous officiating was a direct contributor to two of their losses. The Panthers and Rangers are two of the hardest-working teams in the NHL right now, so expect plenty of blood, toil, tears and sweat tonight.

Saturday, 27 NOV: Florida @ Tampa Bay – It’s 229 miles/four hours back to Tampa on this day. While this rivalry has lost intensity over the past few seasons, it looks to be heating up again. Back in September, many pundits picked the Lightning to return to the playoffs and the Panthers to return to the Southeast division cellar. In the first meeting of the season between these clubs, Florida spanked Tampa, 6-0, in Sunrise. Tonight, the Lightning will attempt to return the favor in front of their own fans.

Sunday, 28 NOV: Boston @ Atlanta – Your final drive of the trip is another 456 miles/7.5 hours back to the beginning of “The Widowmaker” – Atlanta. If you’ve made it this far and aren’t having nightmares involving hot dogs and nachos, consider yourself lucky. Because no journey should end without a reward, the OGA Boys hereby make the following offer: The first person to email mike@ongoalanalysis.com will receive two FREE tickets to this Bruins-Thrashers game.

Monday, 29 NOV: GO HOME…to whatever home remains after eight games in ten days, over 2,192 miles.

So that’s it: an epic Thanksgiving holiday week roadie. The OGA Boys’ record roadie thus far is five games in five days (including a Columbus Day doubleheader at Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square Garden), so we know eight-in-ten is very doable (though our wives say otherwise). If you can pull off this road trip, let us know; we’ll be happy to testify on your behalf at your divorce hearing.

HOTELS – Check Hotwire.com for your hotel needs in Atlanta, Raleigh, Tampa and Sunrise. Right now, there are great deals to be had on four-star joints in Tampa and North Fort Lauderdale on the applicable dates.

FLIGHTS – You’ll be flying into (and out of) Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, which is the busiest airport in the world. If you don’t factor delays into your travel, you will regret it. If you’re flying in on Friday, 19 NOV, book an early morning flight.

FOOD – Check these sites for great one-of-a-kind (non-chain restaurant) dining:
Anywhere: http://www.roadfood.com/ or http://www.flavortownusa.com/
In Atlanta: http://www.atlanta.net/dining/index.aspx
In Raleigh: http://www.visitraleigh.com/visitors/restaurants/
In Tampa: http://tboextra.com/dining/
In Sunrise: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/494808

TICKETS – Tickets are available through all team websites, as well as StubHub. For those too lazy to Google it, here are the links:
Atlanta Thrashers
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning

GETTING AROUND – Three words: REN.TAL.CAR. Get one with unlimited miles, or you’ll quickly discover it would’ve been cheaper to simply buy a used car, then re-sell it at the end of the trip.

Yes, this special edition of the NHL Weekend Roadie is very Southeast Division-centric, and with good reason: First and foremost, the Southeast is rapidly becoming the most exciting division in the NHL, as the dominance of the Washington Capitals has forced Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida to change in order to become more competitive. Also, with all the “windshield time” involved in this roadie, good driving conditions are a must, and the weather in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida is quite nice in November. You call yourself a hockey fan? Prove it – hit the road!

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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