Monday, March 21, 2016

Geek Week 2016, Part 1: Ottawa

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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For the third time in the last five years, I find myself on an extra excursion while on the Road to WrestleMania. Previously, as I recounted on a recent episode of the My 1-2-3 Cents Podcast, I traveled to New York City and Key West, prior to WrestleMania 28 with my friends, Jackie and Gary, whom I’d met at WrestleMania 22 in Chicago. Two years later, Jackie, who was working at a ski resort, and I made a road trip from Banff, Alberta to New Orleans stopping along the way to pick up Kevin before hitting “The Big Easy.”  

Kevin also made an extra trip this year and you can read about his exploits here. While Kevin was smart and headed for the warmth and sunshine of Florida, I went in the opposite direction. My friend Mike decided this was a good week to continue our goal of seeing all 30 NHL arenas with a visit to Buffalo, NY. Originally, Buffalo was the only NHL game we were going to see while hitting up all the New York AHL teams. After looking at the schedules some more, Mike decided it didn’t make much sense to only see one NHL game if we were going to be in the area for a week. Thus, the trip evolved to include stops in Ottawa and Montreal. That sounded good and then I had a look at the weather prediction for the week. Canada was only going to top out around 32 degrees for the days  we’re visiting.  It’s times like this where I don’t understand why people complain about global warming. 

Thursday afternoon (3/17), we skipped all the St. Paddy’s Day celebrations (or so we thought) and flew to Buffalo, arriving at 1am on Friday. After a short night of sleep, it was time to hit the road. Before leaving Buffalo, we stopped by the Wilcox house where Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States following the assassination of President William McKinley. Since I wasn’t that familiar with the events of McKinley’s death and Roosevelt’s taking over the Presidency, the tour was extremely interesting as well as educational. Would definitely recommend it if you ever find yourself in Buffalo. 

After the tour, it was time to hit the road for the five and a half hour drive to Ottawa. Maybe if it weren’t the dead of winter the drive would have been interesting. Instead, the drive was five hours of bare trees and dead grass. Eventually we made it to Ottawa and were ready for the first of three hockey games in three days. 

Once we dropped off the luggage at the airbnb apartment, we made our way down to the TD Place arena to watch the Ottawa 67s battle the Hamilton Bulldogs. The interesting aspect is how the hockey arena is built underneath a section of the football stadium’s seating.  As is a tradition whenever we see a hockey game, Mike and I try to track down the mascot to get a photo. During the first period, we hadn’t seen the mascot so we went in search of trying to find Riley Raccoon. Having no luck in our raccoon hunt, I asked a female usher if she knew where Riley liked to hang out. This was my first encounter of the trip that showed why Canadians have the reputation they have. She was very friendly and walked us around the arena to point out places we might find Riley. Later she gave us free Ottawa 67s pins to commemorate the game. Eventually we succeeded in our quest and got photos with Riley. The 67s won the game to the delight of the hometown crowd. Following the game, Mike and I went out for post-game snacks with a friend of his who writes for the 67s (@msconduct) before calling it a night. 

Saturday day was spent walking around Ottawa and examining different buildings. We saw Parliament and went up in the Peace Tower. It’s a memorial tower to honor Canadians who died during wars. There are remembrance books with the names of all the soldiers who died during a particular war. In the center of the room is an altar with the first book that commemorates those lost during the Great War. While talking with a security guard about the altar, he mentioned how the book is very regal looking because when it was made, the persons making it thought it would be the last book of its kind. Once again, while talking with the guard (and some of the tour guides as well), I was struck by how friendly they all were and their willingness to help. It made it very difficult to hang on to my 20-year irrational dislike of Canadians. 

With my opinions of Canadians being called into question, it was time to head over to the Canadian Tire Center to watch the Ottawa Senators battle the Montreal Canadians. Since Montreal is relatively close to Ottawa, I’d say the crowd was about a 60-40 split in favor of the hometown Spartans. Saturday night hockey game in Canada between two Canadian teams is what you’d expect if you follow hockey.  The crowd was into every play. Whenever the Spartans looked to score, there would be an audible gasp from the crowd when the Canadians goalie would block a shot. Unfortunately, due to a rash of injuries, the Canadians team is pretty much limping their way to the end of the season, which led to a very lopsided 5-0 victory for the Senators. Two fun hockey games down, it was now time to rest up and hit the road for a couple days in Montreal.  


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