Three Parties and a Little Hockey

Who’d ever have thought that I would one day become the centre of attention?

Okay, be invited to come near the centre of attention…

Alright! Be allowed to look towards the centre of attention from a far away, but otherwise intrusive distance. Ya happy now?

Sheesh…

I can’t remember when I’ve had a less productive weekend, except when I was either on vacation or was entertaining visitors. But there were no such distractions this weekend. Instead, we were flitting around like we were … *gasp* … popular.

It all started Friday afternoon, at just after 5:00pm. A large portion of the company, exact number unknown, all headed down to the Drum & Monkey pub to wish our now former co-worker (but still friend) Ben. Ben’s off to slightly greener pastures in Edmonton. Ben was a very visible person around here, and a lot of people (myself grudgingly included) will miss him a lot.

So, yeah, we all got drunk.

Ben has a few interesting friends, who also attended the little affair. One of them was the host of A Channel’s morning show. (A Channel is our local CityTV-owned independent rabble-rousing station.) Ben used to work at A Channel, and had invited them along. I attempted to introduce myself to him. Unfortunately, not only could I not place him to save my life, I was … um … slightly incapacitated. It went something like this:

Him: Hi, you’re some of Ben’s co-workers, right?
Us: It shows that badly, eh?
(He starts to go around the table, introducing himself, starting with me.)
Me: (A little louder than I normally talk, and slightly slurred.) Hi, I’m Geoff. This is gonna sound really stupid, but have we met somewhere before?

(I kid you not, that is the first time I’ve ever used that line. I just wish, in retrospect, I’d used it to talk to an attractive woman, instead of some guy who’s name I still can’t remember.)

Him: (Not missing a beat) Yeah, I used to buy all that LSD from you out behind the Cecil!
Me: (Surprisingly also not missing a beat — yeah, I know, it’s rare, but it does happen) No, I sold heroin. I don’t deal with that wimpy sh*t.
Him: Yeah yeah yeah! I remember now — sorry, I was usually too stoned to notice.
Me: Not a problem, you get used to it in my line of work.

For the record, I have never dealt any form of drug (illicit, or otherwise), nor have I sampled anything but alcohol.

I hopped tables most of the night, wandering from conversation to conversation (participating for a while in a semi-strategic discussion with George (one of our account managers), and the guy from A Channel — he must think I’m a total freak by now), meeting new people (most of whom I’ve now forgotten), and generally causing trouble. But hey, what else are you gonna do when you’re out getting drunk?

We all started departing around 10:45 or so (I really don’t know what time it was, I’m just taking estimates from when I first saw the clock when I finally got home). A small number of us were heading over to a place called Calypso’s, which is one of the white trash bars in Calgary. Luckily positioned right next door to our apartment building. Why there? Easy: Karaoke.

No, I didn’t sing. Aside from the fact that I can’t (and have a serious case of stage fright), I was also crashing fast. Even with a caffeinated beverage to attempt to offset the sleepiness, I was at home shortly after 11:30. Chris, on the other hand, was ready for Phase II of the evening (he had left the Drum & Monkey a little earlier) — he was going to meet with the people at Calypso’s.

The following day was marked with me at work. (There’s a surprise.) But only for three hours. Then it was back home to prepare for the evening — we had a birthday to go to. But first, we decided to go see a movie (Spy Kids — yeah, it’s a kid’s movie, but it’s a good, funny kids movie) with our friend (and co-worker) Tamara.

After the movie, Chris and I walked over to Kensington for Chrissie’s birthday. Chrissie is one of our Project Managers, and though we really don’t know her that well, we thought it would be fun. But first, it was over to Safeway. Just as we reached the bridge to cross the Bow River, I suddenly realized that we had no gift to bring [insert bad “Little Drummer Boy” joke here]. So did Chris, only he had a good idea — flowers. So instead of going directly to Bass Brothers (the pub where Chrissie’s birthday celebration was in full swing), we stopped by Safeway to pick up some white roses.

The roses were … well, Chrissie told us that she was going to make a lot of phone calls today and brag. I’ll let you pick your own description as to how happy/overjoyed/ecstatic she was. Either way, it scored major brownie points for Chris and I … now we just gotta use ’em while they’re still good.

We hung out at the pub for about two hours or so, before deciding to keep on going. You see, for perhaps the first time in my life (I’m not sure about Chris), we actually had multiple invitations (okay, two), and we didn’t want to disappoint.

Arif, our other inviter, had said that the second soiree of the night wouldn’t get moving until midnight. Chris and I took the opportunity to get something to eat at Pongo’s first, before braving the wilds of a party where we knew two people.

We arrived at Arif’s friend Kim’s house around 1:30 or so. (Yes, in the morning.) It was packed with strange people. So naturally, we fit right in. We mingled as best we could, but it wouldn’t be until later in the evening that I found I was able to mingle without being near Chris (unlike my friend, I find a bit of libation takes the edge of my awkwardness).

We arrived home just before 5:00am. (Technically 4:00am, but there was that goofy time change. I wish we’d just get rid of that.) I promptly passed out.

My alarm went off at 10:30. I was so not ready for it. But it was a dim sum morning, and there are some things that are worth getting up for. We met Jordon (yet another co-worker and friend), and Stuart and Therese at Silver Dragon, where we promptly disposed of a dangerously high stock of delicious bite-sized Chinese edibles. This, for us, is almost a ritual now. But it’s one, that unless I’m mistaken, is beginning to become too routine. It’s almost to the point where I … and I shudder to say this … don’t want to have it every Sunday. I actually think I’ve had it too much.

Following dim sum, the four of them went off for their afternoon (Therese to work, and the other three to no good) and I went off to the Calgary Hitmen hockey game.

This was the sixth (and potentially deciding) game in the series. You could certainly tell that there were a lot of very avidly interested people (9,022 in all, according to attendance figures) going — you couldn’t miss the cars and pedestrians. No-one cared that there’s been a transit strike here for about a month — they still showed up in droves. The Saddledome wasn’t packed — but considering it’s minor league hockey, it was a solid turnout.

Before I continue, a couple of corrections. Some of the Observer’s Log’s avid readers caught me on my knowledge of hockey. I would like to state, for the records, that I know sqwat about sports. I went to the first game because it sounded like fun. I went to the second game because the first one *was* fun.

First off, the Hitmen and the Pats play in the Western Hockey League, not the World Hockey League, as I had originally assumed. My bad. As for the Pats, their name has a long history. To save myself a heap of typing, I’ll just take Joel’s explanation:

The Regina Pats Hockey Club is the oldest major junior hockey franchise in existence, first stepping on the ice in 1917. Over the past 82 years, there have been several stories as to how the team got its name, but the truth is the name came from both Princess Patricia, granddaughter of Queen Victoria (this is also where the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment, organized at the outbreak of World War I, got its name). A top-level junior hockey team began play in Regina in 1917, and went by the name “Patricias” until 1923, when it was shortened to “Pats”. The hockey club won the Memorial Cup for junior hockey supremacy in 1925 under the guidance of the legendary Al Ritchie.

So there you go, and now you know. Joel also added that he’s also not a hockey fan, but had been to Pats games. His reasoning being: “What else is there to do growing up on the Prairies?”

I think that explains the crowd in the Saddledome. The noise was booming even before the game started. But once it did, it became a madhouse. The Hitmen literally exploded in the first 15 minutes of the game, and the Pats looked like there were trying to fight off an angry pack of rottweilers. (I can only assume this was partly due to the cheap shot one of the Pats had made at the end of the last Calgary game, and because the Hitmen really wanted to wrap this series up.) The first period ended in a 1-1 tie.

The audience was revved. Toronto Blue Jays fans are quiet folk. Calgary Hitmen fans are not — you should hear 9,000 people in the Saddledome cheering on minor league hockey. It’s unreal. Not to mention deafening.

Like the previous game, the breaks between plays were interspersed with contests and prize giveaways (I can only assume to entice people to come out — it’s otherwise distracting from the game). During the first intermission, they had even more entertainment — former WWF wrestler Brett “The Hitman” Hart against a pack of angry 10-year-old midget hockey players. They had to flip him on his back, for some goofy reason.

Hockey’s a strange sport.

The second period could only be described as an utter disaster. The Hitmen had more or less fallen apart. Although they got another goal, the Pats got two. And the Pats were the ones in control. They were swarming. They were passing. They were making the Hitmen really angry, and the Hitmen were responding … with penalties. A lot of ’em. That’s how the Pats pulled ahead.

It affected the crowd, too. They started to get quieter. Even when one of the Hitmen managed to get the puck and skate towards the Pats’ goal, the now-normal rise in cheering was more subdued. The energy was gone.

Something happened during the second intermission in the Hitmen’s locker room. I don’t know what the coach said, or what performance-enhancing drugs they took, but the Hitmen were breathing fire when they came back out on the ice. I don’t think I’ve seen as good hockey played … ever. The first 13 minutes of the third period were really good — the crowd noticed too. But the energy in the crowd’s cheering didn’t come back.

Not until Brendl scored a the tying goal at 13:15 in the period. No-one was sitting down. You could barely hear the announcer. Now the crowd got loud.

The chanting was deafening. I actually felt a little sorry for the Pats. You could see the Hitmen actually playing better the louder the crowd got. All you could hear was “Go Hitmen, Go!” and rhythmic thumping through the stands. People were cheering, crying, roaring … and going hoarse very quickly.

The game intensified — playoff Olympic hockey isn’t this good. The puck changed ends constantly. The Hitmen wanted to win the game to finish the series. The Pats wanted to win to stay alive. Both wanted the game, bad.

With less than a minute left, I was really to call for overtime. But I didn’t, and I don’t know why. It’s probably a good thing, too. With less than 15 seconds left in the game, Brendl swooped down the ice, swerved around the Pats’ defenders, and scooped the puck in the net.

I, like every other capable person in the Saddledome, flew out of my seat. Not only did I nearly wrench my right arm out of its socket (still not sure how I did that), but I could feel my vocal chords tearing apart from my unearthly screaming. My ears were ringing. You couldn’t hear anything — not even the overly-loud high-bass music. All you could hear were the blood-curdling screams and ear-piercing whistles of 9,000 crazed fans.

That’s assuming, of course, that you weren’t already deaf.

No-one sat down for the last 15 seconds of the game. The Hitmen just let the clock run out. The cheering barely stopped during that time, and only increased when the game was officially over. Now we’re aiming for tickets for when they come back in the next round of playoffs (not sure if it’s semi-finals or finals).

And now I’m back at work, but only to catch up on email. Soon, I’ll head home to finish of my weekend with the most exciting thing yet.

Laundry.

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