Monday, June 7, 2010

ROADTRIP! Bears and Babies and Chocolate

Saturday marked a first for the recently expanded family: Cam's first Hershey Bears game (a Calder Cup Finals game at that). We've been to Hershey before, for the Mutineers annual trip/scrimmage at the old Hershey Park Arena, but we couldn't stick around for that evening's Bears game.

Heading up 83 into Chocolate Town was a super easy drive (with a sleeping 5 month old) and lunch at Houlihan's was pretty tasty. We pulled into the Giant Center parking lot around 3:30 and made our way over to Chocolate World (because nothing beats fresh Take 5 bars!). Hershey is an interesting place. There are tourists galore, a few locals, and a huge range of people and personalities (the tailgate that set up in front of our car was a study in 'woah...').

The Giant Center hums. The fans in Hershey are a rare breed: passionate, polite, educated and fun. Everyone smiles, everyone wears Bears gear and everyone knows every player on a team that changes every year. If ever a town deserved to be called Hockey Town, Hershey is it (sorry Detroit, your reign ended when you let Stevie Y. leave for Tampa).

Side Note: $8 for the small Coco the Bear stuffed animal was super reasonable and Cam greeted him with real pleasure. A similar Slapshot toy would easily be $20 at the Verizon Center. Just saying Caps. Just saying.

Our seats were in the lower level, behind the Bears net for the 1st and 3rd. We managed to get seated next to a couple and their 9 month old, and just in front of THE 5 Stars fans in attendance (in town from Iowa, the former home of the Stars). Mom and I couldn't help but smile at the thought of an active 9 month old Cam at Caps games next season. Cam took in the pregame festivities, watching warm ups curiously. Mom ran out to get some food (note to the Verizon Center: get more dessert options! The cookies and cinnamon-sugar pretzles at the Giant Center were PERFECT). That's when it all went downhill.

Cam decided he was hungry. This decision applied for the next 5 hours. A squirmy 1st period was followed with a cranky 2nd period, was followed with a diaper blowout of massive proportions (and an expert clean-up by mom, as only 2 wipes remained) was followed by a massive letdown of a last minute goal against to send Hershey to the loss.

Hershey looked flat and from our vantage point, Texas looked to be skating downhill at Neuvy all game. The first and last goals against were concentration lapses on our usually exceptional young goalie, and the middle 2 can be placed squarely on defensive lapses. It eerily reminded me of a Caps game: brilliant offensive pressure and skill, followed by a fast break against and poor defensive decision making or the failure to make a routine/slightly difficult save. It's frustrating to admit, but across the board, the Caps system is lacking that 'something' that negates those defensive struggles. Even Super Prospect John Carlson made several poor decisions leading to at least one goal against.

The trip home with a very hungry baby was a bit unnerving, but ended up alright once 'sleeping baby' frequency was reached in the car. The restful Sunday that followed was needed and enjoyed, and knowing that we'll be able to watch Games 3-6 from Austin on TV was a welcome treat.

Overall, the trip was a good one. The Verizon Center crowd could learn a lot from Hershey fans (although there were a TON of Caps jerseys in attendance) as far as sportsmanship and supporting your team more than railing on the opposition and refs.

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