In October 2009 I flew out to Philadelphia to experience seeing the Philadelphia Flyers play at home, as well as to see Pearl Jam close out the historic Spectrum. After that trip I didn’t anticipate making it back out to Philadelphia anytime soon. However when the Flyers finished off the Montreal Canadians in 5 quick games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals I felt compelled to make the trip out east once again.
After the finals schedule was release I realized two conflicts in my schedule. The first was the Sasquatch Music Festival, which was taking place during the first two games of the finals in Chicago. The second was a Metric concert at the Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. I was alright with missing the Metric concert, but wasn’t about to skip out on the always fun Sasquatch. So I looked at flights, and found a red eye the day after Sasquatch that would put me into Philadelphia the morning of game 3. A quick reality check, OK’ed the trip with my boss, and the trip was booked.
Before leaving for Sasquatch I was able to find a single ticket to game 3 on the Flyers official ticketing website. This took a little pressure off for the first game. Arriving into Philly on little to no sleep, and a full day of work scheduled, I wasn’t in the best shape to be hunting down a ticket to the game. Work day done, a quick nap, and a whole lot of nervous excitement filled me. I hopped on the subway down to the stadium. On the subway I met two guys from Ottawa who drove down that day just to watch the game in a Philly bar. One of several Canadian Flyers fans I met during my time in Philly. When I was walking into the arena, I ran into my friend Phil from Vancouver, who just so happened to be in Philly for the game also. We exchanged contact info and agreed to meet up the following day for beers.
When Everything Goes Right
Game three was everyone I could have asked for in a hockey game, and made the trip completely worthwhile. It was a back and forth game, that saw the Flyers take an early lead only to lose it early in the 3rd period. The Flyers fought back and scored quickly after the Hawks to tie the game and send it to overtime. In OT the Flyers had a heart wrenching goal called back, minutes before Claude Giroux scored the winner to move the Flyers with one game of a tied series. Such an amazing finish and great way to start my trip. After the game I was going to meet up with the guys from Ottawa for a beer, but when I got back to my hotel I simply crashed out on my bed after a good 40+ hours of no sleep.
Game four I was without tickets. However from previous experiences with concerts and events I knew that if I showed up at the venue box office a few hours before the event I would be bound to get something. So after work I headed down to the arena where I stood in line with 25 other fans in the sweltering 33 degree heat hoping to get a ticket. An hour later I had a ticket which came with access to the Lexus Club which gave you a free food buffet as well as free beer.
Game four was a lot more dominant by the Flyers than the previous game. They came out strong and held the lead throughout the entire game. Despite a late charge by the Hawks, the Flyers were just too strong and ended up winning 5-3. That night I hooked up with a friend Andrew who I met through Joe in October. We went out for a few beers to celebrate the win and catch up. He invited me to a Phillies game and to show me around town the following week.
A Brief Interlude
After the game three win, I received an email from Jason who was currently in Hungary. He had sent me his Expedia itinerary and told me I should meet him in New York. I had never been to New York before, and while I would have liked to spend more than a weekend there, I figured a weekend would give me a good first taste. So Saturday I hopped on a bus, and 2 hours later I was downtown Manhattan.
I mentioned earlier that it was hot in Philadelphia. New York was no different. 30+ degrees and extremely humid. That type of heat really makes the smells of the city a lot more pronounced, especially when you have a city as busy as New York. I decided I would venture north from the bus station until I hit Central Park. I ended up walking straight through Times Square, which was a bit of an experience. A few too many people for my liking, which made Central Park such a good target. More than any other park I have been to in a city, is there ever one needed more than Central Park. It is a haven from the craziness of people, tourists, and smells of the city. While it was a little busy in many areas of the park, it was easy to find more secluded areas where you could be by yourself. I found a great bench in the park and spent a few hours reading waiting for Jason to arrive from Hungary.
After meeting up with Jason, we dropped off our bags at his girlfriends sisters place, and headed out to get some food and hit the town. We ate overpriced sushi, and drank beers at a hockey themed restaurant. New York, New York. Sunday we wandered around the city and saw a bunch of a the sites. More Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Empire States Building. Before long it was time to head back to Philly to catch the Flyers game five.
When Everything Goes Wrong
Game five was an absolute ass kicking by the Hawks. The Hawks came out hard and fast, and finished the first period up 3-0. This was not how I had anticipated this game to go. Whenever the Flyers would get anywhere near to making the game close the Hawks would score to put the game back out of reach. The game ended 7-4, leaving Jason, Andrew, and Myself a little heartbroken. It meant there was no chance the Flyers could win the cup at home, and an even worse fate that Chicago might win the cup in Philadelphia.
Fast forward to Wednesday, game six, Flyers needing to win to have a chance to win the cup. We spent the day looking for tickets online for the game. We were trying to get 3 tickets together, which was becoming a hard feat. Eventually we found someone on craigslist who said he had 3 seats together for the price we wanted to pay. We exchanged a few emails and phone calls, and eventually waited for him to arrive from ‘Virginia’. Two hours turned into four and a half, and Jason and me began to get worried. Eventually the guy called and let us know he was close to our hotel.
We met him outside the hotel. A short black man, with a bit of a hunch, who appeared a bit on edge. My first impression of him was of his hand shake. It was weak; the kind of handshake where the other persons hand just falls out of yours. Second impression was that he got really nervous when I questioned why there was no date on the ticket. Despite the warnings, the tickets looked pretty legit. Jason and I had a quick chat, then decided to buy them. As we handed him the money he told Jason “Hold onto my number, if the Flyers win tonight, I will be heading out to Chicago and will have some more tickets for you…” Last impression was of Jason handing over the money in an envelope, and the guy walking away briskly without even counting it. When that happened all I could think of was we had been had.
As we walked away I brought this up with Jason. He said he noticed that too. We double checked the tickets again. They looked pretty legit. However I noticed the seat numbers he told me via email and the seat numbers on the tickets were different. Perhaps he just read the wrong ticket. As Jason and I had dinner before the game you could tell we were both on edge, and a little nervous that we bought fake tickets. Only time would tell.
We arrived at the venue and walked past a scalper who was holding up a single ticket for sale. The ticket looked really similar to the tickets we had. This put me a little at ease, as I thought that maybe I was just being paranoid. We walked our way up to the gates. Went inside the building. Held out my ticket to the usher. He scanned the ticket. Written on his scanner in red was, “STOP”. He scanned the ticket again. Same result. Scanned it a third time. Same thing. He instructed that I better go talk to the box office about my ticket. Jason had the same experience. Yup we were hosed.
The box office confirmed the tickets were fake, which brought forth a mix of emotions. Anger, humiliation, self-pity. We were not in a great mood. Insult to injury, the skies opened up and started to pour down rain. Eventually we picked ourselves up, and headed over to the bar at the ball park. We were both in no mood to watch the game, let along with a bunch of other people. However by the end of the second period and a few beers later, we realized 2 things. One, what happened happened, and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Two, the Flyers were playing a hell of an exciting game.
The third period started with the Flyers down 3-2. It took them until late in the period to tie the game 3-3 and send it to overtime. New hope emerged. However four minutes into the overtime period the greatest letdowns happened. Patrick Kane scored a short side goal against the Flyers. It was such a bad goal that nobody knew he had scored. It took about 20-30 seconds before everyone clued in that the Hawks had just won the Stanley Cup and the Flyers season was now over.
That night we head back to our hotel, had a few drinks in the lobby bar, while guests from Chicago celebrated. The only thing that made that night somewhat memorable was meeting the real life version of “The Dude” (a story for another day). “Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes… well, he eats you”.
Last Few Days
My final days in Philly were spent doing some touristy things, like running up the Rocky steps, taking in a Phillies game, eating too many cheese steaks, exploring the 9th street Italian Market, and sampling many of the fine craft beers from the area. I wasn’t as upset about the ticket anymore, and enjoyed my time in one of the most historic cities in the US.
You might think Chicago had done everything it could to try and disrupt my trip. My flight home, which was routed through Chicago, got delayed for close to 3 hours due to a thunderstorm in Chicago. Finally the plane arrived and everyone boarded. Our plane made it to the tarmac, at which stage we sat for another hour plus on the tarmac as the thunderstorm had now moved south to Philadelphia. Good times.
I missed my connecting flight home, but was bumped up onto the last flight back to Vancouver. They put me in their executive plus section of the plane to make up for my troubles which was a nice gesture. Finally I arrived in Vancouver to find my bag was left in Chicago. What more could I expect?
Despite some bad luck I really had an amazing time in Philadelphia. I got to spend time with some really great people, and explore some of the more historic cities in the US. Without a doubt I will definitely make my way back to Philadelphia sometime in the near future.
One final little story. On the Tuesday after game five, I had performed a major release of our website at work. It was eight months of development, and a complete rebuild of our website. After launching the site I had to checkout of my hotel room and check into a new hotel. I did some final tests on the launch and everything appeared to be working correctly. Since my new hotel was half a block away I didn’t think it was a big deal to go offline momentarily to change hotels.
I arrived at the new hotel only to be told I had booked the room for the following day. I had just performed a major release of our website and now was told I had no place to work or stay. I scrambled and eventually found free wifi at the local market, where I spent the rest of the day working. Everything turned out fine with the launch, but it was a moment of complete panic when I found out I didn’t have a room that night.
Finally I just wanted to say a big Thank You to Andrew who helped us out with a place to stay when we had no hotel, as well for being such a fantastic host and tour guide.