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.
June 22, 2010 3 Comments
* Just a warning this is an extremely long post, and potentially boring *
Anyone who knows me, would be able to tell you two things about me. One, I am a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan and two, my favorite band is Pearl Jam. So when Pearl Jam announced they would play 4 concerts in Philadelphia to close out the Spectrum, the very arena the Flyers won back to back Stanley cups in, I had to make the trip. It also helped that several friends would also be going, the Flyers were playing 3 games during that time, and I have never been to Philadelphia before.
I arrived into Philadelphia in the early morning on a Sunday. Flying into the city as the sun rose up to kiss the vibrant coloured leaves of autumn was certainly a nice welcome. It was a quick train ride into downtown. My hotel was really close to the city hall where I got off the train, and was impressed that they had a room available for be at 10am. After having a shower and cleaning up after my red eye flight I took to the town to do a bit of touristy activities.
Philadelphia is a really great city to explore on foot, with it’s easy to navigate grid design. The city itself is busting with American history. Being the first capital of the US a lot of major historic events took place there. It was fun to wander the old cobblestone streets, and explore the old historic parts of town. During my walk I eventually made my way to Jim’s on South Street. Jim’s is one of the big name cheese steak places in town, which was evident by the lineup that looped around the block. The line moved pretty quickly, and before long I was chomping down on a hoagie filled with beef, cheese, onions and peppers. After lunch I headed back to the hotel for a nap to rest up for my first ever Flyers home game.
I took the subway down Broad Street (hence the nickname Broad Street Bullies the Flyers were given in the 70′s) all the way to the end where all the stadium’s are. Literally every professional sports team has their stadium at this one location. I got there pretty early so I could wander around the complex and checkout the Wachovia Center. I have been to a lot of hockey arenas and I have to say this is one of the nicest ones I have been in. The building has really wide hallways making it easy to get around even with big crowds. I also really loved how many windows they had on the outside of the building letting a lot of natural light into the main aria. After wandering around I was able to find the Stanley Cup banners, which were hung up in the hallway (odd that they were not in the rafters).
I had great seats to the game. I sprung for lower bowl seats, and it was great to see all the players up close. I have to say Chris Pronger is absolutely massive. He towers over guys, even the ones who are suppose to be the same size as him. Anyway I really enjoyed my first game in Philly. The Flyers ended up losing the game to the San Jose Sharks, however for most of the game they outplayed the Sharks but couldn’t capitalize on their chances. It didn’t help either that Boucher who got the start in net played absolutely horrible. Regardless it was still a fantastic experience.
The next morning I got up at 6am and made my way to the train station. I was off to Washington DC to spend a few days and catch my next Flyers game against the Capitals. It was nice to be on a train, a nice change from the flight the day before. I got into DC in under 2 hours and found my way to my hotel. Again I was impressed that the hotel was able to accommodate me with a room despite arriving so early. After checking in, I jumped straight to work. This trip I planned to work most days as I have been running low on vacation days. During the day I found out that that night the Monday Night Football game was in Washington, and it was against the Philadelphia Eagles. So I decided to check craigslist if there was any tickets available. Sure enough I was able to find a really good lower bowl ticket for only $70. The best part was the guy who was selling it was only a few blocks from my hotel. So after work I ran down and picked up the ticket, got myself a coffee and jumped on the DC subway out to the football stadium.
Fedex Field was a long way out of the city, and took over half an hour on the subway to get out to it. Not only that, once you reached the subway station you had to walk a good 15 minutes to the actual stadium. Once I got to the stadium I was blown away at the sheer size of the building. Fedex Field is said to have a max capacity of over 91,000 people. That is practically the entire population of Kelowna to put things into perspective.
While not a huge football fan, this game was definitely an experience. I felt like I had gone back in time to the Roman ages and was watching a gladiator match. The fans in the stand were ruthless, and all very much drunk. There was fights breaking out left and right, not only between Eagles and Redskins fans, but also fights between fellow Redskins fans. The game was a complete blowout for the Eagles from the opening kickoff. I cheered outwardly for the Redskins, but inwardly was rooting on the Eagles, hoping the Flyers could follow in their footsteps the next day. As the forth quarter was coming to a close I left the game early so that I didn’t have to wait at the subway, and could get back to the hotel a little quicker.
The next day I decided to work a half day in DC. So I took the morning off and did a bit of exploring. My hotel was just a few blocks from the White House, and most of the site of DC, so I decided to walk around and explore. I had been to Washington once before when I was really young, yet don’t remember much from the trip (besides a visit to Ikea, and the Smithsonian). So it was nice to experience everything over again. While the weather wasn’t the best for a day of tourism, it did mean that most of the monuments were deserted, which was nice. I also found it really amazing how beautiful the fall colours were despite the dreary weather.
After checking out the major monuments in the city I decided to goto one of the museums. I decided to goto the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I had heard good things of. Despite being very somber, I have to say, it told the history of the holocaust extremely well. One thing I found was really well done about the exhibit is that it really showed the human aspect of holocaust through use of photos, videos, and informational panels. I highly recommend going to the museum if ever in DC.
I made it back to my hotel after lunch to put in my half day of work. I was really excited about going to the hockey game that night as the Capitals are one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL right now. I was also extremely excited to get to watch Ovechkin play, and to see how the Flyers would stalk up against him.
So after work I made my way down to the Verizon Center. The nice thing about the arena in Washington is that it is right downtown. So it was a quick 15 minute walk from my hotel room. As I approach the arena, I couldn’t believe how many caps jerseys I saw. This team had really become a big thing in Washington, largely due of course to the personality (and of course incredible talent) of Ovechkin.
This was now my third game in three nights, but I was still energetic. Actually probably more so for this game than any other. I really had a great time at this game. While the fans in Washington are not the most knowledgeable, they made up for it with their enthusiasm. After tying the game 2 – 2 with the Flyers the arena exploded into cheers, and I hate to admit it, but was a more exciting, and loud venue than what I had experienced in Philadelphia.
As it turns out the Flyers lost again in Washington. The game was a lot of fun though, as the Flyers again outplayed their opponent but were shut down by solid goaltending, and missed opportunities. I have to admit, it was fun to watch Ovechkin score 2 goals!
The next day I was once again up at 6am to catch a train back to Philadelphia. Once again I was impressed by another hotel for having a room ready for me so early in the day. After putting in a full day of work I was really excited, as I was going to meet up with my two favorite Californians, Joe and Kasie. They had arrived into town the day before and would be around for the rest of my stay. I hadn’t seen them in close to a year so it was nice to be able to get together with them. That night we went out for dinner with their friend Susan from Philadelphia who they were staying with. Wednesday was the first game World Series of Baseball game being played in New York against the Philadelphia Phillies, so everyone was dressed in red, and ready to watch the game. I really wanted to experiencing seeing a game in Philly, while Joe and Kasie were more interested in seeing Pearl Jam. So we parted ways, they went off to the show, and I stuck with their friend and who I accompanied to a sports bar to catch the game.
I have to say I am not really a baseball fan, in the very least. With that said, watching the game in a packed bar of 300 people, all rooting on the Phillies was sure fun. Everyone was cheering, and chanting, and clapping, and just overall having a great (albeit suspenseful) time. It helped that the Phillies won the game. The next day after work, I met up with Joe, Kasie and Susan again to catch game 2 of the world series, unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t so lucky and lost the game.
As Friday rolled around it marked the arrival of a lot more friends coming in for the remaining 2 Pearl Jam shows. I had taken the day off so that I could hang out with those who were arriving, and spent some more time with Joe and Kasie. I had a fun day exploring the market in Philadelphia with Vanessa and Tatiana, before meeting up with Jason and the rest of the gang. It became evident very quickly that our hotel room wasn’t going to fit all those who were suppose to stay in it, so I jumped ship to stay with Joe and Kasie. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with everyone and doing some more touristy things.
That night I got to see my first Pearl Jam show at the Spectrum with Vanessa. We had really awesome seats, and it was a lot of fun to rock out with her. The show that night was really excellent, and Pearl Jam played a large number of my favorite songs. It was really exciting too knowing that in that arena the Flyers had won their Stanley Cups. It was sad to think they are going to destroy the building in a few short months.
After the show we partied it up until the wee hours. Despite my urge the next morning to sleep in until the afternoon, I had to get up early once again, as the Flyers were playing an afternoon game. It was also Halloween so I had to get my costume ready. Jason and myself decided to go as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. I was Garth.
We met up at the Wachovia Center at Noon, and were shocked to find so few people dressed up for Halloween. I didn’t let it get my down though. This was my last Flyers game of my trip and I wanted to enjoy it. As the arena filled up we did manage to see a bunch more people dressed up, which made us a little more happy.
So the last Flyers game I caught was a complete blowout by the Flyers. They won 6-2 and completely dominated the game from start to finish. The game was also full of fights which made the Australian Hinn, and Brazilian Tatiana happy. After the game we parted ways, and I met back up with Joe and Kasie. We had a really lovely dinner at this restaurant called Pumpkin, before heading back down to the last ever concert at the Spectrum.
For this show I was sitting with Jason. Our seats were really similar to the seats I had the night before, which was nice. After we got settled we sneaked his friend Sophia down into our section as well. The final show by Pearl Jam was one crazy show. Pearl Jam played for close to 4 hours, and played some songs they hadn’t played in 10-15 years. It was truly a memorable night, and a lovely way to end such a fantastic trip.
The next day I left early for my flight back home and my week long recovery from my week of no sleep. While busy, I really had an amazing time on this trip, and look forward to the next time I can visit Philadelphia and Washington again.
Here are a few final images from my trip.
November 9, 2009 6 Comments