This is an article about Ice Hockey in the most general sense
of the term. If you want to read about the Oilers’ drastic need to retool the
goaltending corps from the NHL level down to Atom Tier 12 click on something
You have been duly warned.
Working on the road for an extended period of time has its
ups and downs. The ups are numerous – you get to see lots of cool new stuff, meet
new people, try new flavours of chips. The downs are far less but exist
nonetheless – everything you love about home is a million miles away. The old
cool stuff, the people you already know, familiar brands of chips. It’s all
over there and you are way over here.
The last hockey match I’d seen was the Oilers 5-2 beat down
of the Hawks back on January 9. I had listened to a couple of games online since and still
read everything and anything Oilers related but I hadn’t had the chance to go
to a game and yell “SHOOOOOT” in quite some time. I was dying to watch hockey.
Ideally Oilers hockey as they slaughter their opponents en route to a deep
playoff run. But at this point any hockey would do.
I am working in Oslo at the moment and it suddenly occurred
to me “Hey WTF wasn’t Patrick Thoresen Norwegian?! He must have played somewhere around here. I bet they have hockey of some sort ripe for the watching.” With the lighting
speed of someone thinking revolutionary thoughts, I googled “Norway pro hockey”
and found myself heading down to Askarhallen arena as fast as my legs would carry me, for a
playoff hockey match between the Frisk Asker Tigers and Våler Gens IF the very next
Unable to interpret an indecipherable map of the train system in Oslo
I elected to take a taxi to the game. Hopping out I realized that this
wasn’t exactly monstrous new downtown arena back in E-town. The Askerhallen holds a respectable 2,400 people and the arena district consisted of a parking
lot next to an empty field. Getting a taxi home might prove to be a difficult
task, but at least the lineups for tickets at the little booth weren’t exactly
In fact Tigers tickets ended up being nearly impossible
to buy. Demanding “the best seat in the lowest row possible” got me a curious
cocking of the eyebrow from the ticket lady. “It is general
admission” she replied in perfect English “you sit with Tigers fans or with IF
fans. What are you?”
Now even a slow Canadian at a hockey game halfway
around the world knows you always side with the home squad. “I’d rather die than
cheer for anyone but the Tigers” I informed her. She nodded gravely and gave me
my total. “Oh we don’t accept credit cards” she then informed me, shaking her head at my
outstretched ATB Mastercard. “No matter, I’ll use debit” I replied.
One thing I have found in my time on the road is that a
Canadian debit card is about as helpful in most countries as a hole in the
head. Chip credit cards are sometimes iffy, but a Canadian chip debit card
makes most international payment processors think for a minute while processing
then give you a message of “tough shit you foreign SOB” in whatever language they
No debit no credit. Nothing is working. Despite the fact I
was the only person in line, the ticket lady had long gotten over the novelty
of a Canadian at her wicket at this point. “We can’t accept any of your
payment methods. Please step aside.”
Like MacT refusing to hold a press conference even if he has
nothing to say, stepping aside was not an option. “Surely there must be a bank
machine somewhere around here” I asked. Exasperation having exhausted her
supply of English words, she pointed at a man with a clip board one
Trying my luck with a second ticket vendor I explained my
situation and asked where I could find a bank machine. This supervisor was
clearly surprised to see a Canadian at the game too. “Where are you from? Canada? Are you an ice hockey
player? Are you visiting a player? What brings you here”
After convincing him that I had no reason
to be at the Tigers game beyond wanting to see someone fire a puck
from the point and register a shot on goal he helpfully recalled that there
might be a bank machine down the street at the grocery store and I should try
my luck there. With the game was about to start, this was going to take some hustle. Frisk Asker Tigers type hustle if you will.
I’ll spare you the harrowing details of the adventure of working against the clock and trying to
take out cash in a Norwegian grocery store – that thankfully sold me a pre game
beer for the walk back to the arena. Suffice to say that I finally got my
ticket while hearing a mighty home team roar for the first goal of the game by
the Tigers while walking into the arena.
Finally inside, I first knew I had to look the part as the
newest hardcore Tigers fan on Earth. I walked around looking for the team store
that was advertised on signs and instead found a surly looking fellow in an LA
Kings hat standing at a table selling a few lonely scarves and those clapping
plastic hand things that are ever present at any sporting event around the world.
“Is this the Tigers team store?” I asked hopefully. “Yes.
Tigers.” Came the reply. “Are there t-shirts for sale or hats or anything?” “No
hat – scarf” and he pointed at the pile of scarves laid out on the table. “But people have jerseys here and
jackets and hats and tee shirts. Where are they sold?” I asked thinking
maybe I was just in the wrong place. But my grumpy arena gear man wasn’t having
any of it. “No. Just scarves. And clappy hands.”
And so jauntily attired in the finest Tigers scarf that Norwegian Kronor can buy, I next made my way to the concession to get myself some
frosty hockey beers. Why not, I figured. The Tigers are already up one
nothing. Surely this is going to be the playoff smackdown I have been longing
to see. And smackdown watchings requires beer drinkings. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Eyeing up the concession stand I noted it too had no line and I
quickly realized why and came to literally the most sobering
realization of the night.
They don’t sell bear at Tigers games.
“WHAT THE HELL!?” I screamed in alarm at the equally alarmed concession man.
“NO BEER?” This guy must have attended the Surly Arena Staff Academy with the
guy from the team store as he didn’t even raise an eyebrow either at my emotional plea. “No beer. Coke,
water, coffee.” “Is there any beer anywhere?” I asked again hoping I was just
in the wrong place.
“No beer. Coke. Water. Coffee.”
And so Tigers scarf wrapped firmly around my neck, water
bottle in tow I sat down in an empty seat next to a guy in a
Blackhawks hat and a beard that fell somewhere between “epic” and “deserving a feature
length movie written about it” on the spectrum of beards. He took one look at
my Oilers jacket and nodded solemnly. “Hmmm Oilers. Too bad. You used to be
“I am from Canada and this is my first Tigers hockey game” I
explained with the brightest wide eyed look I could muster. “I may have a few
questions.” “Questions. Hmmm” he replied with an eye on his Tigers
struggling against a suddenly aggressive foe. “Ask whatever you want I am happy to
Scarf. Check. Water. Check. Beard Man guide. Check. All the moons
were aligned to enjoy some Norwegian Tigers Pro Hockey in what looked like it would be a spirited playoff match.
And then the shelling of the Frisk Asker Tigers began.
Tomorrow: Part II: The Golden Helmet, Gretzky and the
other Oilers team.