As much as we hated to admit it, today there was no more Draft, and it was time to go home. It was with no small sadness this morning (alarmingly soon after going to bed, we might add) that we bade our hotel filled with Draft boys goodbye and hit the road.
Even though librarian Pookie had carefully printed out Google Maps directions for every driving step of our trip, on a long leg like today it’s nice to gain some perspective about where you are in the grand scheme of things. For much of the day, we seemed to be somewhere in Western New York.
This time around there weren’t any fresh-baked muffins or picnic lunches to be had, so after a few hours of driving, we were starving for our standard “On The Road” nourishment – McDonalds fries. As soon as we made up our minds that we were ready to stop, we came upon a sign promising McDonalds at the next exit. We eagerly pounced, but after driving and driving and driving and driving, the whole thing started to look suspiciously like a hoax. There is no McDonalds here:
Our road trip tried to be a cruel mistress, but seriously, there’s no stopping the power of McDonalds. After getting back onto the highway, it was just a few more exits before we found what we were looking for. Sweet, sweet elixir of life.
It should be noted, though, that the McDonalds we stopped at seemed to be holding the seagull equivalent of the NHL Entry Draft, and like the 18-year-old hockey players at our hotel, the gulls were oozing such a sense of entitlement that they refused to get out of the way of our car.
Things went along pretty smoothly for a while after the French fry debacle, until we met up with our first (and only) bit of nasty traffic for the day somewhere in Pennsylvania.
As we sat motionless for a long while, Schnookie looked out the passenger window and spotted a familiar apartment housing complex. It turns out we were stuck in construction-induced stand-still traffic in this exact same spot last time we made this drive, eight months ago. We couldn’t help but notice that the road didn’t look any better today than it did then.
That sign should endeavor to make it clear that when they say “long term delays” they mean “since October”. It was here that Twinkdo faceplanted.
We couldn’t blame him.
For all that we didn’t want the weekend to end, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t happy to see the Ontario, New York, and Pennsylvania landscapes eventually give way to the lush expanses of the Garden State. For starters, it’s summer now – there’s corn to be driving past!
Knee-high by the Fourth of July? Check and check.
When the highways give way to surface streets, those big open skies filled with clouds that demonstrate how we’re driving into our humid, thunderstormy homeland…
… Give way to the canopied, wooded streets of central Jersey.
Ahhh, home. And in just one simple eight-hour drive, we made our way from Canada’s capital to the Small Town, USA where we live.
There were no Draft boys here to greet us. Bummer.
Looking back on our trip, we have a few loose ends to add to our travelogue here:
1. We are thrilled that we now know the names of four – count ‘em, four – Devils prospects, which is four more than we’ve ever known. Tedenby, Burlon, Cormier, and Henrique were all drafted in our presence. Consequently, we expect them all to have huge impacts on the organization, starting next season. That weird-looking kid Matt Delahey was picked after we left on Saturday, so we expect him to fade into oblivion like every other Devils prospect we’ve ignored over the last decade and a half. Sorry, Delahey. Them’s the breaks. (And we’re not even bothering to look up who they drafted after Delahey.)
2. At the Draft, each team table has a little kid acting as a runner. The kids wear team logo-ed caps and sweaters, and some of them have names on their sweaters that announce that nepotism is the driving factor in hiring an Entry Draft runner (example: the Islanders had two runners, named “Wang” and “Guerin”). When we arrived for the first round on Friday, the Devils runner was just delivering a box to the New Jersey table. We wondered what he was trucking around until Schnookie hit on the obvious explanation: “It’s the box of pucks the Devils just traded Brian Gionta for!” (Actually, the kids deliver stuff like bottles of water and print-outs from the printers at the side of the floor. They also truck away the table’s trash. The consensus among the Potted Plant Cotillioneers was that it would be a cool job for about ten minutes, and then even being privy to all the Draft secrets wouldn’t be worth having to wait on your team’s front office guys for seven rounds.) We were also guilty, more than once, of mistaking a team’s draft pick for their runner.
3. Gary Bettman is a surprisingly dynamic first-round emcee. We have no idea how it translates on TV, but in person we found him almost charming (in as much as anything in the first round of the Draft can be charming). He took his abuse from the crowd with good-natured aplomb, seemed to have a lot of fun announcing the trades, and when one of the later picks in the round expected him to serve as his valet, Bettman didn’t bat an eye. (It was pretty hilarious. The team hadn’t sent enough guys up to the stage to take the kid’s jacket for him when he went to put on his sweater, and the kid just calmly handed his jacket off to Gary. Talk about assy entitlement. We hope he slipped him a fiver.)
4. A note to any Gentle Reader planning on visiting Scotiabank Place: don’t count on there being any kind of clear marking on the highway telling you how to get to the arena, which is just plunked down smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. We assumed, having been to 18 other NHL arenas, that once we got close to the place, there would be some signage explaining how to get from the highway to the parking lots. We were wrong. There is not a single sign anywhere announcing that you are approaching the facility, or how to navigate the web of surface streets between 417 and the arena. What, is Ottawa ashamed of it or something? Is it the city’s dirty little secret? Do they not want outsiders getting in? Whatever, Ottawa. Whatever.
5. Next time we plan an IPB Irregulars outing, if you haven’t already attended one and would like to participate, be forewarned that we are not afraid to act like stupid tourists. Patty took this picture demonstrating how unabashedly touristy we were, as we gave a beavertail the full paparazzi treatment:
Photo credit: Patty (In Dallas)
Notice Heather on the right there, who seems to be thinking, “Have these yokels never seen fried dough before?” To which we say, “IPB doesn’t get these awesome photographic details of what it’s like to travel with the dorkiest hockey fans on the planet by being ashamed of taking pictures of beavertails on a crowded Ottawa street, thank you very much.”
6. When the idea first came up in these pages to have an IPB Irregulars get-together at the Draft, it seemed like a ton of fun in theory, but when the time came to actually put our money where our mouths were, we had our doubts. We were afraid the Draft would be horribly dull, and worried that driving 16 hours round-trip wouldn’t be worth it just to hang out in person with people we can just as easily hang out with online. We mustered some enthusiasm, to be sure, for the adventure of it all, but were highly skeptical about how great the weekend would be in practice. Well, as it turns out, if we could have a nickel for every time we spontaneously proclaimed, “I am having so much fun” this weekend, we’d be very wealthy now. The Draft was a shockingly interesting thing to see in person, but more importantly, our company was unparalleled in its awesomeness. We can’t thank Heather, Patty, Meg, alix, and Hockeygirl enough for making the trip and sharing in all the fun with us – honestly, the Potted Plant Cotillion is going down in IPB History as one of our greatest trips of all time. We’re exhausted tonight, and hoarse from so much laughter and shouting, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Photo credit: Patty (In Dallas)
And we can’t wait for the next time we get to chillax with more of y’all!