Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New York Rangers 4 at Ottawa Senators 1 - March 2, 2010


I'm from Ottawa, which I often refer to as the worst sports city in North America. This is because a AAA baseball team, Can-Am League team, and CFL team (twice!) have all departed the nation's capital due to a distinct lack of interest of local sports fans. Thankfully, the Senators are still around to give me something to do, and they were at home tonight to start the post-Olympic stretch run, hosting the New York Rangers.

The Arena

Scotiabank Place was opened in 1996 to house the city's new NHL team, which had spent its first three seasons in the Ottawa Civic Centre. Originally known as the Palladium, it quickly became the Corel Centre when local software firm Corel bought the naming rights, which expired in 2006. Since then, Scotiabank has owned these rights, so let's hope that they hold on to them for a while. I hate when stadiums change names all the time.

The arena is located in Kanata, a suburb about 20 km west of downtown Ottawa. There is public transit available, but most people drive. There is only one way to get there, which is the Queensway, the main highway through Ottawa. As you approach the exit, the highway drops to two lanes, which when combined with commuters returning home in the evening, makes the traffic outrageous on a weekday. I've heard stories of what should be a 30-minute trip taking nearly an hour and a half. If you are driving out, you may be better off exiting the highway at Eagleson Road and taking the side streets through Kanata.

Once you arrive, expect to pay $11 for parking which is poorly organized over several lots. There is some free street parking around if you get there early enough. When the game ends, it takes a very long time to get out of the parking lot, so either leave early or spend 45 minutes at one of the arena bars like Bert's.


There is one main entrance to the stadium which is shown above. Once inside, there are stairs on both sides that take you to the upper deck. There is a small entrance behind the stairs that leads to the lower bowl. Before the game, anyone can enter the lower bowl area to watch the warmup. The picture below shows the view of the main entrance from the top of the stairs.


There are three levels of seating here, appropriately named the 100, 200, and 300 levels. Despite this, the upper deck is not that far from the ice. Given that tickets here have become very expensive as the Senators are one of the league's more successful franchises, this might be your best bet.

The variable pricing method is used depending on the opponent. A lower level seat for a popular team such as the Leafs is $240, which is ridiculously overpriced. Even the best upper deck seats are over $100 for these games. There is an alcohol-free Coke Zone that consists of 3 sections in the upper deck and provides a discount but these tickets are tough to come by. You can check prices for each at Capital Tickets, which is the exclusive ticket provider for the Senators but is no cheaper than TicketMaster when it comes to fees.

From the first row of the 300 seats

Concourses here are quite narrow and during the intermissions expect long lineups for concessions. As usual, I didn't bother sampling the cuisine, but the Tim Horton's donut stand is worth it from past experience. They don't gouge you and a box of 20 Timbits (donut holes) lasts the game.

Despite the franchise being around since only 1992, they've put up several Stanley Cup banners recognizing the previous Ottawa Senators' championships, which were mostly won back in the 1920s. Personally, I think putting up another franchises successes is inviting trouble from the Hockey Gods, which may be why Ottawa has yet to win a Cup of their own while fellow expansion rival Tampa Bay has.

The scoreboard here is typical with four sides. It might be a bit outdated as the quality is not as good as that in some of the newer rinks, but it does the job.

I've been here too many times to be able to give an unbiased review. I think the arena is functional, but the location is terrible for almost everyone in Ottawa. Stadiums should be built downtown and used to build up an area. Thankfully I stay in Kanata when I'm here so the stadium is close, but I feel sorry for those who have to drive an hour each way, especially when the game turns out to be useless. Speaking of a useless game...

The Game

It was the first game back after the Olympics and predictably both teams were rusty. The first period was an exercise in futility as neither squad could mount any pressure. The Senators did score a nice goal when Milan Michalek converted a cross-ice pass from Jason Spezza just four minutes in, but the rest of the period was dull.

Spezza and Dubinsky face off

In the second, the Rangers found some jump. U.S. Olympian Ryan Callahan got things started. Breaking down the left wing, he undressed rookie Matt Carkner, and came in alone on Sens' keeper Brian Elliott. Callahan snapped a quick shot and from my vantage point it looked like Elliot had made the save, but in fact, the puck had beaten him and was stuck in the net, behind the top bar and the netting. Even the goal judge didn't see it go in, but the ref did and it was 1-1 just 22 seconds into the frame.

Alfredsson readies a slap shot

Late in the period, Brandon Dubinsky skated in and took advantage of some weak Ottawa defense, moving to the top of the left faceoff circle and wristing one behind a screened Elliot. A minute later, an Ottawa giveaway in the Ranger end was quickly taken back down the ice. Sean Avery took a shot from the slot that Elliot saved, but Callahan was able to backhand the rebound on net and it squeezed by the clearly struggling goalie. Another minute later, and Avery beat Carkner to the net to convert a pass from Enver Lisin to make it 4-1 Blueshirts. The three goals were scored in just 2:02, and all were scored on rushes after Ottawa turned the puck over. Elliot was replaced by Pascal Leclaire but the damage was done.


The third period was entirely forgettable and the game ended 4-1 for New York.


The best word to describe this game was listless. Not much physical play, few penalties, and lots of choppy neutral zone action. Even the fans seemed out of sorts after the 2-week break. I'm hoping for a better game and crowd when the Leafs visit this Saturday (assuming I can find affordable tickets).

Leclaire before the game looking forward to a night off

Thoughts

During the Star Spangled Banner, the Senators played highlights of Canadian Olympic successes. Clearly a technical problem, but it still looked bad when they showed Crosby's golden goal as the singer belted out "Land of the Freeeeeeeee". I guess Callahan exacted his revenge with his 2 tallies.

Avery was given a misconduct with 19 seconds left for being a jerk, I guess. Amazes me that he continues to play in the league, but he clearly has some value as he had two points tonight. I think though that when you get a penalty like this late in the game, it should carry over to the next game. A ten-minute misconduct with only 19 seconds left isn't very meaningful.

With the Rangers leading 4-1 and less than 5 minutes to go, the ubiquitous "Make Noise Meter" made an appearance on the scoreboard. The few remaining fans dutifully screamed. I hate this device, or anything designed to get fans to act mindlessly loud. But it is even more annoying when the home team is losing badly.

In the first intermission, some local kids get the opportunity to show their stuff on the ice. They play without goalies and it's quite fun to watch as all of them just chase the puck back and forth. Hell, it was probably more entertaining than the main event.


Up Next

I'm here for 5 more days, and in that time the Ottawa 67s of the OHL have a home game on Friday, while the Leafs visit the Senators on Saturday. After that, I return to Toronto for one night and another Marlies' game, then on to Japan. No rest for me though, as I head to Phuket for a street hockey tournament on March 14th, and then visit friends in Manila for a week. Not sure if I'll be able to catch any games when I'm there, but it should be a fun trip regardless. Check back for all the exciting news.

Best,

Sean

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Sean, for posting your trip notes. I find them quite interesting and entertaining.

    I agree 110% with you on the 'make some noise' meter. That irritates me at both baseball and hockey games I attend. I don't recall it at lacrosse games but I'll check next one I attend.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip and street hockey tournament!

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