Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cornell Big Red 1 at Princeton Tigers 2 (NCAA Soccer, Ivy League) - October 28, 2017


My wife is an art aficionado and I am always trying to find museums that might be close to a sporting venue I have yet to visit. Princeton University has a celebrated art museum and so I convinced her that a weekend trip to New Jersey was a great way to end October. For me, the attraction was Princeton soccer, one of several varsity squads in action on Saturday. I had already seen football, and the other games were in the afternoon, while soccer started at 5, allowing us to spend a full day at the museum.



The Tigers play at Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, which is in the middle of all of the campus venues, with Hobey Baker Rink to the west and Princeton Stadium and Jadwin Gymnasium to the east. Admission is free: just walk right in and sit right down.



There are four rows of benches that go from the north end zone around the west side and into the south end zone. The top row has a supporting wall behind it so you have something to lean on. I expected about 100 fans, but with Cornell also playing football at 7 (they were also the opponents for field hockey and women's soccer), there were a lot of visiting supporters, with attendance coming in at a robust 564.



Above the south end zone is a small concession stand, which gets quite busy at halftime. As there are a few decent restaurants up on Nassau Street or on campus, better to eat at one of those before or after. This goes for any Princeton game, as food at all venues is quite limited.



There is also a small press box at midfield and you can go up the stairs there to take a look, though I did not bother. The corner has a few benches for disabled people and offers a unique view that is not available at most soccer pitches.



That's about it. They don't get much simpler than NCAA soccer venues. If you happen to be in Princeton and soccer is the only game in town, it is worth a couple of hours to check it out, if only to add Roberts Stadium to your venue count.

The Game



Cornell came in at 7-5-2 (2-1-1 Ivy) while Princeton was 3-6-4 (0-2-2). The Big Red scored first on a superb shot from Tommy Hansan (#13 above), who shocked keeper Jacob Schachner from 25 yards out in the 18th minute.




Princeton tied it just 8 minutes later when Matthew Mangini (#22 above) launched a free kick from the center circle and Harry Heffernan (with the ball above) ran in front of a defender and headed it over Mitchell Meyer to complete the alliterative addition to the scoresheet. Just over a quarter of an hour into the second half, Mangini sent a long ball in that Meyer chased, but Jeremy Colvin beat him to it and sent the ball into the yawning cage to give the Tigers their first lead. Cornell had chances to tie and even hit the post late in the contest, but could not equalize as Princeton held on for the 2-1 win.



A decent match that certainly was worth the price of admission. Obviously, NCAA soccer doesn't get the coverage that the other sports do, but I've always enjoyed the games I've attended and this one was no different. Highlights are available on the Princeton Athletics website.

Notes

I still have to see a hoops game here and hope to do so during this upcoming season.

After the game, we walked back to the Dinky train and passed Hobey Baker Rink. Inside, Holy Cross was practicing for their game the next day. They should have practiced harder as they lost 4-2.



Next Up

Belleville for the Senators this weekend, and then Detroit next weekend for Red Wings and Pistons. Check back for updates as always.

Best,

Sean

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Denver Broncos 0 at Los Angeles Chargers 21 - October 22, 2017


As much as I would have liked to have a few drinks at a Vegas bar after the Golden Knights victory on Saturday night, I had to return to my hotel to get some sleep before an early flight to LA. I left my hotel at 5:30, and it was just warm enough to walk back to the airport, arriving at 6 for my 7:30 flight. Security took nearly as long as the walk, but I still had a half hour until boarding. I flew Southwest, whose open seating policy is great, as it allows you to choose which side of the plane to sit in the hopes of getting a good picture. Watching other planes take off, I determined that a right-side window seat would allow a view of the strip and T-Mobile Arena, which was included in the previous post. Landing in LA, I also took a shot of downtown...



... and the Forum (former home of the Lakers and Kings - I saw a Kings playoff game here in 1991), along with the beginnings of the new Los Angeles Stadium that will host the both the Chargers and Rams from 2020.



This day, however, I was flying to LA to see their newest team, the Chargers, in their current digs, StubHub Center.



Opened in 2003 on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the stadium has been home to MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy since then. The Chargers are using it for the next three seasons until their new home is complete, at which time I will return.



StubHub Center is actually very easy to get to on transit. I took the G shuttle bus to the Aviation/LAX Green Line station, where I boarded the Green Line to Harbor Freeway, switched to the Silver Line bus downstairs, rode two stops to Harbor Gateway Transit Center, and took a 52 bus to the corner of Victoria and Avalon. It sounds complicated, but it only took about 1:15 and cost just $2.50 (you will need a TAP card). Another option is to take the Green Line one stop further to Avalon and take a bus south on Avalon, or take a free shuttle bus from Harbor Gateway if you are there within 2.5 hours of kickoff.



Driving is an option, but the stadium is surrounded mostly by residential areas, and parking is not easy to find. You can choose to park in the tailgating lot for a mere $100, but I would advise taking transit if possible.



There is also a dearth of restaurants here. A small strip mall at the northeast corner of Avalon and Victoria contains a 7/11, seafood and taco shop, and Big Burger, which is a tiny shop with cheap, fresh-cooked burgers and other eats. Definitely worth a stop here instead of eating overpriced stadium food. While I was chowing down, Andrew and Peter from the Ultimate Sports Road Trip entered - they were on the first day of their trip out west and we caught up with our latest adventures. We then walked over to the stadium, checking out a few of the pregame activities such as the drumline, who are known as the Thunderbolts.



I also asked at the box office if I could have a hard stub printed out and was soundly turned away. At StubHub Center! Unbelievable. Fortunately, season ticket holders get cool stubs and I found a few of those after the game.



Anyway, temperatures were nearing 100 degrees so I made my way in and found my seat after grabbing a designated driver soda. Fortunately, I was in the shade the whole game (Section 141 if you are looking). It was also right above the tunnel where both teams enter the field.



With a capacity of 27,000, it is by far the smallest venue in the NFL, and tickets are priced accordingly, with lower level end zone seats going for $227. Fortunately, season tickets are cheaper ($165) and the team sees little demand locally, so I was able to grab a ticket for $100 plus fees (view below).



After resting for a bit, I did my usual walk around. Scattered around the concourse are high- powered misting machines which keep you cool as you explore. In the south end is the open plaza with several concessions and food trucks. Just behind here is a tennis court that is turned into a premium party area.



Another premium location is the cabanas atop the south end zone, above the Bud Light Party Patio in the photo below.



There is no history here for the Chargers, but there is a Wall of Legends for some Galaxy players, and a plaque for their 2002 MLS Cup title.



There is a second deck along the east side of the stadium, and this is shaded at the beginning of the game, but as the sun moves west, more and more of these seats become tanning salons.



Similarly, the lower level seats (below the suites) on the east side start in the sun but slowly move into the shade.



The north end zone is completely exposed and looks to be a very uncomfortable place to sit, while the south end zone is the only spot you can expect to remain in the shade from start to finish. There are standing areas here as well that fill up quickly with fans who want to avoid melanoma.



The Chargers move to L.A. is controversial and many San Diego fans are still upset about having their NFL team ripped out of the city. One fan has managed to rent an airplane and have it fly over the stadium before the game with a banner stating "Dean Spanos...Cheap Inept Weasel #FightForSD". Spanos is the owner who is now persona non grata among Chargers faithful, while the hashtag is in reference to FightForLA, the Chargers marketing phrase that can be found inside the venue and is also their website.



There were some decent food options, but as mentioned, not affordably priced. I saw one grilled cheese sandwich going for $14.1 can't imagine those prices are used for the MLS games - I guess I'll have to come back to find out.



In case you forget the order of things, the sign below should help.



If your phone is losing juice, there are USB chargers along the east concourse, along with benches to relax on.



Overall, StubHub Center is probably a great soccer venue for night games, but for afternoon NFL tilts, it is the opposite. The lack of shade, which is clearly shown in the panorama below, is a big problem. Costs are ridiculous, and you have to wonder if the NFL has overstepped its bounds. San Diego had a good following, while Angelos don't seem to care. I'll be back in 2020 to see if things have changed.



The Game

The Denver Broncos were in town in an AFC West battle, and I'd say at least half the fans were wearing orange. Meanwhile, the Chargers came out wearing their powder blue uniforms that were the highlight of the afternoon.



After the Broncos second drive stalled, Riley Dixon punted to Travis Benjamin, who found an opening and raced 65 yards to open the scoring. In the second quarter, the Chargers drove 65 yards in 9 plays, finishing with a 1-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Austin Ekeler (wide open on the right below) to make it 14-0 at the half.



Trevor Siemian could not move the Broncos in the second half either, but he was not replaced by Brock Osweiler. With 5:51 to go, a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Benjamin sealed the deal as LA won a stinker 21-0.



Notes

There was a fight about five rows in front of me during a timeout late in the game. There were even kids around but that didn't stop the combatants from trying to pummel each other. If you wonder why NFL attendance is down, it has nothing to do with the anthem protests, but the fact that people realize that many games are garbage like this one, and many fans are testosterone-fueled morons. I've basically stopped going to NFL games except for new venues like this one, and this experience certainly won't encourage me to make any more trip to MetLife Stadium or any other NFL venue.

Next Up

I'm heading to Princeton this weekend to visit their art museum and add their soccer stadium to my venue count, followed by a trip to Belleville on the following weekend to visit my parents and see a Belleville Senators game. One week later, I will head to Detroit to once again complete Club 123, with both the Red Wings and Pistons at home. Check back as always for recaps of these visits.

Best,

Sean

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

St. Louis Blues 2 at Vegas Golden Knights 3 (OT) - October 21, 2017


Having spent all my vacation time (and then some) on my two extended minor league baseball trips this past summer, I am limited to weekend jaunts to complete the new Club 123 venues. For a city with a single stadium in the same time zone, such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, one night is enough and easy to plan. Detroit's Little Caesars Arena hosts both the Red Wings and Pistons, so I just needed a little help from the schedule makers to do that one in two days (November 11/12 as it turns out). But the remaining two venues are in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, two cities in the Pacific Time Zone. It is too far and expensive to fly out there twice from NYC, so I needed a weekend where the Golden Knights were home on Saturday and the Chargers on Sunday. There were a few options, but the best was this past weekend, when the Golden Knights hosted St. Louis on Saturday evening, and the Chargers welcomed the Broncos on Sunday afternoon. With red-eye flights leaving LAX, I would be able to complete the trip without missing work.

I flew out of JFK on Friday evening, arriving at McCarran Airport around 10:00. Rather than wait for a taxi, I walked to my hotel on Tropicana, about 30 minutes away. This is not a recommended way to get out of the airport, but it was cool, and after 5 hours sitting, my legs needed some stretching. There are sidewalks the whole way, and you have them to yourself. After checking in, I headed over to the closest casino (Hooters) and stopped by their sports book, run by William Hill. I picked up the odds sheets for hockey and college football, and scanned the odds for Saturday's games over a beer at the bar, choosing which ones I would bet (lose money) on the next day.



On Saturday, I visited Taps Sports Bar in the MGM Grand, where I watched my bets lose in painfully quick fashion. Shortly thereafter, my friend Meg joined me. She had flown in for the game from Denver, and we wandered over to New York New York (above), whose Nine Fine Irishmen Pub has a highly tempting soup of the day.



With a game to attend, we stuck to more typical fare and then made our way over to T-Mobile Arena, which is located just behind the casino. The picture below, taken from the air as I was leaving the following morning, shows the arena (center left) and the surroundings. In the foreground is Mandalay Bay and the Las Vegas Village, now famous as the site of the largest mass shooting in US history.



The Mandalay Bay now has a #VegasStrong banner atop it, which is pretty much how U.S. cities deal with these sorts of attacks. Add Strong to the city name, hashtag it, and move on. Changes to laws to prevent a similar incident from happening again? No thank you, but you can have plenty of thoughts and prayers for the victims.



Enough of the editorializing. Between the casino and the arena is a walking path known as The Park, with several hockey-related displays such as a giant puck with the knight's helmet logo...



...a large wooden goalie that you can stand behind with your head looking through the mask (thanks to Meg for playing along)...



...and a cheerleaders parade.



There are also restaurants and bars along here such as Sake Rok and Beerhaus which have entrances adorned with VGK signage.



The centrepiece is a huge statue of a full-figured female known as Bliss Dance that was created by Marco Cochrane. A similar statue was scheduled to be placed on the National Mall in Washington, but it was rejected by the National Park Service.



The main entrance to the arena is at the west end of the park, facing the Monte Carlo (the hotel in the picture above) across the way. Gates open an hour before the game and there is a countdown clock atop the main entrance.



When it finally hits 0, you may "Enter the Fortress".



Tickets here can be expensive even at the box office, with the cheapest usually around $100. We found a pair for a bit less on the secondary market and ended up in the sixth row behind the net that Vegas attacks twice (view below). The mobile option does provide you with a small paper stub that has the Golden Knights logo on it, which is the best you can do these days in many places.



Inside the arena, there isn't much in terms of decoration or history, which is to be expected as it was built as a neutral venue. T-Mobile's garish pink is also used on signs directing you to your section.



Still, there are some additions, such as the Castle, an area denoted by the knight's helmet that sits above the upper deck at the west end of the arena.



Here is where the in-game promos and cheerleader dance routines take place. You can get up close before the game, but not actually enter the area itself.



Above this is a cool picture of the Vegas skyline along with banners for every team in the NHL, in alphabetical order by conference. During the game, these banners are constantly moving, though I am not sure if that is intentional or just a result of the proximity of the Castle.



Concourses do get narrow at spots and there was quite a crowd trying to get out after the game. The upper concourse is above the seating bowl, so if you are in Row A, you will have a long walk down and back up.



There are two large triangular projections above the upper seating bowl on the east side that seem to be premium areas. I did not make my way here but they certainly did seem to provide unique views of the ice.



I did pick up a designated driver soda but having just eaten, did not try any of the food. I did not see anything particularly tempting, and like much of Vegas, it was overpriced.



During the game, I was impressed with the fans, who weren't as noob as anticipated. There were some problems with fans coming and going during the action, but that should become less of an issue as they get used to the unwritten rules of hockey viewing. Though given the long walk down to the lower seats on both levels, even if you start walking when the whistle blows, you might not reach the first row until the face-off has already taken place. In terms of promos, there are your typical "Make Some Noise" graphics, each with a Vegas twist, that are played on the scoreboard that hangs above center ice. Fans did as directed and were rewarded with an exciting game with a thrilling finish.



Overall, T-Mobile Arena is a fantastic experience. Obviously it immediately vaults to the top of the neighborhood rankings as there is nothing like it in the Big 4 and there should be plenty of visiting fans making the trip to see their team here. In addition, the club has done a great job in promoting the game, their brand (the logo is ubiquitous), and helped by an aggressive expansion draft policy and easy schedule, the team is off to a flying start. I'm glad I got here early (the Leafs play on New Year's Eve, which is not possible this year for me) as this will become a premier stadium destination for hockey fans everywhere.

The Game

The St. Louis Blues were in town with a 6-2 record while the Knights were 5-1. With Marc-Andre Fleury injured, Malcolm Subban got the start between the pipes for Vegas, while Jake Allen tended goal for St. Louis. The visitors scored in the first when Magnus Paarjavi jammed home a loose puck after a fancy wraparound by Oskar Sundqvist, but Vegas notched a pair of power-play markers in the second just over three minutes apart, with Reilly Smith and Colin Miller doing the honours.

In the third, Subban made a save stretching and immediately went down in obvious distress. At the next whistle, the trainer came out and eventually Subban was helped off, to be replaced by Oscar Dansk, making his NHL debut. Shortly thereafter, Alex Pietrangelo sent a wicked slap shot past Dansk to tie the game. Neither team could capitalize over the final few minutes and we went to 3-on-3 overtime. Both teams were stymied by good goaltending, with Dansk looking particularly sharp, until the last 30 seconds, when the Golden Knights broke away on a 2-on-l. Smith crossed the blueline and passed to William Karlsson, whose one-timer beat Allen for the winner.



A very fun game with a satisfying ending that set a record as Vegas became the first NHL expansion team to win 6 of their first 7 games. One interesting thing is that the scoreboard has slightly different displays - if you want the list of players on the ice, you will need to sit in the end zone.

Notes

I had seen all three goalies on their way up: Subban in Belleville (on the bench) and Providence, Dansk in Erie, and Allen when he was in the AHL as a member of the Chicago Wolves.

Subban was placed on IR as well, so Vegas will have some trouble in the next couple of weeks as they embark on their first big road trip. Dansk will likely see the bulk of the action and he played well in his first start against Chicago. I'll see them against the Islanders on October 30 and it will be interesting to see how they play on the road.

Best,

Sean