Half-way through our trip to the States we left New York and headed via Chinatown Bus to Washington, DC. It was a welcome rest from the constant go-go of the big city.
On our third night there we wanted to go out to see a movie. We chose the horse-racing film Secretariat because it seemed to fit everyone’s taste. But on the subway to the theatre we noticed all these people wearing huge, red Washington Capitals jerseys. So, rather dumbly, I asked this guy next to us, “Hey, is there a hockey game happening tonight?”
He says yeah, and then we start talking hockey as if I’ve known him for years. I start to get really interested when he tells me about how the Capitals are favoured to win the Stanley Cup this year, and how their superstar Russian Alex Ovechkin is the greatest player in the game today.
“So where do they play?” I ask him.
Turns out the stadium is right next to the theatre where we were going.
The little red-haired girl pipes in, “So maybe we could go to the game instead of the movie?”
“I’m thinking about it.” Of course, I love hockey, and have already made up my mind.
We get to our stop and pour out of the car along with the red-shirt hordes. Half-way up the endlessly long escalator we catch up with wife K, who went to the theatre before to meet us.
“What about tickets?” she asks.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find some!”
We get to the entrance hall and we start to look like we need tickets, then make the mistake of telling one of the scalpers we’re looking for three.
Mistake, because they’re on us like wasps, waving tickets in the air, 75-75-75 man, I got the best seats, centre-ice, you’ll nevah gedda chance at seats like this man, until a couple of others intrude with what seem even better offers, all the while trailing us like a media scrum as we try to make our way to the ticket booth.
“Look,” I tell them. “I don’t even know what a Washington Capitals ticket LOOKS like. Lemme at least ask at the counter.”
They wanted 360 bucks for the three seats I was interested in. K. shakes her head and says, “Ian, I’d like to see the movie. We’ve already seen an NHL game.” I tell her that was 16 years ago, in Vancouver, and the little red-haired girl was still the proverbial twinkle. “It’ll be a great time,” I tell her.
“But 360 bucks? And with tax over 400? That’s too much.”
The scalpers move in and are waving tickets at us again, and I’m just about to say screw it: we’re on holiday, we’re only here once, let’s buy the seats and have a great memory.
Just as I turn to the counter lady, who’s laughing at our back-and-forth hum-and-hawing, this guy comes up and says, “If you’re looking for tickets, you can have these, cuz I’m just going to throw them away, anyway.”
I look at him rather shocked. “What? Really?”
“That’s right. I don’t want ‘em.”
“Uhh… OK! We’ll take ‘em! Thanks!”
The scalper takes a look over my shoulder and snorts, making a face as if I’ve showed him a turd. “They’re way up in the rafters, man. Mine are low at centre-ice.”
“I don’t care,” I tell him. “We’re in the building, and the price is unbeatable!”
So since we couldn’t find a third ticket anywhere near the two free ones, K. went to see Secretariat. She recommends it.
I then took a very excited and happy little red-haired girl to her very first hockey game, and, as I later realised, my first-ever hockey game in the USA. There was great end-to-end play, a lot of crisp, clean passing, good goals, and tons of razzle-dazzle in the stands to keep the tempo up. The game even went into sudden-death overtime, and when the Capitals scored to win with only 31 seconds left, I thought the roof would blast off.