VDG Treks to Fenway Park

There was all kinds of traffic heading up to Massachusetts, which allowed VDG to check out the scenery ...

There was all kinds of traffic heading up to Massachusetts, which allowed VDG to check out the scenery …

... including the progress on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

… including the progress on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

But he was rewarded at the end of the long trip with a visit to the 99.

But he was rewarded at the end of the long trip with a visit to the 99.

Saturday night, VDG took in one of Matt's old haunts.

Saturday night, VDG checked out a couple of Matt’s old haunts in Lowell.

But he was up and ready on Sunday morning for first trip on the T to Fenway Park.

But he was up and ready on Sunday morning for first train trip to Fenway Park.

VDG's first look at Fenway.

VDG’s first look at Fenway.

But first, a Green Monsta at the local bar.

But first, a Green Monsta at the local bar.

Finally made it to Fenway! Hopefully the Red Sox will win next time.

Finally made it to Fenway! Hopefully the Red Sox will win next time.

Celebrating My Guys

1995 NJ DEVILS in order

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

When I went to my first New Jersey Devils game ever—which was also my first hockey game ever—in March 1994, I had no idea how everything was about to change. Who knew that this one game would turn me into a hockey addict and rabid Devils fan, torturing, um, I mean, delighting everyone with my new knowledge and begging people to go to games with me? (I am still torturing and begging my loved ones to this day.)

I also had no idea that the team I had hitched my wagon to would win the Stanley Cup the very next year. Each player worked hard, did his job, and did what no one thought they could—bring the Stanley Cup to New Jersey. After that, players would come and go, and the Devils would win two more Stanley Cups. But that 1995 team? That was MY team. They were MY guys.

STEVENS

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

So when the Devils announced that they would be honoring the 1995 Stanley Cup championship team, I circled the date on the calendar. And this past weekend, I got to celebrate my guys.

I’ll never forget those bone-shattering hits from team captain Scott Stevens and his threat that “you’re next.” Or the performance of that young goaltender Martin Brodeur. We knew he was good, but could we ever have imagined where his career would go? Or the dedication of Ken Daneyko, who had been with the Devils for his entire career, through thick and thin. How about the speed of offensive defensemen Scott Niedermayer? And the MVP performance of Claude Lemieux.

MARTY

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

There was the “Crash Line”—Randy McKayMike Peluso, and Bobby Holik—who brought both grit and timely goals. The impressive offense from Stephane Richer and John MacLean. The contributions from younger players like Bill Guerin and Brian Rolston. And the sweet victory for Jersey native Jim Dowd.

And the Cup-winning goal scored by Neal Broten. While he wasn’t around for long, Broten was one of my favorites. Not only was he the first American to score a Cup-winning goal, but he was also a member of the 1980 U.S. hockey team that pulled off the Miracle on Ice. You may have heard of it.

My thanks to the New Jersey Devils for bringing back so many memories of 1995. And for reminding of the time that I fell in love with hockey.

ONE MORE TIME AROUND

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

 

 

Things I Like This Week … Nitromethane Edition

TA FC Lombardo 2

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

1. NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. This past weekend Matt and I made our second trip to the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, PA. Traveling to the track each day meant a picturesque trip through Amish country with changing leaves, farms, and expansive corn fields (and one corn maze). In the middle of all this quaint scenery is a drag strip with with cars making 10,000 horsepower.

The Sarge

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

2. NHRA drag racing. Many people think drag racing is simply driving a high horsepower car really fast for a quarter mile (or 1,000 feet in some cases). But there really is so much more to it than that. Exhibit A for that proposition? The photo above. That’s Top Alcohol Funny Car driver John Lombardo Jr. during Saturday’s qualifying session. Notice that none of his tires are actually touching the racing surface. Conditions were a bit tricky this weekend due to some rain on Friday night and cooler temperatures. Those cooler temperatures meant the potential for more horsepower. the crew chiefs and drivers went for it, and there some near record breaking passes.

3. Every NHRA ticket is a pit pass. Unlike other types of racing, NHRA gives its fans access to the pits. So Matt and I got up close and personal with the crews and drivers this weekend. In many cases, there was only a rope separating us from the crews working on the cars. That means we were only a few feet away from the drivers starting their top fuel dragsters and funny cars (and the resulting tear-inducing nitromethane fumes). And the NHRA drivers are some of the most accessible (and nicest) drivers in motorsports.

And on an unrelated topic …

4. Hockey is back! As a fan of a team that did not make the playoffs, it’s been six long months since I’ve seen my team on the ice. But the Devils and the rest of the NHL are back this week. Each team starts with a clean slate, and (most) fans are full of hope for their teams’ seasons. Of course, check back with me in a couple months.

Things I Like This Week … Back in the Saddle Edition

Aerosmith full stage

Photos by Matthew Lowell Thompson

Dream on

1. Aerosmith. Aerosmith was the latest stop in our Last Chance Tour (as in this might be the last chance to see them). The Last Chance Tour is kind of a crapshoot—you never know exactly what you’re going to get. The big question is always this—are they going to sound as good as they used to? Sometimes you’re disappointed, and sometimes you’re surprised. And on Wednesday night, Aerosmith did not disappoint. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and the rest of the band have not lost a beat. To Matt’s delight, they played some of their older songs. The best past of the night? Now I can cross off “Seeing Aerosmith perform Dream On live” off my bucket list.

SLASH2. Slash. Slash, who opened for Aerosmith, was a reminder that Matt and I will not be seeing Guns N’ Roses on the Last Chance Tour. But we did get a nice G N’ R substitute Wednesday night when Slash, performing with Myles Kennedy, played a few songs from the past, including Sweet Child ‘O Mine and Paradise City. We got to see one of the best guitar players ever play some of the greatest guitar riffs ever. Not a bad little appetizer for the Aerosmith show. Not bad, indeed.

3. Football is back! I may not have grown up as a football fan, but I sure am one now. In our house, we’ll be rooting for the Patriots (we’re deep in enemy territory) and the Panthers (that’s where Matt’s cousin plays). Not following the home team means that we don’t always get the game on TV. Thankfully, we have SiriusXM to fill the void.

4. The family football pool. It’s become an annual tradition. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather together online to pick the winner of every NFL game every week. To keep things interesting, there may be a small wager on the outcome. But what’s a little competition among family members, right?

Things I Like This Week … Premiere Edition

I feel like I spend too much of my time focusing on the negative, so it’s time for a change. A time to focus on the positive and the things I like this week. This is the premiere edition.

1. Cousins. Growing up, I spent many of my Saturdays at my grandfather’s house, hanging out with my cousins. We played Cops and Robbers, used the backyard as our Whiffle ball field, and may have learned how to pour a beer at an early age. We’re all grown now, and life has taken us in different directions. But every once in while, we find ourselves back together again. This weekend, it was for cousin Meredith’s wedding. We picked up right where we left off. And we may have put our beer-pouring skills to work.

2. Formula 1. At Monaco this year, all the talk was whether Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could sweep the season. But the very next race, Daniel Riccardo won Montreal and the streak ended. And things haven’t been the same since. The last two races—Germany and Hungary—had me on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s because Lewis Hamilton had to race his way to through the field due to incidents during qualifying (a crash into a tire wall one week and a burning car the next). Maybe the rest of the field is catching Mercedes. And now it’s three long weeks until the next race. But the fact that it’s Spa doesn’t hurt.

3. Drunk History. I’m not sure how I went this long without this in my life. The premise of Drunk History (Tuesdays, Comedy Central) is quite simple—a drunk person tells a story from history and Derek Waters and his famous friends act it out for us. Below is the story of Claudette Colvin and her role in the civil rights movement:

4. Devils re-sign Andy Greene to a long-term deal. This is just one of the moves that Devils have made this busy off-season. Despite the fact that we are headed into the post-Brodeur era, I’m cautiously optimistic about this season. Only 66 days until the Devils open their season. But who’s counting, right?

5. The things drivers will do for their sponsors. Part of a driver’s job is talking about the sponsor’s products. And sometimes that product is toilet paper and other, um, personal hygiene products. Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon take one for the team in this commercial:

 

Battle Royale: Heart v. Head

MB30_webAs sports fans, we are guided by both our heart and our head. We root for our favorite teams and players with all our hearts. Our teams can make our hearts race with excitement, and they can break them with disappointment. We use our heads to analyze stats, plays, trades, signings, and the standings.

Sometimes the heart wins over the head. Sometimes the head outwits the heart.

Sometimes the heart and the head just don’t get along.

My heart and my head were engaged in a battle royale yesterday afternoon as I watched Martin Brodeur play what could have been his last game in a New Jersey Devils uniform. Actually, it was probably more like mortal combat.

I’ve been a Devils fan since 1994, which mean Marty is the only goaltender I’ve ever known. He came to play every night (or practically every night), making jaw-dropping saves, handling pucks (and scoring a goal or two), and breaking NHL records along the way. My heart never wants him to go.

But my head knows that Marty is almost 42 years old and that he can’t play forever. The Devils traded last year for Corey Schneider, who this year proved he can be the goaltender of the present, and not just the goaltender of the future. Marty wants to be a starting goaltender, but my head keeps reminding me that won’t happen here.

My heart doesn’t want to see Marty in another uniform. My head knows there’s a possibility that’s going to happen.

So now we wait until free agency in July to find out where Marty will end up next year. And to see whether the heart or the head prevails.

After 20 years of being a fan, I finally got to meet Marty about a month ago at a season ticket holder event. As Marty signed our items I said, “I have to thank you for converting my husband from Boston into a Devils fan.”

Marty looked up from what he was doing, smiled, and said, “That’s kind of hard to do, huh?”

Here’s one thing my heart and my head can agree on — if anyone was going to convert Matt into a Devils fan, it’s Marty.

So thank you, Marty. Thank you for everything.

Go See Hockey. Now!

Liberty 2013 2

Photo by Matthew Lowell Thompson

The Olympic hockey tournaments probably didn’t turn out the way you hoped (unless you’re Canadian or a fan of Canada, in which case the turned out pretty much how you wanted). But if you usually don’t watch hockey and enjoyed watching it during the Olympics, do me a favor. Go see a hockey game live.

It doesn’t matter what type of hockey you see. Go see whatever is local — NHL, minor leagues, juniors, college. Whatever level you see, you won’t be disappointed.

Sure, watching hockey is fine. But there is nothing like watching it in person. Being in the arena means you can see the whole sheet of ice and watch as the play develops. Television never does the sounds of the games justice — the the thunderous crash as a player is checked into the boards, the thunk as the puck hits the goalie’s pads, the swoosh of the players’ skates, the sharp taps as the puck moves from stick to stick. And during the two intermissions? You get to watch the methodical movies of the Zambonis cleaning the ice.

There is drama in hockey arenas across the United States and Canada every night. OK, maybe it’s not Olympic drama. But it is compelling drama nonetheless. And it is an amazing feeling to be a part of it.

I saw my first live hockey game in 1994. After that I was hooked.

So head out to your local hockey arena for a game. Try it. You just might like it.

Check Out Behind the Mask

We see them at sporting event all the time. But who exactly is that person in the mascot costume? That’s what the new documentary series Behind the Mask (available now on Hulu) considers.

Behind the Mask follows the men inside the costumes of four mascots on four different levels — Rooty, a high school mascot who is, well, a tree; Hey Reb, the UNLV mascot; Tux, the mascot for the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, the minor league team for the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Bango, the mascot for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Each has their own reason for why they put on the suit and their own challenges on and off the field, court, and ice.  It’s been an eye-opening experience to see what they go through to support their teams.

So, if you sitting at your computer and you’re looking for something to watch, swing by Hulu and check out some episodes of Behind the Mask.

Monday Night Football Confusion

pats panthersIn our house, we are very happy when the New England Patriots play on Monday Night Football because that means we’re actually able to watch the broadcast of our favorite team in the New York metro area. We are also very happy when the Carolina Panthers play on Monday Night Football because that means we get to see Matt’s cousin play on national television (Nate plays right guard for the Panthers).

But what happens when the Pats play the Panthers on Monday Night Football?

I guess we’re going to find out tonight.