BOSTON -- I figured I'd get there pretty early.
If the puck was dropping at 1 p.m. (more like 1:40) on New Year's Day, then getting to Fenway Park at about 10:15 would probably be alright.
As it turned out, it was. I even got free street parking just a couple blocks from Fenway, which was beyond my wildest expectations.
Once I had walked the few blocks to Kenmore Square, I saw I wasn't the only person with the idea to head in early.
There were people streaming out of the T stop in a steady line, herding their way up Brookline Ave. toward the park.
If you look at the left hand side of that picture, you'll notice a little tent. That was the first of the many, many, many, many Official NHL Souvenir Shops/Gouging centers. About half a block from the T stop.
This was a warning to hockey fans that they should have their wallets out all day.
As you come over the top of the hill on Brookline, the first landmark is the Cask'n Flagon, an overpriced bar, on your left-hand side. The line, considering it wasn't even 10:30 -- and, I presume many of the people in it had been mind-bendingly drunk just six hours prior (if not at present) -- was surprisingly long.
Upon reaching Yawkey Way, I saw another long line that stretched to halfway around the Brookline Ave. side of the Park. This one, however, was not for beer and was the only non-beer-related line I encountered for the remainder of the day. This was, I was told, for people looking to secure either walk-up or will call tickets.
I was going to go right into the park after that, but as I walked by the big souvenir shop I highlighted on Tuesday, I noticed it had gotten even bigger. As I had guessed, they hadn't finished stocking the shelves that Monday afternoon. They hadn't finished jacking up the prices to hilarious levels either, apparently.
I mean, $35 for that hat? It's a nice hat, but come on.
On my way into the park, I was behind a girl whose mom bought her tickets, I think.
Fans had been filtering in for a while now and I decided to go over and check out how those in the lower rows were finding their seats. Many of them seemed not especially happy with the fact that, when sitting down, they would only be able to see players from the shoulders up. Most of those people spent the entire game standing.
Then I decided to head to the press box and, on the way there, passed Steve Levy and Barry Melrose headed the other way. At least three different people shouted, "ESPN SUCKS!" at them as they made their way through the crowd. Surprisingly, I was not one of them. My restraint can now be considered legendary.
Upon arriving at the media level, I learned that I was not seated in the main press box. I was, however, invited by someone from NHL media relations to take any seat I liked in the auxiliary press box -- a room with literally no view of the ice. The only windows it had faced out onto the street.
Our view of the game.
You might notice that the image on the screen isn't exactly crystal clear. And you might have attributed that to my taking this, and every other picture, with my iPhone. And you would be wrong. Because the TV was, for some inexplicably stupid reason, not tuned to NBC HD. Really.
So I, along with 20 or 30 other media members -- a mix of bloggers, print reporters, photographers and radio guys -- had to watch the game on a few televisions that were tuned to the standard definition feed with not a remote in sight.
Which, of course, we could have done at home. In 1997.
The best part was when we heard the entire press box all scream "OHHHHH!" at once and had no idea why. We got our answer when we saw Marco Sturm's(notes) shot from center ice squeak through Michael Leighton's(notes) legs and hit the post a full 15 seconds after it happened. They may as well have put us in a closet and had a courtroom sketch artist slide a drawing of a particularly interesting play under the door every five minutes or so.
Aaaaanywho, I took the first intermission to walk around the park and scope out what I thought were the best seats. These were them, in the left field roof pavilion seats.
Early in the third period, the announcement came from on high that, because reporters have to walk through the crowd of people leaving to get to the dressing rooms, it would be a good idea to leave with five minutes left. So we did, and I got to the Philadelphia Flyers' dressing room just before Kimmo Timonen(notes) took the penalty that led to the game-tying goal.
The celebration was a little more subdued than I would have expected. I was not, however, in the stands for the winning goal, which I imagine sent the crowd into apoplexy.
After all my interviews were done, I returned upstairs and discovered they'd already shut most of the stuff on the field down.
And I guess I better shut this down too.