When you’ve celebrated a league record 24 Stanley Cups, seen 55 members of the organization inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and spent over a century excelling in your given field, you tend to relish history a little more than most. That passion extends beyond the ice for us, as we were stopped in our tracks by the Tribune Tower while walking along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The ultimate crowd-sourcing project, the tower was erected following a contest in 1922 offering a $50,000 cash prize to whichever architect submitted “The most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world”. Among the 260 entries, John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood came up with the neo-gothic building that now houses the Chicago Tribune newspaper, WGN Radio (the voice of the Blackhawks), and CNN’s Chicago bureau. What really makes the tower unique, though, is that history literally oozes out of its pores. Nearly 150 artifacts from historically-significant sites around the world – from the Taj Mahal in India and the Parthenon in Greece to pieces of steel from World Trade Center Tower 1 and even a stone from the Seminaire de Quebec in Quebec City – line the façade of the Tribune Tower. We’re not exactly sure how Trib correspondents managed to finagle getting things like an actual piece of the Great Wall of China or an authentic Moon rock into their suitcases over the years, but we assume with those kinds of details, it’s better not to ask questions…
After getting a little verklempt at seeing our home province represented in the stones of the Tribune Tower, we wanted to continue sharing our Quebec culture with as many Chicagoans as possible. In the ultimate photo bomb experiment, we walked to Millennium Park with a Habs logo in hand to see how many unsuspecting tourists’ selfies we could sneak the CH into in front of, below and around the iconic Cloud Gate (aka the giant mirrored bean). It may be like the most difficult game of Where’s Waldo ever created, but see if you can spot the tiny bleu-blanc-rouge logo for yourself below.
With the CFL Draft just over a month away, we’re starting to get back into Canadian football in Montreal as the Alouettes look to start a new chapter following Anthony Calvillo’s retirement last season. Nowhere is “CFL fever” more pronounced than in the national capital region, where football fans will be welcoming a new franchise to Lansdowne Park for the third time in league history this summer. We stopped by the construction site of what will eventually be the new, refurbished stadium grounds to check in on how close they were to being ready for their June 14 home opener. We couldn’t get very close to the action, but based on what we saw during our April 4 visit compared to the artist’s mock-up we found on their Web site in the afternoon, we’re assuming the paint may not be completely dry on the new digs when the doors open for business for Game 1 this summer.
Photo credit: TDPlace.ca
The expansion Ottawa RedBlacks will have the first-overall pick at the 2014 CFL Draft on May 13, and will also get first dibs in each ensuing round, except the third. While training camps are still weeks away, the newly-minted franchise has already experienced its first taste of controversy following the naming of their buff, lumberjack mascot. “Big Joe Mufferaw” lost his last name just three days after it was announced. Based on the French-Canadian folk hero immortalized in the eponymous song by Stompin’ Tom Connors detailing the legendary feats of strength Joe was capable of, Big Joe Mufferaw is actually an anglicized version of actual Montreal-born logger Joseph "Jos" Montferrand whose own exploits – which included protecting his Francophone brethren with his fists and boots alike – were legendary in their own right. After creating a stir with the announcement on March 28, the RedBlacks promptly changed his name to “Big Joe” in English and “Grand Jos” in French the following Monday morning. Much like Madonna and Cher, Grand Jos’ legendary status is beyond needing a family name anyway…
Photo Credit: @BigJoeGrandJos
When we think of April Fools’ Day (or Poisson d’avril in French), the first thing that comes to mind are the best tricks and pranks that we can play on other people. With the word “poisson” (or fish in English) in mind on our trip to Tampa, we took a short stroll down Channelside Drive to explore The Florida Aquarium, home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from Florida and around the globe. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with some of the most interesting specimens the sea has to offer, this place will not disappoint!
Stingray exhibits are among the more popular attractions at the aquarium. At Stingray Beach, you can actually touch a variety of different species of stingrays, including Southern Rays and Blue Spotted Rays while walking along a boardwalk. As intimidating as they might look, don’t be intimidated by these venomous creatures at all. They’ll typically only resort to using one or more of their barbed stingers if they feel threatened.
It’s safe to say sharks are naturally intimidating. Here’s the proof! The Florida Aquarium, however, can help anyone overcome their fear of these daunting creatures. They actually offer a unique opportunity for certified divers to head into this very tank and be surrounded by everything from massive sharks and eels to barracuda and sea turtles. Talk about the experience of a lifetime.
While marine life might be fairly harmonious, wars are likely waged every now and again. Case in point was this epic tilt between a pair of otters during our visit. It’s a good indication of how things should go down when the Canadiens and Lightning do battle at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during our stay. We, of course, plan on coming out on top!
Everybody knows that the Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto. But, did you know that swimming’s international equivalent is located in Fort Lauderdale? Founded in 1964, this museum was created to expose the sport of swimming to the public and honor the countless athletes that made swimming history in a variety of disciplines. In hopes of learning a little bit more about the sport ourselves, and to enjoy the terrific weather in South Florida, we decided to make the trek over to the International Swimming Hall of Fame and discover what it had to offer.
While sifting through the long list of athletes, coaches and contributors who were inducted into the Hall of Fame, we came across a few familiar faces, including several Quebec natives, who made their mark on this worldwide sport: Sylvie Bernier, a gold medalist in diving at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and Sylvie Frechette, a double-medalist in synchronized swimming. The museum also featured a small section dedicated to Frechette, who, interestingly enough, received her gold medal from the Olympic Games in Barcelona at the Montreal Forum in 1993 because of a judge’s technical error.
It should come as no surprise that the Summer Games are prominently featured at the museum, and we felt right at home when we saw the numerous artifacts on display tied to the Olympic Games in Montreal. One piece in particular – a medal from the 1976 Olympic Games – caught our attention. After seeing the medals Carey Price and P.K. Subban collected in Sochi up close, we couldn’t help but notice how much bigger the medals are today.
Take a short walk from the museum, and you’ll come across an aquatic center that hosts a variety of national swimming competitions each year. It’s also the perfect place for visitors to take a few laps and enjoy the Florida sunshine. We would’ve loved to jump in the pool ourselves and enjoy the superb facilities on site, but duty called and we had to get back to work. We’ll save the swimming for our next visit!
With baseball set to make its return to Montreal over the weekend, we decided to make a stop at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, during our visit to the Motor City.
While the Tigers won’t kick off the 2014 campaign until next Monday afternoon at home, the temperature outside quickly reminded us that we were in town for a hockey game. In hopes of keeping the field in the best shape possible for the Tigers’ opening day tilt against the Kansas City Royals on Mar. 31, the grounds crew installed a giant tarp on the playing surface to protect the infield grass. Based on the weather conditions in the area during our visit, that seemed like an excellent idea!
Boasting one of the top rosters in all of Major League Baseball, the Tigers will undoubtedly be World Series contenders in 2014, and do everything in their power to pick up their first title since 1984. Players like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer will be looking to achieve the same feat as Al Kaline, who helped pace the Tigers to a World Series title back in 1968. Kaline is among several greats to be immortalised inside the confines of Comerica Park.
No baseball-themed road blog would be complete without a trip to Detroit’s finest hot dog establishment – American Coney Island – a favorite with Detroiters and visitors alike for nearly a century. Located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette, this legendary establishment is one of the oldest businesses in the city with its origins dating back to 1917. Our host, Dan Dan “The Hot Dog Man” Keros, made us feel right at home upon arrival, showcasing his mastery of the French language while serving up terrific eats, including the American Coney Island Special with cheese (seen below). If you’re looking for a taste of Detroit, this is the spot!
In past Road Blogs from Boston, we’ve taken you through the American Revolution, explored the Freedom Trail, gotten a taste of authentic Boston Cream Pie and checked out the Celtics and Red Sox on home turf. One area of the city that’s somehow fallen under our radar over the years is Boston’s North End – aka Little Italy. We originally made the trek to the North End to check out Boston Barber Co., the spot where Milan Lucic and other Bruins stars go to keep their cuts fresh. A cross between a sports bar (minus the booze) and an old-timey barbershop complete with stripe, rotating pole outside, the iconic shop was sadly closed when we came calling on Sunday.
Looking for things to see and do in Little Italy, we opted to do a little culinary tour of what the area had to offer, which led us to the world-famous Mike’s Pastry to spoil our appetite with some pre-lunch cannolis. A Boston tradition for nearly seven decades, Mike and Annette Mercogliano’s family has been serving up delicious pastries since they immigrated to America from Italy. Boston’s answer to Schwartz’s deli, the line was out the door when we arrived, but after sampling some of their work, we quickly realized why so many people walking around the North End were carrying white and blue cardboard Mike’s boxes hand wrapped with twine and why U.S. Presidents have always made stops at the local bakery to satisfy a sweet tooth or two.
Despite being full of ricotta-stuffed pastries, we decided to take advantage of a tip from TSN 690 color man Sergio Momesso to try the best pizza in the city at Regina Trattoria & Pizzeria. The owner of an authentic Italian restaurant in Montreal himself, Momesso did not lead us astray on the road. Regina’ pies have become so popular, she’s opened over 20 different locations around Beantown, but the original spot remains a Boston institution. Pizza, cannolis and a splash of Brio is all it takes to soak in the North End atmosphere with all the authenticity of a local.
As far as Canadian sports towns go, we grudgingly have to admit that Toronto is among the best markets in the country. Fielding/icing teams in all four major North American sports, the Big Smoke is a market that can handle not just having big name teams, but creating hype for them, too. In addition to the headlining matchup between the Habs and Leafs at the ACC on Saturday night, the Toronto Marlies are in action at nearby Ricoh Coliseum, the Toronto Furies are battling the Boston Blades for CWHL Clarkson Cup glory in Markham, the Argonauts are in scouting mode ahead of the CFL Draft, the Raptors lost a nail-biter to the OKC Thunder on Friday night and the Toronto Rock will be in action on Sunday after they clear out the ice at the ACC. Even with all that athletic action on the docket, the biggest sporting story in the city at the moment is arguably the Toronto FC home opener against D.C. United at BMO Field. After a busy offseason of wheeling and dealing that brought big name talent to this side of the pond, TFC is about to enjoy a capacity crowd ready to welcome superstar striker Jermain Defoe to the fray on home turf after luring him from Tottenham in the Premier League.
Seeing more fans sporting TFC scarves and jerseys than Leaf paraphernalia on the streets of Toronto for the first time, we can confirm that getting Defoe definitely was a “Bloody big deal” for the Toronto-based MLS club.
While looking at TFC swag at Real Sports we also happened upon a few interesting items on display, including a pair of Maple Leafs Stanley Cup rings. We couldn’t spot any dates engraved on them, so we have to assume they’re either vintage collectables from 1967 or just waiting for hopeful fans to finally get a chance to engrave them with a date in the 21st Century.
We were obviously a bit disappointed to learn that we would not be in Montreal on the day of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade. However, we had a chance to get our green on in Buffalo as the Western New York city had its own parade, filled with dressed-up people and jazzy floats, down Delaware Avenue, a main downtown artery.
Organized since 1940 by the United Irish American Association in Buffalo, the parade route started from Niagara Square, near the HSBC Center, home of the Sabres. After walking around a green-and-orange downtown Buffalo on the crisp, sunny late winter day, we caught up with some Canadiens fans that were also in town for the day. Having bought their tickets to the game months earlier, Roch, Michel and Norman drove down to New York from Canada last night after catching the Habs’ improbable third-period comeback against the Senators. It pays to be a loyal fan, as they were awarded the coveted limited edition green McChuck, McGallagher and McSubby t-shirts.
Taking advantage of the cold weather to make a buck were a brave group of street vendors hawking green scarves, earmuffs and wool hats. All of them were hustling hard to move their wares, as it is difficult to imagine St. Patrick’s themed apparels to be hot sellers the other 364 days of the year. In any case, it’s not easy to make a buck, and hard work is usually a precursor to success, whether you make your bucks on or off the ice.
Since the team had the day off in San Jose on Friday (thanks, Michel!), we decided to take advantage of our free afternoon in the sun to tour the Bay area while documenting a few of our favorite things for the On the Road Blog. To start our tour of the city right, we set sail for a boat cruise around the Bay to get an up close view of some of San Francisco’s iconic landmarks.
It may be a notorious prison that housed some of the world’s most dangerous criminal masterminds for 30 years, but we’ll always have a soft spot for Alcatraz. Back in the 1980s, when the Canadiens started the postseason, then-general manager Serge Savard – who knew exactly how much trouble a bunch of 20-something-year-old hockey players could get into in Montreal in the springtime – rented rooms for the team at a hotel off the island on the South Shore to keep them on their best behavior. Stranded with little contact with the outside world, the locale became known affectionately among the players as “Alcatraz” for the duration of their stay. Thanks to their time spent in the playoffs distraction-free, the team captured the franchise’s 23rd Stanley Cup in 1986. Based on its contribution to Canadiens lore, The Rock has officially made its way onto our list of favorites.
Growing up, there’s nothing we loved more than racing home from school in time to catch Full House at 4:00 p.m. every weekday afternoon. We were raised by the lessons Danny Tanner taught us in 22-minute blocks and there’s perhaps no better way to bring us back to our childhood than a trip to San Francisco to see where the magic happened in person. Set in the city, every episode started with a shot of the family enjoying a peaceful picnic in Alamo Park across from the famous Painted Ladies so to bring that sense of nostalgia back, we hit up the park to snap a few shots of our childhood in photo form.
Opened in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge has withstood the test of time over the years and is also on our list of favorite things under the category of “well-preserved bridges”. The most photographed bridge in the world, it was named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers and has designated lanes for bicycles and pedestrians to take in the beauty of the San Francisco skyline while suspended 220 feet above the bay. Thanks to our intrepid local tour guide, Mike, who drove us around to find the best views in the city between stops for authentic fish tacos and Ghirardelli chocolate-covered strawberries, we were able to shoot the bridge from just about every angle imaginable.
After the week we’ve spent out west, there’s one thing we can confirm for sure: the best decision Gary Bettman has ever made was adding a rule that every team has to travel to every NHL city every year. Thanks for the sunshine, warm weather and memories, California. The only thing that would make us happier would be to add one last favorite to the list before heading home: a big win against the Sharks.
We apologize in advance for the feelings of nostalgia that are bound to come with reading the Phoenix edition of the On the Road blog. First, seeing the lush lawn and blazing sun will harken fans back to a time in Montreal that feels like it was a lot longer than seven months ago, when flip flops and T-shirts were the outfits of choice and there wasn’t a snow bank or winter tire to be seen for miles. Second, seeing photos of spring training in action is sure to re-open old wounds for Expos fans who would love nothing more than to see Nos Amours hit the diamond on a sunny day, even under the roof at the Big O. For this edition of the blog, we hit up Camelback Ranch to watch the White Sox take on the Mariners in Cactus League exhibition action from prime seats on the centerfield lawn.
For just $11, we were able to get within a warning track of Seattle and Chicago’s boys of summer. The official spring training facility of the Sox and Dodgers until they relocate to their permanent digs in Chicago and LA, respectively, for the regular season in April, the “Ranch” has room for 13,000 fans, but also features a dozen smaller diamonds for local teams to get their swing on. While we weren’t able to stay until the final pitch, we can confirm the Mariners pulled off a comeback, registering five unanswered runs to win 7-4.
While we were cheering more for a day in the sun than for either team in particular, we have to admit we had a soft spot for Seattle after noticing former Expos center fielder Endy “Bagel” Chavez on the roster. One of the last 10 active players remaining in the league to have played in Montreal, the 36-year-old slugger – who played for the ‘Spos from 2002 to 2004 – finished his day having gone 1-for-4.