A walk through the modern Newport district reminds us that, like people, cities’ personalities do also change with time. As enthusiasts of anything hockey-related, we were delighted to find a refrigerated open-ice rink tucked neatly in one of the neighborhood’s posh residential complexes. Roughly half the size of an NHL rink, the sheet of ice is surrounded by see-through boards. When the on-site Zamboni is not in use, it resides in a large tarp tent which looks like a larger version of the “abris tempo”, popular with many Montreal home owners during the winter months. We were quite disappointed not to have had the time to go for a skate. After all, a sheet of ice this pristine just begs to be shredded up by a pair of freshly-sharpened skate blades. Still, for the benefit of this blog, we urged ourselves to move along to our next destination.
Later, we did a quintessentially Jersey thing: taking a cab and crossing into New York City to grab a bite to eat. We did this via the Holland Tunnel, which got us reminiscing about Sylvester Stallone’s not-so-classic disaster movie Daylight (which we actually watched during a recent trek to D.C.). For the uninitiated, the Holland Tunnel is a rather narrower and far more congested counterpart of our Lafontaine Tunnel. While it is not a bad option during rush hour, traveling through it comes at a price: a cool $9 in toll fees.
Looking for a place to grab a bite in Manhattan, we stumbled upon Warren 77, a restaurant/pub owned by ex-NHLer Sean Avery. While the flamboyant agitator left few indifferent during his whirlwind professional journey, his presence in his own establishment was rather more low-key. On a small section of the varnished wood mural honoring New York sports icons, we saw Avery’s #16 (which he wore with the Rangers) along with what we presumed to be his favourite saying: “Haters gonna hate.” We were left wondering what type of atmosphere the pub would have during heated Rangers-Devils or Rangers-Islanders games. It’s something worth taking in another time, perhaps. In any case, Warren 77 wouldn’t be hard to find; the address is in the name.
Our Canadian Thanksgiving holiday might have been way back in mid-October, but that didn’t stop us from ringing in U.S. Thanksgiving alongside our American friends on our trip to Washington, DC. Surrounded by countless historical sites and buildings in the District of Columbia, we felt the best way to celebrate one of the most coveted national holidays south of the border was with a lengthy walking tour of the American capital on a crisp autumn day. We started our journey through history at one of the most recognizable buildings in the world – the United States Capitol. Sitting atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall, it acts as the official meeting place of the United States Congress, which is made up of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Over the years, the Capitol has hosted a multitude of major events, including presidential inaugurations and Independence Day celebrations. Interestingly enough, the building also holds great geographical significance as all addresses in Washington, DC are designated N.E., N.W., S.E., or S.W. in relation to its Rotunda.
Built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial is a must-visit attraction for anyone making the trek to the DC area. Located on the National Mall directly across from the Washington Monument, Lincoln is featured in a seated sculpture within a temple-like structure. Two of his most famous speeches – the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address – line the walls of the building. Among the most famous speeches given at the historical site was Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963 in conjunction with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of several monuments constructed to honor American presidents, the Lincoln Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, and has been listed on the National Register of Historical Places since 1966. Approximately six million people visit the site each year.
On a previous visit to Washington, DC, we stopped off at the well-known “Reflecting Pool”. Unfortunately, major renovations to the area were underway at the time, and we couldn’t get a very good look at the site. We decided to make a return visit on this trip, and the construction work that began in October 2010 was now complete. Needless to say, the site is nothing short of impressive. Countless tourists were there when we stopped by on Thanksgiving Day. Still, they weren’t lining up to dip their feet in the icy water as per tradition because it was about -10°C outside.
We’ve made countless trips to Buffalo since beginning this Road Blog, but one of the spots we hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit was the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Built in 1973 in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, NY, Ralph Wilson Stadium is one of the oldest facilities still in use in the NFL, and remains one of the few stadiums in which spectators are privy to being as close as possible to the action on the field. Bills fans are widely known as some of the most passionate in the league, braving trying temperatures from November onward to watch their beloved team. If you think that we managed to escape the snow in Montreal by traveling to New York State, you’re wrong. Mother nature greeted us with a fresh coat of the white stuff in Buffalo, one that covered the playing field overnight. Fortunately, Bills players won’t have to deal with the snow this coming weekend because they’ll be playing their next game under the dome at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Sunday.
Like every other NFL team, the Bills are all about ensuring that their players remain in peak physical condition. The equipment made available in the team’s state-of-the-art gym is both impressive and somewhat intimidating, especially when you make the short walk over to check out free weights that generally weigh more than the average human. Needless to say, you’ve got to be a brave soul to step out onto the gridiron against players who boast superhuman strength like this.
In an effort to inspire his troops and help them understand the historical significance of Buffalo Bills football, head coach Doug Marrone insisted that commemorative banners be hung inside the team’s training complex to honor the organization’s on-field achievements, including its four AFC Championship titles in the early 1990’s. A large-scale replica of the Lombardi Trophy hangs proudly above the field as a constant reminder to players to always keep their eyes on the all-important prize that comes with being crowned the NFL’s top team. Marrone believes, however, that reaching the NFL’s Promised Land is all about converting hard work into results, one of many inspirational messages that line the walls of the practice facility.
One of the main reasons why we decided to head out to Ralph Wilson Stadium is because the Canadiens boast one of the biggest Bills fans you’ll ever meet in captain Brian Gionta. A Rochester, NY native, Gionta grew up about an hour outside of Buffalo, and he isn’t shy to show his love for his favorite NFL team. That’s why when we asked him to participate in this edition of the Road Blog by posing with a Bills jersey, the Stanley Cup champ was quick to agree. The fact that the jersey features the number 21 didn’t hurt either!
Fifty years ago today, on November 22nd, 1963, the 35th American president was assassinated in Dallas, TX. While plans were initially made to bury Kennedy alongside other family members in Massachusetts, JFK's gravesite was instead changed to its current location in Arlington, VA. On a prior visit, the president had spoken of the peacefulness of the locale, and a decision was quickly made to make the hillside near the Arlington House the beloved leader’s final resting place.
The idea for the Eternal Flame came from first lady Jackie Kennedy, while a close friend, architect John Carl Warnecke, designed the site. The entire installation was prepared in under 24 hours by a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers team, in time for the president’s funeral on Monday, November 25th.
On March 15th, 1967, the Eternal Flame was opened to the public. More than 16 million people visited the site in its first three years, and it continues to attract thousands of visitors on a daily basis.
There’s no denying that with all of the government buildings and jet-black Secret Service SUVs driving around its city streets, Washington, DC is a fairly serious city. However, on our way to the Verizon Center, we spotted a wrecking ball that brought a smile to our faces. Evidently, those charged with using the crane to knock things down have a certain sense of humour, in addition to being big fans of the game Angry Birds. We’ve yet to see green pigs wandering around town, however…
There may be a course at the University of Montreal focusing on the Canadiens as a religion in Quebec, but in Columbus, the entire state is dedicated to worshipping the Ohio State Buckeyes. With a capacity of 102,239 – and a tailgate that draws over 150,000 fans for every home game – Ohio Stadium is the fourth largest NCAA football venue in the country. The third-ranked Buckeyes were away facing Illinois during our visit so we didn’t actually get to see the stadium at capacity, but even empty, it was enough to make us want to bust out our scarlet and grey and fire up the grill.
If the Buckeyes are the No.1 draw in Columbus, the Ohio State Marching Band might just be 1A. The iconic 225-member group has gone viral with some of its recent performances, from a Michael Jackson tribute on Oct. 20 to a Hollywood Blockbuster halftime show during the Penn State vs. OSU game on Oct. 26 that has generated over 13 million YouTube hits, and counting. The game itself enjoyed an audience of just 4.06 million… You don’t become “The Best Damn Band in the Land” without a little practice, and we were lucky enough to stumble upon a rehearsal during our time strolling around campus, getting a peek behind the curtain at how the band perfects its impressive numbers.
Ontario and Quebec may share a river, but spend a little time on both sides of the bridge and you’ll see that Gatineau and Ottawa are almost nothing alike. From the age of majority and time the last call bell rings to the official language(s), ability to turn right on red lights and loyalties to their provincial NHL franchises, there are some major differences between the 613 and the 819. One might just be the free-wheeling, dice-rolling, slot-pulling prevalence of casinos in Quebec, like the one in Lac Lemy, just a stone’s throw from the Parliament Buildings across the river in Gatineau. That might change if Sens owner Eugene Melnyk has anything to say about it, having submitted a proposal for a Kanata casino to provide a few more post-game entertainment options for fans pouring out of the Canadian Tire Centre while they wait for the traffic to die down on the 417.
The best way to get to know your opponent is to find out how he lives. Since we weren’t prepared to get too close for comfort, we settled for a window into how the Sens eat. A short drive from the Canadian Tire Centre, Big Rig Brew Pub gave us just such an opportunity. Partly-owned by Chris Phillips, the micro-brewery was named in honor of the 15-year Senators defenseman and offers everything from slabs of steak to our personal favorite, “Montreal style” pizzas. We may not be cheering for Phillips on Thursday night, but we’re definitely fans when it comes to the man’s culinary taste.
Situated approximately one mile or 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is proud to bear the nickname, the Mile-High City. Defined by the elevation of a benchmark located on the steps of the State Capitol building, additional signage indicating the unique feature of the largest city in the state of Colorado can be seen at points throughout the bustling metropolis, including at the state-of-the-art Pepsi Center, home of the Avalanche, Nuggets and Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League.
We have to admit that we’ve always had a soft spot for former Denver Nuggets center, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, known more commonly as Dikembe Mutombo, whose NBA career spanned from 1991 until 2009. We can’t explain why we loved Dikembe so much. It’s just the way it is. He blocked shots like no one else could, always with a smile on his face. Since we don’t have his talent or his size to one day make our own mark in the NBA, we jumped at the chance to come just a little bit closer to realizing our seemingly unreachable dream by taking advantage of the opportunity to use a Nuggets photo kiosk in the halls of the Pepsi Center.
Saint Paul native Charles Schulz is undoubtedly one of the most influential cartoonists in American history. The creator of such lovable figures as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and a slew of other characters featured in that light-hearted comic strip, Schulz made certain that each of them celebrated holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas right along with us throughout our childhood. Following his passing in 2000, he was honored by his hometown when officials elected to create hundreds of statues of his most popular characters and display them across the city beginning in 2001. In the spirit of combining business with pleasure, we set out to find one statue in particular. Our search brought us to a rink that bears the name of the famous artist. Just inside the arena doors, you’ll see a statue of Snoopy playing our national sport. We also thought we’d meet up with Lucy for a quick therapy session, but she apparently upped her fees since having great success with her five-cent kiosk.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – especially on a road trip – and if you happen to make a stop in the Twin Cities, chances are your hotel concierge will direct you to a local hangout that’s been serving All-American classics to Minnesotans for nearly 70 years. Located in downtown Saint Paul, Mickey’s Diner has operated non-stop since opening its doors. Measuring 50 feet long by 10 feet wide, the art-deco, dining car restaurant, was built in New Jersey in 1937 before being shipped to Saint Paul by rail. Looking to satisfy our craving for some of the finest diner food the Midwest has to offer, we paid a visit to the well-known eatery that has been family owned and operated for three generations. Interestingly enough, Mickey’s Diner was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, becoming one of the first diners in the United States to earn that designation. It has also been featured in movies like The Mighty Ducks, Jingle All the Way and A Prairie Home Companion, and in music videos for such artists as the Pet Shop Boys and R&B singer Alexander O’Neal.
New York City is a metropolis known for its tourist attractions and its cultural icons. An interesting concept we came across while taking a long stroll in Manhattan was the fact that the city managed to turn Central Park into a living and speaking museum exhibit. One of the exhibits happen to be The Pond. For a small fee, any curious tourist (or lonely New Yorker looking to hear a famous voice) can dial into the Central Park’s audio tour and hear The Pond’s history narrated by none other than Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s alter ego in the hit TV show Sex and the City.
An image indelibly linked with the Big Apple is the city's downtown rush hour, punctuated by yellow taxis, red lights, honking horns and a healthy dose of New York road rage. In an attempt to make the urban commute a bit easier on the ears, the city actually instituted a no honking policy, punishable by a healthy $350 fine for offending drivers. The jury is still out on the law’s effectiveness, but we can bet that plenty of New Yorkers will be putting their money where their (horn) is.
In Tribeca, we came across a heated game of New York-style roller hockey, complete with steel garbage cans in lieu of goals. While this might appear to be a scene straight out of D2: The Mighty Ducks, one famed NHLer actually honed his game by playing in roller skates on the rough asphalt courts of Hell’s Kitchen. Native New Yorker Joe Mullen started out this way before taking his talents to the ice. He eventually made the NHL as an undrafted player, scored 502 regular season goals, and won three Stanley Cups (with the Flames in 1989 and the Penguins in 1991 and 1992).
You would think that on a nine-day, four-game road trip, we would have had our fill of hockey by now. You would be wrong. Arriving in Winnipeg on Thanksgiving Sunday, the canadiens.com team decided to forego finding a turkey dinner and instead went to the best place to really feel at home on the road: an NHL rink. We headed to a jam-packed MTS Centre immediately after arriving in the city to watch the Jets shutout the visiting Devils 3-0. A little advance scouting of the team’s next opponent, some popcorn and pretzels and a night off to enjoy the game when you don’t care who wins and don’t need to leave early to beat the traffic…that’s definitely something to be thankful for!
Helping the Habs capture the team’s 24th Stanley Cup in 1993, we’ll always have a soft spot for former Canadiens captain, Mike Keane. Popular with each of the six teams he played for during his 16-year NHL career (winning Cups with three of those teams along the way), Keaner really feels the love back home in Winnipeg. After a six-year stint with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose to close out his playing career – spending the final five years of his tenure as captain – Keane’s jersey was retired on Feb. 12, 2011, becoming the first and only player to see his number sent to the rafters in Moose history. Now that he’s a member of his hometown Jets’ front office in his role as assistant of player development, we’ll unfortunately have to take a night off rooting for the longtime Hab on Tuesday, but we’re still happy to see Mike getting his due!