Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Caniac's trip into Blueland

Before I start the long-awaited Atlanta trip recap, I would just like to mention that Jim Rutherford got resigned today.

Alright... so, I went to Atlanta for my Spring Break. Just so happens that the Thrashers were playing the New York Rangers while I was there. Considering that the Canes are out of the playoffs... when else was I going to see playoff hockey this season?

So, here are my thoughts on the whole experience. This was my first time watching hockey games in person that didn't involve the Hurricanes, and pretty much my first time outside the RBC Center (excluding the Greensboro Coliseum and several minor league rinks).

Before the game:
- I saw on the Atlanta news that there was a block party outside the hotel. Upon arriving at the supposed "block party" all I saw was a bunch of people standing around drinking and listening to crappy music. Some block party. At least the pre-game party at the RBC Center has food.
- Apparently, instead of tailgating, Atlanta fans hang out in the CNN Center. (If you've never been there, imagine a building with a giant food court on the first floor.) I think Carolina's pre-game rituals are supreme.

Phillips Arena:
- The outside of the arena is cool. The supporting beams spell out "Atlanta".
- The inside is okay. The hallways are of normal width, but they have a lot of different foodstuffs. The large colorful banners, and colorful fa├žades are a little bit of overkill, though. A little bit of white space would be nice.
- The seating bowl is set up differently. Instead of the boxes being a seperate level, they're all on one side of the arena. So, the upper deck doesn't go all the way around, but in a "U" shape.
- Needs more easy-to-find bathrooms.
- The Thrasher heads that spit out fire before periods are cool.

Freebies:
- Outside the arena before the first game was a radio station literally giving out boxes of T-shirts. Nice, because I would have stuck out not wearing blue.
- The first game they gave out scarves as you went inside the door. Scarves! Good quality, too. On one side they say "Go Thrashers" and the other says "Blueland". When I first recieved it I thought "Wow... maybe I can actually get into cheering for them." The Hurricanes need to take note on this one.
- The second game they gave out towels that said "Unleash the Fury" (their catchphrase for the playoffs). Canes giveaway towels are of better quality.

Fans:
- They appeared nice. They didn't torment the Rangers fans that were there until the Rangers fans started to talk crap about the Thrashers.
- The ones that I sat next to gave my dad and I strange looks when we began to boo Belanger, but were cheering the rest of the team. After explaining where our loyalties are, they were pretty cool.
- Of course, these impressions may only be the fans I came in contact with. But, the overall impression was that they were decent people, if not a little confused about where in the Southeast their loyalties should lie.

Game 1:
- First playoff game ever in Thrashers history. Pretty cool that I was there.
- Thrashers played okay, Lehtonen seemed a little weak at times.
- The Rangers were leading 4-3 at the end of the game. They took a penalty with less than two minutes left, giving the Thrashers a 6-on-4 when they pulled Lehtonen. All the Thrashers did was give the puck to Kovulchuk on the point. Didn't work for them.

Game 2:
- After the exciting third period of Game 1, I thought the Thrashers would come out firing and ready to take the Rangers down. It didn't happen. It didn't seem like anything was wrong - they just weren't playing playoff-caliber hockey.
- The first goal was a fluke. Johan Hedburg went out of the net to get the puck after it was dumped in, puck ricocheted wierd and went in the net.
- That said, calling "MMMOOOOSSSEEEE!!!!" after Hedburg made saves was fun.
- Even though the Thrashers looked like a team stuck in the regular season (with a power play that looked like the Hurricanes...), New York didn't impress me at all. They could've scored, but they didn't.
- Atlanta had a chance to tie it at the end of the game, but it appeared that they lacked the passion to win -- so they lost. I don't expect them to win if they played the following games the way they did this one.


After the game:
- Riding the MARTA back to our hotel made me wish for public transportation from the RBC Center. Even the MARTA, which, from what I heard, is unreliable at times, would be better than traffic outside the RBC Center.

I think that's about it that's important. It was definitely interesting to see how other fans celebrate the playoffs.

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