Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Roadblog: Philadelphia

Tuesday night (12/9) found Okposo Net in Philadelphia, enjoying a rare chance to catch the Isles wearing the road white sweaters. Joining us for the evening was our friend Deanna of Marinerds, etc. fame, one of the most informative and well written sites covering Japanese and Asian baseball. Her passion for that sport burns with the heat of 1,000 (rising?) suns, and if you have any interest in baseball or just wish to learn a few new things I urge you to check out her work.

Though she lives in Japan, Deanna is originally from Philly and suggested we start the evening off properly with a cheesesteak from Jim's Steaks. Soon after, we made our way over to SEPTA's Broad Street Line and shuttled down to the Pattison stop, which leaves passengers just a few steps from the front door of the Wachovia Center. We breezed right through the turnstiles with nary a glance from any security people. Had we known there would be no bag check, Deanna would have brought her Nikon D200 (which gives all the boys lens envy) to the game. Oh well, live and learn.

Upon entering the arena, I was struck by the resemblance the place has to Florida's BankAtlantic Center (or whatever the nom du jour is of that building). Having moments beforehand walked past the old Spectrum (slated for demolition within a year), I could imagine what an improvement this building was for Flyers fans, and thought of a day when the Islanders might upgrade from their Spectrum-esque barn. But I digress.

The concourses in the Wachovia Center are constructed of fairly plain gray-ish tile, but are wide and feature doorless restrooms, like one might see in an airport. The Flyers have added some nice touches, placing air hockey and bubble hockey games in various spots. Deanna resisted the urge to play one of the stuffed toy catching games.

As for the game itself, some of the crowd was still filing in to the big, two-tiered arena when Andy Hilbert put a power play goal past Martin Biron at 9:23 in the first. Just 61 seconds later Doug Weight further deflated the crowd, putting the Isles up 2-0 by cleaning up Sean Bergenheim's and Trent Hunter's shots with a backhanded winner. The score was a bit surprising, given that at this point in the game the Flyers had been controlling the offense and out-shooting the Isles.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned to Deanna, Philadelphia has so many offensive weapons that they are hard to keep down, and soon enough Riley Cote smashed Jon Sim into the boards behind the Islander goal, stole the puck, and feathered a handsome pass to former-Isle Aaron Asham, who blasted it past "backup-backup" Yann Danis. It was 2-1 New York at the first intermission.

Riley Cote did some more smashing at the start of the second period, only this time to the face of Mitch Fritz. To be fair, while Fritz did leave the scrum bloodied, it was a pretty even fight. Fritz may have even bested Cote.

Continuing on, Flyers rookie Darroll Powe netted his first NHL goal at 8:09 in the 2nd, and with about 4 minutes remaining in the stanza Jeff Carter netted his 20th(!) goal of the year, giving the Flyers a 3-2 advantage. Carter's goal delighted the woman sitting behind us, who apparently has an unhealthy obsession with the London, Ontario native. Seemingly unaware that players are shifted on and off the ice ("Put Carter in!") and not content with his 20:35 of ice time, if had she been coaching Carter would have logged 58 minutes and gone into immediate cardiac arrest.

Blake Comeau scored his first goal of the season to start the 3rd period; he has been providing a refreshing dose of energy and presence for a team that frequently lacks it. The injury situation is what it is, but Comeau looks as if he belongs in the NHL for good, not languishing in the minors.

Brendan Witt was sent to the box with about 9 minutes to play and it led to a Simon Gagne game winning power play goal. Final score: Philly 4, Isles 3.

The game was an entertaining one, though, despite being unable to tell what was a penalty from our seats high up near the ceiling. We certainly could have used Doug from Official's Outlook to help us spot infractions.

All in all, the experience was pleasant, and despite a few minor annoyances (constant blaring rock music, sticky floors, a curious goal celebration "song," and the loss) the trip was successful. We encountered no hostility despite wearing a road sweater and the arena provides a fun and affordable hockey experience.

While we can't provide a food and drink review like the 7th Woman would, the arena does claim to have "the world's largest arena bar," so that might be something to check out on a return trip. Until then, thank you to Deanna for hosting us for the day and showing us around the 'City of Brotherly Love.'

Okposo Net spares no expense on seats
(Photo: Deanna Rubin)

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