The one big activity we have planned while we're here in Canada's third largest city is to go see a hockey game. It'll be the most Canadian thing we do while we're here.
It's Saturday night, which is hockey night in Canada, and the Calgary Flames are hosting the Winnipeg Jets in their final pre-season match before the season starts next week.
We had learned from our adventures yesterday that it would be just as easy to walk the half mile from our hotel as to take the train. The weather report is a bit threatening but when it's time to leave, it's still dry. Walking it is, although we'll leave the return by train option open if the weather has turned nasty after the game.
Straight as an arrow, we walk the street from our hotel to the Saddledome. As we're approaching, a police officer points us to the accessible ramp to enter the arena. It's pretty well hidden and it's no wonder we didn't see it on our walk yesterday.
"It's the only way you'll get in," he tells us.
Collecting our tickets from Will Call, we proceed inside. Of course, this only accessible entrance is almost exactly on the opposite side of the arena from the wheelchair seating so we have to walk halfway around to get to our seats.
At least, this gives us a chance to see what kind of food offerings are available to us for this night of hockey.
We get to our seats which are located on a row across three or four sections at the top of the first level. Basically, in this old arena, they just cleared out a spot on the concourse for wheelchairs. There is no 'built in' seating.
Another thing is that Canada today is like the U.S. was 15 years ago in companion seating requirements. We are only allowed buy one companion seat to go with Tim's wheelchair. I give that to my wife, my assigned seat is about 10 rows away.
I decide to sit in the empty seat next to Tim until and unless the ticket holders for that seat show up...with the usher's blessing, of course.
(As a side note, the ADA was amended a few years ago for the United States where is is now law that you must sell up to at least three companion seats for every wheelchair seat but, of course, this is not the United States)
The pregame activities begin with a warning that there will be fireworks. This turns out to be nothing more than flames shooting out of the scoreboard but it's still a nice effect.
The game starts and about halfway through the first period, I feel a tap on my shoulder. A lady and her husband in a wheelchair are here to claim their seats. I immediately get up as nicely as I can but still get the wish-of-my-immediate-death stare from the caregiver.
Jeez...is this an example of the famous Canadian hospitality I've heard so much about?
I move to the other side of Letty and Tim. Pretty soon, a mother and her disabled son show up to claim the seats I'm sitting at.
"No worries," she says, "we'll just scoot down one spot and you can continue to sit with your family."
That's more like it.
A little while later, an able-bodied man and his four able bodied kids encamp in the seats on the other side of the mom (the usher said it was OK but he'd have to move to his assigned seats if someone else showed up).
When the mom and the kid take off to the bathroom, that family immediately scoots over to take the seats they just vacated.
OK, this is getting a bit ridiculous. The lady was so nice to me that I feel obligated to defend those seats. This is a big, burly, mean looking guy but someone has to say something and it looks like it's going to fall to me. I steel myself up for a confrontation...
"Excuse me, but those seats are already taken," I tell the gent getting ready for the inevitable shouting match.
"Oh, I'm sorry...come on kids, let's scoot back over here," came his gentle and courteous reply.
I guess that the first caregiver that gave me the death stare was an anomaly. There really is a overwhelming courteousness to these people.
The game continues on. I get some hot dogs and popcorn for Tim and me...which were really very good...while Letty has some pirogi poutine. She says it's the best poutine she's had the entire trip.
It's a hard fought game with the lead changing a few time. At the end of regulation, the game is tied 2-2. At the end of a five minute overtime, the game is still tied 2-2.
If you know hockey, you know what comes next. Each team takes a turn sending a lone player onto the ice to shoot a puck at a lone goalie from the other team...it's the shootout!
It's a very exciting and quick way to decide the match. A Jets player shoots and missed. Same with the first Flames player. Another Jets player misses. A Flames player scores. The games over and the audience goes nuts!
Horns blow and more flames shoot out of the scoreboard.
We make our way out and it's just starting to rain with a steady drizzle. We decide it's not too bad and walk back to our hotel.
Hockey Night was a very fun night for us here in Calgary.
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