OK, so really this post has nothing at all to do with Hockey or the Checkers. Just a warning before you read on…
The first time I visited Canada, I was in college attending a conference in Toronto. I must admit, I spent as much time drinking and hanging out with friends and this guy I met at the conference that I didn’t do nearly enough sightseeing.
Years later, I ventured to Montreal to see the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Canadiens. It was a magnificent weekend, and I survived the frigid weather thanks to my first “real” winter coat that I had bought for the trip. I got my first real glimpse at the awesomeness that is Canada, and my love affair truly began. There’s something magical about Montreal. I saw the old Olympic stadium. Walked through Vieux Montreal, rode in a horse drawn carriage, ate poutine and had fantastic Canadian beer. And I got to see the Canes spank the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, which was an added treat.
The following summer, I visited Ontario twice. I saw Niagara Falls (kind of a let down, honestly). I drove from Detroit to Toronto and all the way to
Peterborough so that I could visit the town of Eric and Jordan Staal’s junior hockey careers. One of my best friends is now the proud owner of an Eric Staal Pete’s jersey thanks to that trip. A friend and I had our picture taken in front of the sign declaring St. Thomas Joe Thornton’s Community (and the place poor Jumbo the Elephant died in a tragic accident. We looked for the lifesize statue of Jumbo, but alas, it was nowhere to be found despite us having GPS coordinates. How do you miss a life sized elephant statue!!!!!)
I also drove through London. I hadn’t yet learned of Bryan Rodney and his greatness, so at the time, I mostly thought of Corey Perry, Danny Syvret and the like who won the Memorial Cup together in 2005.
In Toronto, I did all of the typical tourist things on my trip… visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, taking pictures of Lord Stanley, driving past the old Maple Leaf Gardens and drinking microbrew from the Mill Street Brewery. I also went grocery shopping, stocking up on St. Heuberts Poutine sauce, giggling at not only the bags of milk, but the milk cartons that proudly proclaimed “Tastes like homo,” and coming to the realization that the flavor of gatorade that is named after Sidney Crosby is not manly at all, despite the cool blue color.
My most recent trip to Canada was just last summer, an epic Western roadtrip that took me across British Columbia and into Alberta. I visited the home of Ogopogo (but alas, didn’t meet him). I stood in the midst of the Canadian Rockies. I had AMAZING beer, unlike any I’d ever tasted. (Driftwood Brewery on Vancouver Island was my favorite, but really, all of it was fantastic!). I had my picture taken at the foot of the 2010 Olympic torch in Vancouver. I experienced many amazing Canadian delicacies such as ketchup flavored potato chips, the best, freshest most amazing raspberries I’ve ever had, and dill pickle flavored popcorn (don’t knock it! I loved it so much I had a friend send me some seasoning to enjoy at home!). There wasn’t a lot of hockey sightseeing on this trip. I did get some Kelowna Rockets souvenirs (because who doesn’t love a hockey team that has a lake demon for their mascot!)
The bottom line I guess, is while I’ve gotten to visit there four times, Canada is awesome, and not only for Ketchup chips and Ogopogo, and giving us great players like Mike Murphy, Jacob Micflikier, Riley Nash, Nick Blanchard and about 85% of the Charlotte Checkers team, but for creating the best sport known to humankind, and letting us lucky Americans enjoy it.