and niittymaki wins that battle. yes, i finally got to see antero niittymaki play in person last night in atlanta, whose starting goalie was another finn, kari lehtonen. there was lots of driving and lots of sitting (so much that my bum revolted and begged not be sat on anymore), but chad and i had a great time. the flyers won 4-2 (yay!), and the whole experience was very... interesting.
the drive over wasn't bad. we stopped for lunch in montgomery, and we still made it to atlanta in about 5 hrs and 40 min (the mapquest estimated time was 5 hrs 6 min). atlanta traffic sucks major ass, but we made it to the parking garage across from philips arena just fine. and then we had our (well, my anyway) first encounter with scalpers. there were two hanging out where you exit the parking garage to cross over to the arena and another one on the opposite corner. they weren't bad (not like the nut who followed a bunch of us around on the way to the world of coke and then shouted obscenities at us when we told him we wouldn't give him any money and crossed the street away from him a couple of years ago), just a bunch of guys saying, "you need tickets? do you have any extras?" to every person who walked by. so, we went over to the box office and bought our tickets (a meager $74 for both seats, which is approximately what we paid for one seat in tampa - and the seats in tampa weren't much better than the ones we had in atlanta), then we just wandered around a little bit to see what was around. we had planned on eating before the game, and there were plenty of eating establishments around, but we'd just eaten lunch about three hours before, and we weren't really hungry.
anyway, philips arena is basically attached to the CNN building. you can go inside (but not into the actual arena) basically anytime the CNN building is open to the public and visit the gift shops and the food court. yes, they have an actual food court. the whole setup is really nice, and instead of waiting outside in the cold (ok, it wasn't that cold) or rain (no, it wasn't raining) or whatever, the line to get into the arena is indoors, in the food court area. they even have a little hockey rink set up (not an ice rink, just concrete) where little kids can play. it was really cute.
while we were wandering around, me in my flyer jersey, chad in the jacquo jersey, this little guy in a(n ugly orange) jeremy roenick replica jersey came up and was like, "are you guys from florida? pensacola, huh? i'm from panama city." then he hands me this card and tells us about the floridadelphians fan club for misplaced philly sports fans. i was amused to no end about that. the pensacola jersey garnered lots of comments, and one of the cars parked near us in the garage had a gwinnett gladiators sticker on the back.
so, once we were standing in line for when they opened the doors to the arena, we discovered that it was bobble head night. what a coincidence - when we went to the flyers/lightning game in tampa two years ago we scored a couple of pavel kubina bobble heads. last night, it was kari lehtonen bobble heads. anyway, instead of waiting in the huge lines for bobble heads, we walked around and checked out the arena. the thrashers have a really nice buidling, and i like the fire-spewing bird heads over the scoreboard. we also checked out the view from our seats and ended up staying there for warm-ups. a guy in front of us had said that they wouldn't let him down near the glass, and by the time we'd figured out that he had gone to the wrong side to try to go down (he went over where all the suites were, and they weren't letting people down on that side) there was such a huge crowd down there that we couldn't get close. i still got some shots from our seats, though. i was a little confused when the game started and the starting lineups were announced because mike richards was centering the line with knuble and gagne instead of peter forsberg. forsberg had skated during warm-ups, but apparently he'd hurt himself friday night, and they decided he should sit that game out.
there was a good mixture of thrashers and flyers fans in our section, and the only bad seed was the guy in the row in front of us. he was a flyers fan, and he was truly obnoxious. guys like him make everyone else look bad. during the freaking national anthem, he kept screaming "let's go flyers." it's the national anthem, dude, show some respect. his wife nailed him for it, though. then, serge aubin went down after a clean check by (i think) denis gauthier and had to be helped off the ice, and the guy starts yelling, "yeah, let's take out some more of them!" what an ass. no wonder atlanta fans hate philly fans. but i think that's how ranger fans are toward darius kasparitis. i don't think that any player should go after another one with the intent to injure him. i'm ok with pestering, hitting, making life difficult, but it's not cool when a guy's like, "hey, that guy's good. let's put him out of commission for a while."
anyway, the game itself was fantastic, with the exception of all the stupid penalties the flyers took. true, the refs were a little hard on them (while they called exactly one penaltly on atlanta after the 1st period), and it appeared that the flyers were only allowed to play no-touch hockey, but still. it was like a little procession to the sin bin, one after the other. discipline, boys, discipline. anyway, niittymaki played very well, despite allowing a goal in the 1st period on only 4 shots... and he made his best saves during the 2nd period, when he was right in front of our seats. i was also quite proud of joni pitkanen, who racked up three assists and was named 1st star of the game. and who was it who said that he hasn't been showing the offensive power since he game back from the sports hernia surgery that he was before...
i like that hitchcock has put r.j. umberger with jeff carter and niko dimitrakos (a trade deadline addition). everyone on that line scored last night, so it's obviously working for them.
ok. that's it for comments on the game itself. but i have one more story in me. during the game, we saw fans get arrested for fighting. there were no fights during the game (though i thought for a moment that stupid hatcher was going to fight), but there was a fight in the stands. we hear some commotion, look two sections over, and see two flyer jerseys throwing punches with a guy in a red shirt. then the cops came running over to break it up, and one of the flyer jerseys was taken away in handcuffs. the other one was a woman, and she went down and got her beer and started to walk away in the other direction when the cops came and gathered her up. when she walked back by the guy in red, she fluffed her jersey up in front of the guy like "flyers rule." another example of a couple of bad apples making everyone else look bad. the guy in red was a couple of rows behind the two bad flyer fans, so they had to have gone up to jump on him. that's ridiculous. you don't go into the opposition's building and trash the home team or their fans. that's crazy rude. i was appalled at the behavior of some of those people. and to actually fight, like throw punches, at another fan? no way, dude. everyone is there to enjoy the game, and you shouldn't be obnoxious. the guy who got jumped on paid way too much money to be assaulted. i'm sure there were... unkind words exchanged that propmted the physical action, but really, people. you're grown-ups now. act like it, and stop making people think that everyone in black and orange is an ass. after seeing the way people acted there, i don't blame atlanta fans for hating flyer fans one bit. i just hope they don't think we're all like that. people didn't act that way in tampa... everyone was friendly.
oh, one more thing. after the game was over and we were getting ready to leave, this guy in a blue florida shirt walked by and was like, "whoo! ice pilots! pensacola! i love florida!" when he saw the jacquo jersey. it was funny.
that's pretty much it now. to avoid crazy post-game traffic, we took a walk through the olympic park, then headed back toward I-85 and mobile. we stopped at a random waffle house on the way home for food because all the restaurants around philips arena close at 10:00. on saturdays. it was only 9:00 for us, so it felt especially ridiculous not to be able to find an open restaurant. even the subway was closing at 10. what self-respecting establishment in atlanta closes at 10:00 on a saturday night? even the places in downtown pcola are open until at least 11. crazy people closing at 10... anyway, we made it home at about 3:00 this morning, safe and sound. tired and with unhappy booties, what with all that sitting, but it was a fun trip nonetheless.
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