In which I totally miss my chance to meet Steven Stamkos.
Friday morning I hatch a master plan. Gator is going to marry Steven Stamkos, move back to Florida and live near the Yuengling brewery in TB. WUYS Remote HQ. She takes one look at his presh face and agrees.
After lunch, I pass a bunch of fans in Lightning gear standing outside the hotel next to my office. Okay, I guess the team is staying there. Gator informs me that all the visiting teams stay there. RIGHT. [Files away for October.]
At the game, warm-up skate is packed but we weave right behind the bench/along the tunnel to the locker room. Prime viewing. Mike Green is indeed on the ice [dance of joy] without his helmet [fans self]. Neuvy shows off his splits, everyone is very serious and Gator is on her tiptoes looking the wrong way trying to see Stammer. We are already hysterically laughing.
Our seats are one row from the top. It is the loudest place I’ve ever been – louder than an *N Sync concert, louder than a shuttle launch. We have to scream to each other and there’s so much red it’s dizzying. The Bolts score immediately but you can’t even hear the siren. Sasha Fierce delivers 2 min later I think the building will actually collapse.
Back with chicken tenders and beer for the 2nd, Eric Fehr scores. Amidst flying french fries, we name Ketchup the Official Condiment of the Capitals. It rocks the red. Feel free to yell it when they score. Ten minutes of intense hockey follow. Gator gets distracted and says “Steven!” every once in a while. I’ve created a monster, but it’s hard not to watch him skate.
Then things start to fall apart. The Caps movement gets heavy and every time they approach the blue line, the puckhandler cuts right and puts the wingers off-sides. Three, four times in a row. The Bolts get a goal and then history repeats itself. I missed Mike Green once because I was in the bathroom. Well Gator goes and Stamkos promptly scores her a goal.
The third period… is awful. The Caps can barely get out of the neutral zone and not once is there a body in front of the net. Power plays waste. Pucks bounce out of the zone. Total and absolute silence like an enormous library. The Lightning win, deservedly, because the Caps were horrible for 20 min. We do a secret squirrel victory dance when Stamkos is named First Star.
And then we go to the hotel bar. Just to see if the Lightning come in. There’s a huge event going on, everyone’s dressed like it’s Fashion Week and here we are: jeans, Caps shirts, I’ve been up since 4:30 AM and haven’t brushed my hair. One drink later we give up… and run into Guy Boucher in the lobby. OKAY. But outside, there’s no one else and we’re tired. Cross the street to the valet.
Our office building is open underneath with a parking garage. We give the valet our tickets, and see the bottom half of a bus as it pulls up next to the hotel. “I bet that’s their bus,” Gator says. So I take off. Sure enough – it’s full of guys in suit and who’s sitting in the window? STAMKOS.
There’s a restaurant next to me, maybe two people outside. Steven looks around, sees them, sees me and does a little double take. I kind of laugh (at myself), he kind of laughs (at my shirt)… and then goes inside. Maybe he even slows down a step but I JUST STAND THERE. That’s it. The failure is so epic it takes a moment to soak in. I should clearly run into the hotel and say:
“You’re amazing and not so blond as I thought and your beard is surprisingly full and quite manly can I hug you?”
Or “Sweet goal. Thanks for killing the Pens too. I’ll just lay in front of the bus you can run me over.”
Or maybe just, “Hi. Nice game.” Ideally, I’d have said, “Can we buy you a drink?” and then watched Stevie and Gator fall in love over a $12 Bud Light. Squishy would have been there, we’d have been invited to tomorrow’s game. And when they come back for game 5, Steven would have brought bagels to the office with fresh Florida orange juice.
But no. He went inside and I called Chuck and Dawn immediately to share my foolishness. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up halfway to Baltimore. All because Steven Stamkos made me do the fangirl freeze.
Now all we need is a Game 5, right Gator? It’s a Thursday, we’ll be at work. We’re going to get a mulligan or I’m getting a TARDIS and going back to Friday night. Then the Caps can win and advance and we’ll go back to keeping our eyes peeled for while Lamborghinis.