Notes from the Front Row

While it’s not quite puppies (okay, here’s Tyler Seguin with Marshall), let’s talk about something fun.  Like the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I woke up with a stomach bug, barfed 20 times and still dragged my ass 3 hours to Long Island.  Why would I do such a thing?

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To be in the front row for the Capitals @ Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum!  I always sit at the glass for warm-ups but it was my first time being so close the entire game (and probably my last, unless Chuck marries Tyler & Marshall).  I’ve always wondered what it was like down there, so here are my thoughts from the good seats.

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1. The ticket was $50.  If you’re traveling or live near a team that struggles with attendance, check StubHub.  The three nice Canadians behind me also bought their tickets 24 hours out for $50 each and we had a bargain basement blast.

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Actual 1st row.

2.   The front row is awesome.  I was practically on the bench, right next to  backup goalie Kevin Poulin.  I was the first person in the arena who was not an Islander.  At any moment, Doug Weight might have yelled at me.  It was very cool to hear them talking, calling line changes, making plays.  Watching up-ice rushes at speed, with bodies in every lane and shots caroming everywhere, gave even me a new appreciation for how players see the ice.

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3. At the same time, it’s also not that awesome.  In Nassau Coliseum, the bench is on a riser.  The front row is not and it’s an extra foot back from the boards.  That’s why I look like a Hobbit in this picture and Poulin looks like Gandalf.

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10 year old girl next to me is kneeling on her chair.

4. It’s extraordinarily cold down there.  In the much-maligned Coliseum, insulation was not a priority. Other buildings are less frigid, but after 2 hours cold is cold.  I thought about asking Poulin for his sweater, since he clearly wasn’t going anywhere.

5. The biggest, most obvious truth about the front row is you can’t see.  Even if everyone is still and you stand up, this is it:

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Or you could slide forward and awkwardly get in everyone’s face like a creeper.

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But in motion, half the ice is blocked and you watch on the Jumbotron overhead.  So you trade half the game on TV for the other half up this close:

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And being that close is, er, distracting.  Except during TV timeouts where it’s pretty much watching beads of sweat roll down John Tavares’ face while the guys in your section holler pickup lines at the Ice Girls through the glass.

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Hockey right in front of me… and I’m looking at the bench.

Obviously knowing I would be so close (and not feeling well), JT shaved off his mustache one day before the end of Movember.  He is the only player I’ve ever seen whose hair sticks out the top of his helmet.

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I didn’t have any Caps gear with me, and ended up not cheering much at all for fear of being sick again.  Mostly I wallowed in my cold, amazing seat and hoped the Caps would win while at the same time feeling bad for the Islanders.  Tavares had about 8 amazing scoring chances and his frustration was palpable.  A few rows back, a guy in a Caps jersey and Red Wings hat (what?) yelled, “MIKE GREEN, YOU’RE NOT GOOD!” every time Mike touched the puck.  If I need to throw up again, I was headed right for him.

The game was exciting.  The Isles pulled ahead 2-1 with under 2 mins to play, then Nicky B scored a shorthanded goal at 19:11.  Everyone got a point before Ovi brought home the +1 in overtime.  I may have jumped out of my child-size seat.

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In the end, if I never sit that close again it’s okay.  I actually prefer the cheap seats, up high where I can see the entire ice and yell inappropriate things with no chance of the person I’m yelling at actually hearing me.  Still if you get the chance, it’s well worth it to experience hockey in a completely different way.

Side Note: A Farewell to Barns

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Much of my front row experience was exclusive to the Nassau Coliseum.  We know it’s the most hated arena in the League and the Islanders are moving out in 2015.  The cramped single concourse layout with sloped ceilings, terrible bathroom lines and a damned door to the outside cold every 10 feet makes it the arena equivalent of an Atari.  But I must say the Coliseum has a certain old-time hockey charm.   Like an aged college arena, it feels nostalgic.  The fans were as decked out and lively as any place I’ve been.  I saw my first ever NHL game at the Coliseum back in 199-something, and a little piece of my hockey youth will be laid to rest when they lock these doors.  I was glad to go back one more time.

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  1. harry Reply

    nice writeup. Just a note, you’re sitting next to a sheet of frozen water, kinda reasonable that it might be a little cold.

    • Pants Reply

      You should have seen Chuck and I back when we used to go to Anaheim games. Tank tops and dresses for the drive down, then bundling up in the parking lot!

  2. jana Reply

    I totally agree, Pants. Having experienced sitting somewhat that close (4th or 5th row at a couple CBJ games), you end up watching the JumboTron most of the time.

    That said, I’ve got 5th row seats to the CBJ v LOS game in January. I’m taking my parents because of Anze Kopitar (we’re Slovenian … he’s Slovenian …. He and my dad are from the same hometown and my dad actually knows one of Anze’s neighbors). It’ll be the first time for both of them going to an NHL game. I can’t wait to hear my mom’s reaction the first time the puck or bodies slam against the boards. I just know her reaction is going to be glorious! :)

  3. Lindsey Reply

    I’m gonna miss the old barn.

  4. ambitiouspants Reply

    I just saw my first close-up Islanders game – from the seventh row or so, and I actually kind of enjoyed the limited view of the action – only because I tend to get SO TENSE at Islanders games that anything that allows me to disassociate from the action a little bit is kind of good. But um, more healthily engaged sports fans’ mileage may vary.

    I’ve always wondered about that bench-adjacent seat, though – thanks for the report! (And god bless NVMC prices, right?? Siiiiigh. Good to hear that other rinks are not quite as cold, though really I think the only thing I won’t miss is the lack of bathrooms.)

    Johnny’s front flow <333333333

    • Pants Reply

      It’s easily 20 degrees warmer in the front row at Verizon in DC. Visit me and I’ll show ya!

  5. Rae Reply

    That is some awesome commentary, Pants! And so many pictures of you! Well, not necessarily pictures, but ‘chaknowwhaddamean. ;) So glad you survived watching the bench…uhm, I mean, GAME!

  6. Trolling4Hockey Reply

    Loved the description (sorry you were ill that day!) of what life really is like in those front-row seats. Sometimes I envy the people that are sitting there, but now I wonder? I am 5’6″ and if I had been in your seat, I probably would be even more a Hobbit than you were. What will the new arena–the Barclay–be like? On a side note the price for your ticket was ridiculous! None of my tickets that I got for the Flames, Oilers, and Jets this season were under $100 and they are all way up in the nosebleed/vertigo/need binoculars sections. There’s something to be said to be in a poor NHL market–getting to see up close teams like the Captials, Penguins, Leafs, and Blackhawks for just $50!

  7. That photo of JT91 and this: “beads of sweat roll down John Tavares’ face” = productivity for the rest of today…. <1%. Sorry, boss.

  8. Deidra Reply

    I have front row tickets for when the Pens come to Buffalo in February. I’ve never been front row before so I didn’t know what to expect, so I liked reading your view on it. I hope it’s good! We’re on the side the Pens warm up on (obv). Thanks for the advice on it being colder because the Buffalo arena is always freezing even like 20 rows up from the ice!

  9. Pants! 1. I hope you’re feeling better. 2. You beautiful genius, you. I am now shopping for Hawks/Isles tix for Jan 2nd. This solves my problem of torn loyalties if I were to get tix to the Rangers/Hawks. This will rival the awesomeness that was 10th row Rangers/Stars in Dallas in Nov & Frozen Frontier this past weekend.

    This blog continues to bring massive amounts of joy to my life.

  10. Becca Reply

    I’ve been convinced for awhile now that plane tickets to Florida and front row seats to a Panthers game would be cheaper than the $11 Alewife parking/T ride fees and a ticket to the Bruins….never did I think to drive the 4 1/2 hours to NY…
    And being so sick and then being in a car for 3 hours….Go Pants!!

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