Oddly enough, Nolan didn’t get upset when I pulled him out of school at noon last Friday. I think he was more than alright trading in his two+ hours left in school to take in his first NHL game. Not just an NHL game, this one was in Long Island where his Washington Capitals were taking on the team I grew up cheering for, the New York Islanders.
But first we had to get there and if you’ve ever driven to Long Island, you know the drive is awful. I hadn’t been to Long Island in three-plus years but knew – and warned Nolan – that there was gonna be traffic. I oversold the amount of traffic…until we got to the Throgs Neck Bridge. They took the toll booths out which somehow created more bottlenecking getting on the bridge, go figure.Once we finally got over the bridge, the Cross Island and then the Northern State were unbearable. (
maybe this is the reason why we haven’t gone to LI in over three years).
He knew the proverbial pot of gold at the end of this far-from-idyllic drive was his beloved Capitals – Ovi, Oshie, Kuzy, Carlson, Holtby, Vrana, Tom Wilson – and powered through (with an assist to Panini‘s 2018-19 NHL Sticker Book).
We hung out at my parents’ house for a little before heading to the Coliseum with my dad and Fred (a Rangers fan!). We parked like a hundred feet from “The Barn,” a venue that’s been spiffed up but is still a dump, as I’d soon find out.
Once inside, we headed to our seats, because what better time to check out our prime seats than with nobody else in the place. Then, since Nolan loves pissing in public restrooms, we hit the bathrooms. Which brings me back to the point I made of it still being a dump – there is one concourse – ONE – or 13,000+ people.
We went to eat inside the Coliseum, a place way above my pay grade (but really, what’s not above my pay grade?) before returning to the ice to watch warmups. And lemme tell ya, LOTS of red in the stands.
We were literally ten feet from his hockey idols as he stood in awe of their effortless speed, lightning-quick shots, and immense size. Oh, did I mention Ovechkin’s glorious head of gray-ing (?) hair?
Quick recap: Nolan, donning his red #8 Ovechkin jersey, was watching his favorite team take the ice for one unforgettable (time will tell) night, engaged and taking it all in FOUR ROWS up from the ice.
Two minutes in and his night was temporarily ruined – the Islanders scored 2:43 into the game and nearly made it 2-0 two minutes later if not for the crossbar. The second period was fast-moving and uneventful thanks to both teams combined for only 11 shots, but his Caps were still down 1-0.
Just 3:26 into the final period, Jakob Vrana tied it up before Ovechkin made history less than a minute later, swatting in (yes, swatting in, as in out of midair) his 45th goal of the season (in turn becoming the first player in NHL history with 10 seasons of 45 goals or more). Nolan was on the verge of tears he was so damn excited. Finally, a weird goal with 1:28 left capped the scoring as Islanders’ forward Josh Bailey was a little too firm on a blind pass towards his empty net that went in, giving T.J. Oshie (the last player on Washington to touch it) the easiest goal he’ll ever score.
And that’s how it ended, 3-1 Washington, on a night I’m hoping Nolan never forgets. Based on his reactions and amazement throughout the night, I think it’ll stick with him.