Friday, Dec 15th, 2017

Ultimate birthday trip

Posted on November 30, 2017 Richard MacKenzie; [email protected]

Jordan Wentzell and I at the TD Garden just prior to puck-drop between the Bruins and L.A. Kings.

I decided to give myself a birthday present this year and arranged a late-October trip to Boston/Foxboro for a Bruins’ game on a Saturday night, followed by a New England Patriots’ game the following afternoon.
For the record; the Bruins game was the one where the Los Angeles Kings scored, literally, with no time on the clock, as they won in overtime 2-1. Kings’ winger Tyler Toffoli scored on a laser-beam after a clean face-off win by Anze Kopitar, with only .8 seconds on the clock.
Being there, I can say most people in our section weren’t even paying attention to the puck drop since there was less than a second on the clock. We all shook our heads when the Kings took their time-out prior to the face-off.
Secondly, and not just because I’m a Bruins’ fan, as bang-bang a play as it was, there was still no way it took .8 of a second or less to happen; that’s more likely the time it took to go from the face-off dot to Toffoli’s stick when you consider just how short amount of time .8 of a second actually is.
My traveling buddy, Jordan Wentzell – a Toronto Maple Leafs fan – thought it was “awesome.”
Despite the Kings winning and the laws of time and space not being captured in video review (I say no Christmas bonus for the guy working the time clock at the TD Garden this year), it was still a great experience, as it has always been taking in the game at its highest level.
And while I’ve been to a few NHL games, especially during time spent living in Ontario, I had never been to an NFL game, which made Sunday’s excursion to nearby Foxboro very special.
Add in the fact I’ve been a Patriots fan for as long as I’ve been a Bruins’ fan (the late 1970s, which is dating myself, I know), finally getting to see them in-person was a huge treat.
It was a very business-like performance by the Pats who were competing against another Los Angeles-based opponent, the newly relocated Chargers who were in San Diego only last year. New England won the game 21-13 with the biggest play of the game being on special teams, as the Patriots tackled Chargers’ kick-off return man Travis Benjamin in the end-zone for a safety, after he initially dropped the ball and then ran backwards a few yards trying to avoid Patriots’ coverage.
Even though it wasn’t one of Tom Brady’s most spectacular passing games (he did connect with star tight-end Rob Gronkowski for a key-second quarter touchdown), I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere of the game, Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place.
I can now say, as a Boston sports fan; I’ve seen, amongst other iconic action, Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, in his prime, dominate an opposing line-up and slugger David Ortiz go deep in his final season, as well as a Brady-Gronkowski connection for a TD; not too bad when you live about 10 and half hours away (and a lot further for many of my adult years).
And while I wasn’t anywhere near field level for the game, it was still very impressive to see the speed and quickness of players like Pats running back Dion Lewis and receiver Brandin Cooks. There are some things television really can’t do justice.
One thing that occurred to me while watching the Bruins was the last time I saw Boston forward Riley Nash in live-action, he was playing junior ‘A’ hockey in Salmon Arm, B.C. for the Silverbacks.
I was working as the sports reporter for the Salmon Arm Observer newspaper during Nash’s two years with the ‘Backs and had the opportunity to interview him, as one of their key players, on a few occasions.
One of those occasions I’ve often use when coaching hockey because, I feel, it speaks perfectly to the commitment it takes to perform at a high level and advance in your sport, if that’s desired.
It was in December of Nash’s second year with the club and in addition to playing through his regular schedule, in the course of two-and-a-half weeks, he also played in an all-star game, a prospects game and the World Junior ‘’A’ Hockey Challenge, which was a brand new event at the time.
With all that behind him and a little lighter Silverbacks’ schedule ahead, until a short Christmas break, I asked him if he was looking forward to some down time.
“I am,” he said, “I can finally get back to the gym on a regular basis.”
It wasn’t to impress me or anyone who might read what I wrote; the interview was over, and the way he answered, so quickly and matter-of-factly, I could tell it was, genuinely, what he was thinking about.
Later that year, Nash was drafted in the first round by Edmonton and, after a good NCAA career with Cornell, is now enjoying a decent NHL career.
Like I say; commitment.

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