A wild weekend in Washington
It started with a crazy cab ride. It ended with a quite trip home in the family mini van - sort of.
What happened in between was nothing short of memorable as the Flyers played their first two playoff games in a series people actually thought they had a chance to win since 2004.
Here's a rundown of the weekend that was in our nation's capital:
Thursday, 11:30 p.m. - Who knew the line for a cab outside Union Station would be as long as a line to by Springsteen tickets? It literally took me 40 minutes just to get a cab. Then, when the cabbie had no clue where my hotel was, he started driving with a bad case of road rage. We hopped a curb, made two illegal U-turns, and reversed down a one way street at 50 MPH before he turned to me and said, "12 dollars." I asked for a receipt and a barf bag to boot.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. - At the morning practice prior to Game 1, John Stevens is nervous. He tells us he's not, but I don't believe him. He's got that wild look in his eyes like the chick in "The Ruins" who realizes the weeds are growing inside her. I feel bad, because I like John and wish him well. But part of me realizes he has no idea what the heck is in front of him.
Friday, 1 p.m. - Ed Moran from the Philadelphia Daily News and I both realize we need a haircut. He worse than me, but why quibble. I ask a young, female, public relations employee of the Caps, figuring she'd be of help. She recommend this place adjacent to the Verizon Center. Ed and I go. When we walk in, they make us sign a waiver. A waiver? To get a haircut? Yes. It's because the salon is an institute and the gals cutting our hair were all students. Oh boy. A normally 20 minute procedure pushed two hours. The only thing that made it tolerable was being able to look over at Ed and see him with big clips in his hair as the student doing his cut - obviously one of the newbies - was learning how to quadrant off his head. It turns out that all the students were headed to New York for a class of some kind, and they were trying to figure out what Broadway show to see. Being the theatre junkie I am, I made some suggestions. Ed tried to get me to sing to the girls. I saved them their ears and declined.
Friday, 10 p.m. - Did I really just watch the Flyers completely collapse in the third period against an inferior team? Dear Lord! This is shades of the 10-game losing streak. I thought they got all that "self-inflicted wounds" crap - as Stevens likes to call it - out of their system. I don't like being wrong. And even more than that, I don't like when my editor Rob Parent is right and I'm wrong - so since I picked the Flyers and he picked the Capitals, I'm officially steamed. A lot of the writers go out for a beverage or two after the game. And even though Washington is like a second home to me and I have many little haunts, I'm too agitated to enjoy myself, so I go to bed.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. - I take the Metro to Arlington, Va. to go to Capitals practice. I am the only Philly writer there. I feel good about doing a responsible job and interviewing some of the Caps players for a day-after story. I work my butt off getting interviews from Mike Green, who scored two Caps goals, former Flyer Donald Brashear and Alex Ovechkin. Later in the day, while writing my story, I'm excited that I'll have this stuff exclusively. After the Caps practice, it's the Flyers turn. This after they nearly shattered a hanging light in the hallway outside the locker room at the Caps practice facility playing a version of hackey-sack with a soccer ball (by the way, the Finns are especially good at this game for some reason. I don't know why). It's at this session that we learn Patrick Thoresen, despite a limp and a swollen testicle, may play Sunday in Game 2 despite getting hit with a ... well... crotch rocket by Green in Game 1. We are all stunned and equally impressed at Thoresen's desire and will to win. I think he's half nuts.
Saturday, 1 p.m. - Several media types go to lunch at Panera Bread. It's a gorgeous afternoon, so we sit outside on their patio. After we learn of Chuck Gormley's (Courier Post of New Jersey) harrowing boating experience where he tipped his own canoe and lost his 1997 Flyers Stanley Cup Finals jacket in the process, We try to go back inside, only to realize that we're locked on the patio, and nobody seems willing to help us. We knock, and the employees just look at us like zoo animals. Are you kidding me? So, we have to exit through the fence in the patio, and then re-enter the mall from the outside. I blame Chuck because he's bad luck.
Saturday, 3 p.m. - Hockeybuzz.com's token blonde female Julie Robenhymer (yeah, she was Miss New Jersey a few years back) offers to drive us back to our hotels rather than take the Metro. In retrospect... or rather, metrospect... I wish I took the subway. She got stuck in a parade. With apologies to Tom McGinnis, Are you kidding me? (Sorry I missed you the first time Tom). I'm thinking, "Typical blonde." Finally, I get us out of the congestion, and get back to my hotel fashionably late. Later, I find out she gets lost heading to Gormley's hotel, and he bails on her on a downtown D.C. street. Priceless.
Saturday, 10 p.m. - With the Sunday stories put to bed, and dinner for 10 at a seafood restaurant finally digested. I lead a parade of writers to my favorite Irish Pub in D.C. - the Dubliner. In attendance are Tim Panaccio and Phil Sheridan from the Inky, Julie again, Mike Mrezcko from ESPN 950, Frank Seravalli from ComcastSportsNet.com, his girlfriend Ashley, Rich Hofmann from the Daily News, a couple of Canadian writers (one of which is in the Hockey Hall of Fame) and my girlfriend Sarah, who drove down to D.C. for just this occasion. Before we walk into the bar, we run into former player and New York Islanders G.M. and coach Mike Milbury. He was feeling good. He even introduced himself to Sarah with a semi-hug. How surreal. The bar is packed. The guy singing the Irish Drinking songs - Pat Garvey (he used to play frequently at Brittingham's in Lafayette Hill in the early 80's) - was the same guy who used to play at the Dubliner when I frequented the bar in the early-to-mid 90's while in college at American University. I remind him of this. He is not amused. Nevertheless, he is as entertaining as always, and I begin to teach the group the audience participation portions of several Irish drinking songs. While all in our party weren't participating, most were, and by the witching hour, the scene was out of control. Flashbacks to college were all too frequent. I didn't want to leave. If you ever run into any of the aforementioned crew, ask them about Alice...
Sunday, 9 a.m. - I read the Inquirer and see that Panaccio has all the same quotes from the Caps that I gleaned the day before. He wasn't at the damn practice! What the --- ! I later learn he is sharing information with Tarik El-Bashir, the Caps beat reporter from the Washington Post. Fair enough, I guess. But disappointing. I did all the hard work, and another paper had the same stuff by being lazy. I'll exact my revenge before this post-season is over, don't worry.
Sunday, 5 p.m. - The Flyers play a lot more like the Flyers should against Washington. I'm enjoying it because Rob Parent made the trip down to D.C. for the game and is sitting right next to me trying to figure out why Washington looked as bad as his prediction (Remember, this is the same guy who picked Sidney Crosby as a third star in an 8-2 Flyers win against Pittsburgh in which R.J. Umberger had a hat trick and five points and got no star). All is right with the world once again. So we go to dinner.....
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. - I'm out with the Delco Times staff at a restaurant near the Verizon Center. Our esteemed columnist Jack McCaffrey orders a cup of soup. The waiter brings it and the soup has spilled over the sides of the cup onto the plate below. Jack isn't happy. He said "I ordered a bowl, not a cup." I said, "No you didn't. You ordered a cup." He said, "You're right, but half of this cup is on the outside, so if they bring me another cup to equal the bowl, we're all good." Can't knock his logic because it worked.
Sunday, 10 p.m. - Rob and Jack decided to hit Starbucks for a post-dinner coffee. Sarah and I decided to head home. It was still a two hour drive for me, plus another 40 miles for Sarah. We're just North of Baltimore when my cell phone rings. It's Rob. Apparently, he ran into that same Hall of Fame writer who was pounding beers with me on Saturday. He saw the writer trying to hail a cab. Rob told him to hop in and he would drop the writer off at his hotel. Then, he promptly got lost. So he called me. I gave him directions. He couldn't follow those either. So, he called me back, telling me where he was. I was in the process of giving him new directions when he interrupted with this, "Uh oh... there's police activity. Um... I think I got to go. Damn. Click."
I know he made it home safe in the middle of the night, but I still haven't gotten the full story. Sigh. This kind of stuff can only happen in the playoffs. I turned to Sarah and told her what happened. She said, "Washington is a crazy town." To which I replied - just wait and see what might happen if the Flyers win and we have to go to Montreal!"