Adventures in the Cup Finals: Part 2

And now, join me as we continue my journey through the Stanley Cup Finals…

So we left off after game 4, with the Reuben-Cuban combo back in effect. Game 5 was held during the week, so once again I was stuck in Gainesville and once again I watched with my good buddy Joe on his giant projector screen aimed at the wall at Jake’s place. After playing shitty the first two periods, the Bolts got their act together for the third and sent the game into overtime. Despite outplaying Calgary in OT, Tampa suffered a tough loss and the team found themselves headed back to Calgary down 3 games to 2. I, of course, found a chauffer for the night and drank myself into a hole of depression, because it’s what my heritage tells me I should do when confronted with depression.

And so it came down to game 6 – do or die. Andrew W.K. was playing the Masquerade on Friday and the game was on Saturday, so I made the trek home yet again for the fourth weekend in a row. After getting in my car, starting it up and feeling it randomly shake in a violent fashion, I got a call from my good buddy Troy who informed me that Andrew W.K. had cancelled that night’s show in Tampa. This is literally less than 10 seconds after I have started my car and felt the equivalent of a 7.0 on the Richter scale coming from the engine. The dialogue that followed went something like this:

Troy: "Neil, I just called the Masquerade, W.K. cancelled."
Me: "Mother fuck shit ass fuck. Fuck you."

So no concert, but I still needed to get my car checked out, plus I was long overdue for an oil change. Might as well donate $60 to Halliburton and make the trip home.

Thankfully the problems were minor, and in the process I came to learn that my motor vehicle and I share a characteristic previously undiscovered: a few loose screws.

So Saturday night I made the trip to Hattrick’s in downtown Tampa with my parents and Fraser. The Reuben-Cuban combo was again in effect, but the hockey atmosphere was not. What could possibly destroy the hockey atmosphere at, of all places, a hockey bar?

Easy: a bunch of twenty-something washed-up ex-hipsters who are desperately trying to cling onto any remaining piece of coolness they might have.

And how do they do this, you ask? Apparently they heard that this "hockey" thing was "cool" and decided to show up at the coolest hockey bar in town and pound shots of liquor in celebration of someone’s birthday. In the process of this they decided it would be fun to stand in front of our table and block our view of all 800 TVs located in the bar. Mind you, they didn’t even glance at the TV once. God forbid they watch the game, or even worse, care about anyone else trying to view the game.

Since we got there early and fought for our table, and since there was no reason for these drunk losers to not be in their seats and out of our line of sight, we were understandably upset. And most of the group proved to be cooperative, but frequent pee breaks and a lack of short term memory kept them standing and forgetting that they were blocking our view. No problem, as long as they sat down when we asked them to.

Until one character decided he would try to impress the washed up club whores with fake tits sitting with his group of friends at the bar. The first overtime period was starting and I kindly tapped him on the shoulder and then pointed at the TV. He glanced at the TV and then nodded at me, as if to say, "Yeah, it’s a TV." Then he stood there.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

So I tapped him on the shoulder again. "Can you please sit down?" I asked.

"Why don’t you move, jerk?" he responded.

"Because there’s no more seats in the bar you dickhead," I said back politely.

He turned around and remained standing, while yelling to his friends to assure that I too could hear him "Assholes! If they want to watch the game so bad, why don’t they just stay at their house!"

As if the stress of possibly losing the Stanley Cup Finals at any moment in overtime wasn’t enough, I have this prick to deal with. Needless to say, I wasn’t calm. Thankfully, neither were my parents.

After sizing him up and realizing I was a good four inches taller than him, I decided he was just a pussy who wouldn’t have the balls to stand up for himself, and I could take his drunk ass in a fight. I contemplated dumping a cold beverage on his head, but decided it might be better to wait and provoke my first barfight until I was at least of the legal drinking age.

Not to mention with my luck he probably would have had a blackbelt in karate and sent me home with all four of my limbs up my ass. But I can speculate.

This is not to say, however, that my alcohol-fueled parents weren’t doing their part to get a brawl going. After a barrage of obscenities and insults on their behalf, I’m sure Mr. Tough Guy felt pretty accomplished in unleashing the rage of the oldest (and youngest, if you include Fraser and me) folks in the whole joint.

Apparently having a woman in her mid 50’s repeatedly tell you what a loser you are is at least somewhat effective in hurting the ego of a twenty-something who is desperately clinging onto whatever shreds of credibility he has within the "cool" community, as Mr. Tough Guy finally sat down and cooler heads prevailed.

But all was not bad at Hattrick’s in terms of the fans. I had the pleasure of meeting two guys from Boston who managed to get tickets to game 7 and flew down to Tampa for the weekend in hopes that there would be a game 7.

You think I’m a hockey fanatic? These guys were insane. They knew the names and specific stats of everyone on both teams – even guys that were on injured reserve the entire season and weren’t pulled up until the finals came around. And, as you would expect out of true Bostonians, their language could best be defined as off-color. As I was watching the game, I heard one of them say of Marty Cibak, who played only 8 games in the regular season:

"Fuckin’ Marty Cibak, that motherfucker, what a fuckin’ fuck that tough fuck is."

Truer words were never spoken by a Bruins fan.

I talked with one of them about Rick Peckham and "The Chief" Bobby Taylor, assuming they wouldn’t know them since they’re from Boston and Rick and the Chief are exclusive to Florida’s Sunshine Network. Come to find out they have a satellite feed so they can watch nationally unaired hockey games, and they watch the Lightning on Sunshine Network all the way up in Boston. How cool is that shit?

After assuring them multiple times that they could buy beer outside the Forum (where the game was also being shown), they left to watch the third period with the crowd down there, only to head back to Hattrick’s for overtime. Upon returning, one of them said to me "8 bucks for a beer? Fuck that. Crowd’s fuckin’ better here anyhow."

And so no one had any diarrhea shits, the Reuben-Cuban combo worked, and Marty St. Louis scored 33 seconds into the second overtime as we watched early into the next day in downtown Tampa.

The beauty of victory in professional sports brought us all together that night in that bar in ways that we would have never imagined only moments before. Surprisingly enough, I ended up hugging a number of the twenty-something jaded hipsters, even the guy who couldn’t stop making out with and groping the ass of his ugly girlfriend. After sharing hugs so tight they would have been considered homosexual in any other context with the Boston fellas, one of them earned the pleasure of receiving a noogie from my very own father.

You know, I don’t even think I’ve ever had a noogie from pops.

But the most sobering moment of the night, in terms of my sad existence, came from John’s friend Mike Karaphillis. John and Mike showed up at Hattrick’s just before overtime started; they missed the first three periods because they were at the Steriogram/Darkness concert in Clearwater. After the victory was sealed and a round of hugs and high-fives were in order, Mike looked at me, then turned to John and exclaimed "Look at him! Look at how happy he is! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neil happy!"

Welcome to my life.

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