Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Massacre Of Ontario

They call the matchup between Toronto and Ottawa the Battle Of Ontario, but tonight the Leafs looks like lambs led to slaughter as the Senators victimized them 5-1.

Thousands of Leafs fans filled about a quarter of the arena, most of them in the 300 level, where they outnumbered Sens fans. It felt like a British soccer game, where visiting fans are only allowed to sit in a designated section of the stadium. The loudest cheer of the night came when the Leafs scored their lone goal, finally giving the blueclad fans a chance to rain abuse on the home team.

Everyone had told me what a fantastic atmosphere this game would have, so maybe my expectations were too high. With two goals in the first few minutes, the Senators had this game in control from the start and the fans were relatively quiet on both sides.
The Scotiabank Center is one of the few arenas that segregates the fans in the lower bowl from the rest of the levels. If you don't have a lower bowl ticket, you can't access that area. I'm not sure why they do that, as ushers do a fine job elsewhere to keep people from seat-hopping. I watched the first period from a great seat in the corner of the lower bowl behind goalie Martin Gerber, or "The Gerber Baby" as he was known in Carolina.

Three or four of Ottawa's goals were scored on 2-on-1 breakaways, and the dirtiest player in the NHL, Chris Neil, had his own 2-on-1, although the puck was nowhere around. Late in the game, he got into a tussle with Mark Bell, and Bell started throwing punches. Neil, as usual, turtled (for the less than hard-core fan, turtling is when you cover your head and let the other guy hit you to try to draw a penalty), but as soon as another Senator grabbed Bell, only then did Neil began hitting him back. Hitting an defenseless opponent is a typical Chris Neil play, can you tell I don't like him!

Now that I've been on the road for twelve days, some of the arenas are starting to look the same to me. Scotiabank Place has a few bars and restaurants (I checked out Frank Finnegan's and a BBQ place) that can be accessed from inside or outside the stadium, which makes sense, as the building is out in the suburbs with little to do within walking distance, unless you're in the market for a Toyota at the dealership next door!

During the past few games, I've done a bunch of interviews during the intermissions, which I don't mind (OK, I enjoy them, actually), but they've been cutting into my ability to cruise the facility, browse the snack stands, and mix and mingle with the fans. So during the second period after a quick stop down by the Zamboni entrance, I took the up elevator to the top of the building and worked my way back down to my seat, stopping at the suites in the 400 level, the Leafs section in 300, and the 200 level seats.
The Ottawa fans went way out of their way to make me feel welcome. My picture was on the cover of the sports section in the Ottawa Citizen, and lots of people came up to me to wish me well (and to tell me that the Leafs stink).

Had one minor crisis at the game....I got ketchup on the sleeve! of my jersey! I've no idea how it got there....perhaps a Sens fan wanted me to wear red!
I'm off to another battleground tonight, Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, site of The Battle Of Pennsylvania, as the Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers for Game 13.


Anonymous said...

I've been to the ACC and no matter who's playing, it's usually pretty quiet, and I've heard that the Scotiabank Place is just as quiet, so it's not really a surprise to hear that the atmosphere wasn't quite what you expected. Perhaps if it had been a closer game...

Have fun in Pittsburgh.

- desdemona

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

Glad you made your connection. In the past when the Sens/Leafs get together it has always been loud lots of fights on the ice etc. Fun to mix it up witht the Leaf supporters. Trouble is the past couple of years the Leafs have really sucked so as you witnessed at last nights game Ottawa came out and scored 2 quick goals and shut Leaf nation up. Gone are the days of Pat Quinn, Domi, Corson and that psycho Tucker (totally useless now).

As for a lot of Leaf fans in the 3rd level..most of the lower level are season ticket holders and maybe that's all they can afford.

One more thing...you can have access to the first level during the game. You just can't get in there before the puck is dropped in the 1st. Too bad you didn't bother asking anyone because I sit in Level 3 and visit friends in Level 1 all the time.

Don't like Neil eh! Oh well maybe its because he's kicked a few Bolts asses in the past and because we have had success against Tampa in the playoffs. No worries. When you're on top everyone tries to kick you down.

Enjoy the rest of your adventure!

Mary Sue

Anonymous said...

Glad you could come and see the Sens beat the Leafs and had a good time here in Ottawa. Hope you had a great time. I really think what your doing is cool. While I definitely don't agree with your assessment of Chris Neil as the dirtiest player in the league *cough* Tucker *cough* Downie *cough* he's a tough player and the turtle prize definitely goes to Tucker. Anyways, enough of that; have a great rest of your trip. I hope you have an amazing time.

Anonymous said...

To steve i think you are doing something that alot of people will never do. Being an australian i love the game and i follow the sens. Please remember that Chris Neil plays with alot passion and is no longer classed as goon and has improved his skating level by a huge amount and crikey you could look alot harder at who really are the goons of the game. Anyway i hope you enjoy the rest of your time and plenty of beer.

Anonymous said...

When a player 'turtles', it means that the are on their knees on the ice.....with their head tucked under their arms, in a turtle-like position.

Neil, wasn't anywhere close to a 'turtle-like' position.

I watched the game in HD. The scuffle was shown many times in replay. I have no idea where you came up with the idea that he turtled. My only thought is that you broke your 'two-beer' rule while watching the game.

Anyways, good luck with the rest of your journey!

Anonymous said...

Looks like you had your Chris Neil anecdote all ready to go in your mind and liberally applied it to what happened on the ice.

Oh well. At least you got the authentic experience in a Sens-Leaf match-up of seeing a lot of glum-looking Leaf fans.

There's nothing quite like hearing "hey hey goodbye" while watching the blue-shirted fans leave the rink in a rather appropriate homage.

For the record, you can access the lower bowl with any ticket. The easiest way is to simply go through the Sensations souvenir store by the front entrance.

That's quite an undertaking that you are currently on and I'm considerably envious!

You should write a book when you're done!

Anonymous said...

Well it's hard to take your blog seriously when you make flagrant bias comments about one of the better agitators in the game. Neil is hardly a dirty player and his big 0 NHL career suspensions should be evident enough. As far as the ridiculous notion that Neil is known to turtle, well as I said ridiculous and you can ask most of the tough guys in the league.
I’ve been to games in Tampa, NY, Detroit and Ottawa, Ottawa TO game was by far the loudest I went to but these things can change from game to game.
Anyways have fun on the remainder of your trip and hopefully you’ll learn a little bit about hockey on the way

Anonymous said...

While I completely admire and am incredibly jealous of what you are doing, the blog for this game is hilariously inaccurate. Thousands of Leaf fans? Really? There weren't nearly as many as there used to be. The arena was quiet? Hardly. This isn't even a battle anymore. It USED to be back when the Leafs were actually competitive but they haven't been in some time now.

It seems you have a hate on for Neil and would have posted your little rant regardless of anything happening during the game. Bitter of playoff losses past, I suppose. Dirtiest player in the league? Laughable, especially when playing against a team that has Tucker on the roster.

Hope your obvious bias didn't stop you from enjoying the game. It did, however, stop me from enjoying this blog. Best of luck on the rest of the way. I surely won't be reading.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at last night's game but from experience SBP can be very loud but Ottawa fans generally need a reason to be loud. If it's just a run-of-the-mill regular season game, especially a blow-out like last night, people were there to watch and enjoy the game. Playoffs and close games against rivals would give a much better atmosphere. Fans are pretty discerning and aren't going to be loud just for the sake of it.

Anonymous said...

No need to make comments like that. You're making the rest of us (you know, the ones who can actually form a sentence and make a valid argument) look bad.

Anonymous said...

I find the FU comment to be completely out of line as well. It certainly isn't indicative of the how the City of Ottawa responded to Steve in general.

Ottawa is a hockey town, and Steve is a hockey fan. His comments are from a fan's perspective, and whether we ( as Sens fans ) agree with him or disagree with him.....there is no need to be rude to someone who was a guest in our City.

Anonymous said...

Steve: you are living the Hockey fan's dream! All the best to you, keep doing the interviews, writing the blogs, posting pictures and having fun. I watched the Leafs/Sens game and it was a pretty terrible outing by the Leafs while the Sens looked great. (where did the Leafs defence go? Out to the stands to grab a hot dog?)

BTW - I don't like Neil either, and in fact I hate the Sens but I have to disagree with you on the turtling part. Neil is tough and plays like Tie Domi used to. Emotions run high on the ice and fists start flying. And this is coming from a life long Leafs fan.

See you when you come to Toronto on the 20th against the Bruins.

PS - You should ask Gary Bettman for Stanley Cup tickets. Everyone knows this is the best marketing the NHL can get!

Anonymous said...

Too true. The rude comments are not justified. We may not agree with what Steve said but there is a civil way to say so if you must. I hope he enjoyed himself while he was here, inspite of everything.

Anonymous said...

I was really enjoying your blog so far - until today. I'm not a Sens fan, but calling Chris Neil the dirtiest player in the league is a complete joke.

I know it must have hurt to watch Ottawa embarrass Tampa in 2006, and have Chris Neil draw numerous penalties, but if you think he's the dirtiest player in the league you have clearly not watched him play very much.

Anonymous said...

As much as Steve's blog comments deserve a little sarcasm and razzing I don't think the insults are called for but unfortunately there are idiots like this all over.
Enjoy the remainder of your trip Steve and good call on the playoff tickets from the previous poster.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
I absolutely concur with what you said about Chris Neil. Can't stand that puke/punk, especially since the '05-'06 playoffs. I just found this site and maybe you have already addressed the issue and I know you still have some barns to visit, but in your opinion which is the loudest and most difficult arena for the opposition team to play in? I'm hoping the SPT Forum gets a mention here, as I try to be very vocal during all of our home games.
Good luck with the rest of your trip and

Steve Williamson said...

Had to delete that post as there may be little kiddies reading this. I wonder if that was Chris himself responding? OK, low blow.
I admit that I am biased, so I plead "guilty as charged", and yes, my dislike of Neil does date back to the numerous cheap shots he's given Bolts players over the years. I do agree that he has developed into a pretty decent player. Shall we compromise and call last nights incident with Bell a "half-turtle"?

Anonymous said...

Steve, had you had a chance to check out this great site?!!:


It's great reading about your trip and the games... this is what being a hockey fan is all about!!! Safe travels :)

Laura Harfield said...

Ohh I know why Bolts fans hate Chris Neil. Playoffs '06. EQF game 3. Series tied 1-1. Chris Dingman tries to drop the gloves with Neil right after the faceoff. Neil refuses to fight. Maybe even 'turtles' for real. The Sens get a SEVEN MINUTE powerplay as a result. Sens score...once? Twice? I'm not sure. But they won the game...and the series just a few nights later.

Chris Neil: Pissing off opposing teams and their fans since 2001.

So yes, maybe Steve was just waiting and waiting to use a 'turtle' reference with regards to Neil, even though it really doesn't apply here.

Anyway, best of luck with the rest of your trip. It's definitely an impressive and exciting adventure!

And...go Sens.

Anonymous said...

Wow Steve, I cannot believe the rude comments above. You are a human on a quest that no other human has done before, and you get slammed for sharing your adventure.

Someone says you will "hopefully learn a little hockey on your trip" and the next writer says he "won't follow the blog anymore". plus a half dozen other negative comments.

For what it's worth Steve, I'm not a hockey fan in any way, shape or form, (sorry, hockey's boring) but I am very much enjoying your site and this blog.

(Who is missing that male sports-loving gene)

timmy G said...

Hey Steve, it is unfortunate that some angry sens fans cant take a bit of criticism, and accept the fact that not everone in the world has to like there team, it is also unfortunte that the game atmosphere wasnt what you expected, the last time i got to see the two teams play it was very loud, and a good leafs win, I hope the rest of your trip goes amazing, and i look forward to reading teh rest of the blog about your whole journey, good or bad for the players that i like
great work, hope the pens and sid the kid dont dissapoint, safe travels


Anonymous said...

Holy crap, the guy dislikes ONE MAN from your team and you're going to disregard his entire existence as a hockey fan? Wow.

Here's what I heard/saw (unfortunately only on the radio and highlights): Neil hit Bell. Neil walked away while Bell went after him. Another Senator (can't remember who - I think Foligno) held Bell at which point Neil gained his confidence back. The linesman got between them. Bell managed a punch (or was it a facewash?) past the linesman.

Turtling, to me, is either running away from a fight or the physical description that anonymous 10:10AM gave. It equals the same thing, and that's what Neil did. He's better than he was 3 years ago, but he's still a punk.

- desdemona

Anonymous said...

Having been to Sens/Leafs games in the past, I must say that it is too bad this one did not live up to your expectations. They are usually some of the best games to get to, but obviously last night was not a very close game.

I too find the Chris Neil= dirtiest player comments (from you, and others) to be laughable, but as an opponent's fan, I can see why people wouldn't like him. We'll see how the tune changes if he ever is on the Lightning.

Regardless, great blog, great trip, hopefully great attention being brought to the NHL. Enjoy the trip, and hope you have a week off afterwards to recoup!

Anonymous said...

lol Steve must be a little self-conscience as he deleted all the posts from this morning that criticized some of his dumb comments. Oh Steve don't be upset and sensor it just for fun right

Anonymous said...

It was too bad it ended up being a blow-out and you didn't get to see the rivalry that is "The Battle of Ontario". Even the season opener ended up 4-3 OT win by sens, Toronto brings their A game sometimes but not this time.

As for Chris Neil, for the play during the game I saw it a bit differently. Bell got Neil up against the boards (Neil was obviously trying to draw a penalty) and punched him a few times, after the last punch Neil looked like his temper snapped and he couldn't take it anymore and retaliated. Oh well that's what I saw.

Sorry for the bad responses but people in Ottawa love Neil ^^. Anyway enjoy the rest of your trip, I would also try and get in touch with Bettman and try and get some free tickets like the other poster said.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
I am so envious or your adventure and hope you had a good time last night (we were in 200 section but did not see you). Of course the better team won, kicked butt actually. Have fun on your adventure and don't forget to stock up on Canadian dollars when you are here in our fine country. Next time come back in winter so you can skate the Rideau canal - you do skate don't you?

Anonymous said...

I just want to say one thing. Get your facts straight! There are players in this league that have clubbed other players in the face with their sticks, along with other brutal tactics.
To call Neil the dirtiest player in the league is ridiculous.
Just because we beat you in the playoffs doesn't mean you have to be biased.
I mean even leafs fans aren't agreeing with you.


Anonymous said...

Was that you first row behind the net at Mellon arena? Just saw you on TSN broadcast taking a picture of a flyer player.

Anonymous said...

For arguements sake and coming from a Mark Bell fan (I'm a 67's fan and a Leafs fan). There's no way Mark Bell would have been able to take Chris Neil.

I saw it as a game that was 5-1, well over. Why fight and get reprimanded because it was in the last five minutes. I think it was pretty smart (I'm not one of those Sens/Habs haters).

Tiffany said...

Watching you now on FSN! Best luck with your journey! Adding a link to your blog, and will put a post up just in case there's anyone left who hasn't heard of your journey. And if you'll let me know when you'll be in Atlanta, we'll do another feature about your trip!

Get yourself a Tide pen! That'll get the ketchup right out! :)


WOOHOO said...

Neil "turtles","dirtiest player"? I get you don't like him, hell every fan for every team should hate him. Chris "NAILS" is one of our favorites because he doesn't back down. If you don't know hockey any better than what I have read, your wasting alot of time and $$$$$$!

Anonymous said...

I think what you are doing is cool but you are wrong about some things. I have season tickets in the 100 and 200 level and you can go wherever you want. Secondly to say that Chris Neil is the dirtiest player just proves that you don’t know hockey which doesn’t surprise me as you are from Tampa.

Last year I went to Tampa Bay to watch a Hockey Game against Ottawa (as well as a Panthers game, their rink is AMAZING). My family and I went to the game wearing our SENS gear thinking that the game would be just as fun as the Panthers game was a night earlier, boy were we wrong! The fans in Tampa were awful.

The Tampa fans knew nothing about the rules, they kept yelling at Neil saying that he was the dirtiest player (I knew where you got it from) and were rude to us. They yelled at us, swore at us, spilled stuff on us and a lady told me that she wished I would choke and die. CLASSY! I even went to the bathroom at one point and another family from Ottawa was just walking around the arena. I asked them why and they said that people were swearing at them and their kids. Their kids were 3 and 5. It was just the most disgusting display I have ever seen and I go to all the games here in Ottawa and not even TO fans are that bad. We won the game 7-1 I believe (no surprise). I’m glad people were nice to you in Ottawa can’t say the same for Tampa.

Snooz said...

Neil is definitely the dirtiest player in the league. No one in the NHL consistently hands out more cheap shots or late hits than Chris Neil. It doesn't matter what the little people from Ottawa tell you.

Snooz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Who cares if fans don't understand the game of hockey? As long as they go to the games and support this great sport, I am all for it. I'm sorry (Natalie?) that you had such a bad time at the Lightning game, but at least we don't physically abuse the opponents' fans as happened to the Buffalo Sabre fan during the Conference Final between Buffalo and Ottawa. If memory serves, the Ottawa organization did the classy thing and offered her free tix and lodging to the next game. The only interaction I had with a Sens flag-waving fan was to whisper in his ear (during the 7-1 thumping of my Bolts) that he should enjoy this win, because the Sens were sure to choke in the play-offs as they usually do. And they did.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say that I looked up your blog to see what you wrote about the Ottawa Senator and the Leafs game and was completely disappointed. You really did miss the whole point and did the Ottawa Fans a dis-service. Ottawa is a true hockey town (not just a playoff hockey town) and that battle of Ontario is full of passion and emotion.
Feel free to like and dislike who you want but Neil being the dirtiest player and a turtler? Sounds like you have been listening too much to Don Cherry and not doing your own homework.