Section 103, row L, seat 7.
When a friend asked me if I would accompany him to a Blues-Stars preseason game, I didn't hesitate. Any live hockey is good hockey.
I didn't know however, that I would be sitting two seats to the right of the red line, nine rows from the glass. I was so close to the ice that my arms quickly entered my t-shirt to cut off some of the freeze that was emanating from the ice.
I've been to a handful of games in my life, but not so many that I couldn't count all of them on both hands. I've been a Rangers' fan as long as I can remember, but I've only been so lucky to get to Madison Square Garden about once a year. Every game that I attended I cherish. And I've been lucky enough to witness a winning percentage.
But sitting just a a handful of rows from the ice? Only once do I remember being so close, and it was at Nassau Coliseum to watch the lowly Isles play some average team. That was over 10 years ago.
I found myself at the Scottrade Center, with seats so close that I couldn't help get excited for the matchup, even if almost every major Stars' player was a healthy scratch. That meant no Modano, Morrow, Turco, Ribeiro, or even Lehtinen. Still, I knew Brad Richards would be shuffling lasers across the ice to teammates. And the Blues played almost all their big time players: Boyes, McDonald, Tkachuk, even fan favorite Manny Legace.
But what I wasn't expecting, and indeed, I had forgotten--Sean Avery's squinty blue eyes staring straight back at me from his bench.
The Scottrade Center was half empty, and I was close enough to yell out "Let's go Avery!" or "I love you Sean!," and be heard. I mean, we could hear the players barking out instructions to one another (something I had never witnessed before), so I could only assume that Avery might be able to pick up my voice.
If he did, he didn't acknowledge it. Instead, I watched the rest of the game silently, missing part of the action so I could follow Avery.
Most players sat on the bench when they weren't on the ice. Not Avery; he stood half the time, leaning over the side, and opening the door to let in fellow teammates. When he was on the ice, his contributions were negligible; the Blues were clearly the better team (mostly because they played their starters), and dominated the first period and most of the second.
I did catch Avery cross checking Blues' captain and future Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk in the face, to which Tkachuk retaliated. I couldn't help but think what an ass Avery was, which surprised me. I was a huge fan of Avery's, and I still am, but if he isn't on your team he can be a real jerk. Both Avery and Tkachuk went off the ice for two-minute minors, precisely, I'm sure, what Avery envisioned.
I left the game with my friend (he had homework), with about nine minutes to play. We had been lucky enough to see good first period scoring (the Blues took a 2-1 lead) and made it through two and a half periods of 22 penalty calls (four more took place after the 10:51 mark of the 3rd period), and four fights, one particularly nasty that featured Blues' enforcer Cam Janssen realizing he could simultaneously clutch Krys Barch's jersey by the collar and jab at his face with the same hand.
Of course, I missed Avery's third period goal, which cut the game to 3-2, and obviously, his fourth and final penalty of the night, this one for roughing and misconduct, which I'm sure included some gloves to any face in his proximity. Regardless, it was still a successful night. There was yellow-the color of the musical note imprinted on the Blues' jerseys; there was green-the color that trimmed the Stars; and there was blue, the unflinching blue eyes of Sean Avery, eyes that seem to have no memory and made me pull my arms in just a little bit more to avoid the cold, on a warm St. Louis Blues preseason hockey night.
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