Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eileen's Treat: TWO Hockey Games!

Caps fans enjoying the game.
Earlier this month, when I wrote about Eileen's birthday celebration, I noted that we planned to continue the fun by a family outing to see a Washington Capitals hockey game. Needless to say, John Paul and I are hockey fans, but people are often surprised to find out that "sweet, patient, mild-mannered Eileen" is the biggest fan in the family.

In fact, it's not surprising at all that this energetic, intensely focused, dedicated, hard-working lady appreciates competitive sports, and especially hockey, with its combination of graceful skill, toughness, speed, teamwork, and crazy luck.

So for her birthday present John Paul, Teresa, Josefina, and I got tickets to a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (a key division rival) for March 23. What I didn't know, however, was that Eileen's friends had another plan: they got two very nice seats on the second level and a parking pass for Eileen and I to go to the Caps game against the Arizona Coyotes on March 25!

Two hockey games in forty eight hours? A dream come true for my wife. A somewhat more daunting project for me: trips to the city really wear me out. But I knew that both evenings would be special in different ways, and I was determined to pace myself and save up enough energy to do it.

There was only one thing (or "two things" I suppose) that we couldn't plan or guarantee for this double birthday gift: the Capitals actually winning both games.

Hockey is a fickle friend. There was some risk involved here.

The Caps will probably finish with the best record in the NHL this year, but they can still lose. Their most frustrating losses in the past have been playoff games, and I tend to be more "philosophical" than my wife about regular season games. But even I would have been disappointed by anything less than two wins here.

"Big Brother Time"
Thankfully, the Capitals delivered splendidly on their part of the birthday celebration. On Thursday night we were on the edge of our seats with great goaltending and a 1-1 tie taken all the way to the tie-breaking one-on-one shootout.

It's very gut wrenching when everything comes down to the shootout (similar to the soccer experience of "penalty kicks" to end an elimination game). The Caps scored the only goal of the shootout, however, and pulled out an exciting victory. We all had a great time.

It was fun going for an adventure with three of the five kids, as they don't get so many chances to be together and bounce off one another these days, now that some are growing up and having adventures of their own. I know Josefina enjoyed her "big brother time."

On Friday, I rested.

Saturday was a lovely day that proceeded at a leisurely pace. We had plenty of time to get into the city again, get lost and have Google Maps GPS lead us through the labyrinth of Washington DC, and still arrive in time to park and stroll through Chinatown and have a nice dinner.

Below on the right is the Peking Duck. Delicious dipping sauce and moist tasty meat all the way through:

Then we strolled over to the Verizon Center for the game, got a couple of draft beers and settled into our seats. They were terrific, just to the left of center ice on the second level, at a perfect angle to see all the action of the game.

Our view to our left looked like this:

It was another low scoring game for the first 50+ minutes, with the Caps taking a 1-0 lead well into the third period. But then Arizona tied the score with 7 minutes left to play, and we began to wonder if we were not headed toward another regulation tie, with another harrowing overtime period followed by a shootout.

Caps fans were summoned to rally the team with the customary third period multimedia-led roaring of "UNLEASH THE FURY!" I was thinking to myself, "Well that was spirited and a little silly." But then the Capitals scored three goals in less than five minutes in an explosive, dominating display of ... fury. I have never seen the fury quite so thoroughly unleashed. Let's just hope that "The Fury" won't be shy when it's needed during the playoffs! 😜 

Happy with our victory (both our victories), Eileen and I enjoyed the evening air as we walked back to the garage through Chinatown, stopping for ice cream at a not-particularly-Chinese Häagen-Dazs. It was a lovely time in every way.

I was exhausted on Sunday. And Monday, and most of the week, but I was able to take the time to recuperate. It was worth it. Almost like a little vacation. It made Eileen very happy, and that was the best thing of all.

We had actual paper tickets on Thursday night (above). Saturday's "tickets" were bar codes accessed by my mobile phone. 
We got a nice look at the Cherry Blossoms blooming on "the Mall" near the Washington Monument.