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Hotlanta Trip

This past weekend the chicks decided to trek out to the ATL in an effort to network, recruit, and watch hockey. Both girls landed on Friday night, exhausted & excited for what was ahead of them. They stayed with Sara’s family in Suwanee, GA.

Sara left for the airport first, I left around four o’clock. I had gone over to our other office closer to the airport at 2:30 when I realized at four o’clock that I didn’t have my cell phone. I decided to go without it, I sent Sara a tweet that I had left it at work; have me paged at 9:10. Well, my wonderful friend Katy was driving me and she said no can do. She dragged my butt all the way back to Edina during rush hour traffic to get it. I got to the airport at 4:45, my flight left at 5:15. I rushed through security and ran to the end of the F terminal. My calves started to clench but I just kept running. When I finally got to my gate I had to wait to get my seat assignment. That’s when they told me I was at the wrong gate. GREAT. I ran all the way back to gate I was supposed to be at before finally getting on board. Sara landed in the ATL first, and then she waited. She found out via email/tweet that I had my cell phone in hand and would be there soon. When I landed I called her. We started talking hockey & the old dude in front of me started listening as we were talking about Brodeur. Something about a girl saying a hockey name makes guys listen. Weird.

When I finally saw Sara we went to the MARTA. MARTA is the Mass Transit for the good folks in Atlanta. We were the only two talking on the MARTA, everyone else was dead quiet. About forty five minutes later we arrived in North Springs only to get into a car and drive North for another 30 minutes. When we finally got back to Suwanee we ate, drank & chatted. At around one in the morning we hit the sheets.

Getting up at seven in the morning on Saturday was painful to say the very least. By 8:30 we were on the road. Sara’s GPS ‘Andrew’ got us lost and took us to the Starbucks with road construction. When we finally got to the North Springs station we left her phone in the car and ran back to get it. We still caught the MARTA but we were behind schedule. We got off at the Peachtree station and ran to the hotel. We got there just as the second bus was leaving. We had missed most of the players. Brent Johnson was signing a few things before running off to the bus. Disheartened that most of the players signed and talked with the fans we sat outside the hotel from 10:15 until 12:15. My scalp got burnt and we were tired, but we hoped it would be worth it. Right as we turned around Sara smacked me and said, “That’s McKee and Cooke.” They were just kind of standing there so I grabbed the camera & kind of quickly walked up the hill. I asked if I could get their picture they just stood there giving me consent. Neither really said anything so I just told them how we had come out from the Midwest to see their game and wished them good luck tonight. Then McKee said to Cooke, “Maybe we should go in the front entrance.” They turned around and left. Oh well, at least I got my picture. The bus finally came but right before it did a lady with the hotel came out and pushed everyone back and got in everyone’s way so they couldn’t take pictures. Uncool. The players went a way so that no one could see them, it was understandable as they probably were hungry. We waited for a little longer until Tony Granato and two players came back by cab and escaped to the front entrance. One of the kids was wearing a Penguins jersey and he said nothing to them. They laughed at the fact that they were able to just sneak in. I was sad, as Tony is one of my favorite coaches. Then the second bus came in. The only three players on it were Brent Johnson, who walked straight in, Alexei Ponikarvosky who was on his cell phone, and Chris Kunitz. I called Kunitz over and he came over to sign everything for whomever wanted it. He didn’t say much but he signed until there were no more requests. Definitely loved that about him.

After the players arrived at the hotel we went to Phillips Arena to meet Laura aka Hildymac at the Taco Mac. On our way to the arena we passed four guys. Sara said to me, “Those are the Penguins announcers!” To which I turned around, ran up the hill & asked them for a picture. After getting their attention I asked if they were the Pens Announcers, of course they said yes. I told them that Sara and I had flown in from the Midwest to watch the game and we were big fans. We talked for a bit, I took their picture and they thanked me for wanting it. I ran back down the hill to Sara and we continued to the Taco Mac. When we finally got to the Taco Mac we sat outside waiting for our two o’clock networking meeting with Laura. When she finally showed up we chatted, everything from allergies to hockey, social media and blogging to what to drink & eat. It was so very nice to meet her, we even conned her into writing with us! After having some of the best queso dip ever (Queso Pablano) the three of us trekked back to where the hotels were.

Just as we had arrived Tony Granato came out of the hotel entrance. I was still unaware as we were far away but someone called my name and said, “Hey, Granato’s here didn’t you want to meet him?” I ran down and asked for a picture. We chatted about how I am a HUGE Avs fan, missed him in CO with his PK/Special Teams coaching. He asked if I wanted to be a coach and I laughed. We discussed our mutual friends and he was VERY nice. The thing that I loved most about him was right after the Steve Moore incident he was out of control upset. While some think it was unprofessional, he was the ONLY one in the NHL to show any concern over Steve in my opinion. Watching him be so concerned for his players meant a lot to a fan, I knew then that he was a good guy. Meeting him made my day. We pushed our way back to the front & Mike Yeo, the other assistant coach came out. After he finished signing stuff I asked Sara if she wanted a picture with him, she said, “No, he’s busy.” Mike, being the nice guy he is said, “I can take a moment for a pic if you want one.” Did she ever! She was super excited and right after Yeo left we Bill Guerin came out. We watched as he made his way over to us, I had him sign Sara’s bag as she smiled like a kid on Christmas morning. Then Matt Cooke came outside again, he jumped in the hotel’s SUV and the two of them rode off. Tyler Kennedy begrudgingly came over next, he signed everything but did not seem happy about it. When I asked Sara if she wanted a picture with him he shook his head no, awkward. Alexei Ponikarvosky finally came over to see us after skipping (not literally) past us on his way in from the morning skate. He didn’t say much but he seemed nice enough. Jordan Staal was out next. We were standing there while Staal was signing things and someone beside me said under their breath ‘Is that a wool suit?’. So I piped up and asked, “Little hot today, huh Jordan?” He physically sank and said, “Yeah.” To which I responded, “Not your best clothing choice ever with a wool suit in Hotlanta.” He sank further and blushed a little bit before he said, “Yeah, I know….” He probably already got poked fun of by the other guys. Next came Pascal Dupuis, he didn’t say much and signed quickly. When I told him I ‘loved his tie’ he smiled and said ‘Me too.’ Mark Eaton came strolling out and he actually seemed to enjoy signing things for people; he realized the fans pay the money for the tickets that allow the salary cap to increase or decrease therefore affecting his salary. He signed everything with a smile and seemed pretty carefree. Sidney Crosby, yes, THE Sidney Crosby came out next. People were shouting his name and I just stood there. He is much shorter than what I imagined him to be. Sara took the jersey I had on my arm for him to sign for her and she tried to get him to sign it. Unfortunatley he was running short on time and therefore only signed for the kids before rushing off. Brent Johnson came back out – he first signed a few things in the morning before sprinting onto the bus. He wasn’t starting that night so he kind of just relaxed and enjoyed himself. He didn’t talk much either. Brooks Orpik managed to sneak past me and went straight to the guy who was wearing the Team USA Orpik jersey to sign it. I have never seen a Flyers fan smile bigger for a Penguins player than in that moment, it was classic. Marc-Andre Fleury was heading to the bus when I shouted out, “Fleury, ici s’il vous plait!” He stopped, looked confused and started walking over. He started signing and was trying to figure out who had just shouted to him in French. To which I answered his question with some more (albeit elementary) French, “Bonne chance ce soir.” A simple “Merci” coupled with a very questioning facial expression was all I got in return, I doubt many people have spoken to him in French stateside. It made my day even more. After Fleury the players left and we headed back to CNN Center to meet with Ben Wright, Atlanta Thrashers web guy.

It was surprising to see as many Penguins jerseys and people were shouting out ‘Go Pens!’ to us as we were walking down the street. Sara was in her Pens shirt, I was in her ‘away’ Crosby jersey, and Laura was in a ‘Stefan’ jersey (Thrashers). We headed in to Dantanna’s and Laura sent a text to Ben to come meet us so we could sit and chat. Ben was more than accommodating to meet with us considering we have no credentials and are new to the hockey blogging industry. He told us a little about himself (was living in Ottawa prior to moving to Hotlanta), how he got his job (it wad all about networking), his favorite memories & moments with the team (the team playing in Ontario for fans for free and all the prospects at the camps), before giving us advice on how to break into the industry (be professional at all times and jump on any opportunity given.) He was an extremely busy guy, in fact he just had his first kid yesterday, so we were very blessed to have the opportunity to sit down with him. We left Dantanna’s and went to the pre-game skate. We were standing about four or five rows from the ice which looks so much smaller than on television. The players seem normal sized and the way they move is so quick. More people were on the Pens side and were cheering them on than the Thrashers’ side. I felt bad for them. When the pre-game skate had finished and all three of us had taken some pictures we started to head over to our seats. We were to the right of the home team’s bench and Laura was to the right of the goal on the same side. They were great seats for a season ticket holder!

The atmosphere at Phillips Arena was very fun. The section we were in was filled with Penguins jerseys. Most fans were either Pittsburgh residents who were visiting or Atlanta transplants originally from PA. For as many chants of “Let’s Go Thrashers” there were equal amounts and intensity of “Let’s Go Penguins”. Some fun things about this arena included a great food court just outside in CNN Center (including my fav. Chick Fil A), flames shooting from bird heads by the jumbotron, great views fromany seat, and a serious effort by the Thrashers to get fans involved. Sara made some great new friends talking about the site. Her passion and frustration had many fans around us asking her where she was from, why she loved the Penguins, etc.

To see all of our pics meeting the players & coaches click here!

This was the last day of regular season games. We woke up for breakfast only to go back to bed again. When we woke up again we watched the Capitals play the Bruins. Tim Thomas was in net and we were watching to see if Ovechkin could catch Henrik Sedin for the Art Ross or get a few more goals for the Rocket Richard. Ovechkin stayed off the boards and the Caps lost to the Bruins in a shootout. Once they did we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to meet some more of Sara’s family and we watched my Avs take on the LA Kings. BWW had an awful feed of the game. It was great to see Ryan Stoa score after getting recalled from the Lake Eerie Monsters. Duchene and Mueller were out. The Avs lost in OT to the Kings, it was still a fun game to watch. We decided to change bars so we went to Jimmy’s Bar and Grill. They had Comcast Center Ice which does not have a separate channel for each game. We watched the Hawks take on the Wings. Though the Hawks led the entire game the Wings came back & won it. The Flyers & Rangers were playing for a playoff spot. The Rangers led early in the game but Phila refused to go down without a fight. Forcing overtime and a shootout they beat the Rangers and ended seventh. They won the right to play the Devils. Then came the game Sara was waiting for. While we missed Crosby’s 50th, we were able to watch his 51st – the one that got him the Rocket Richard (shared with Stamkos). In his two goals and three assists game he finished three points behind Henrik Sedin who won the Art Ross for most points in the NHL regular season. After the game we went back to Suwanee and passed out.

Snap back to reality. Oh, there goes gravity. Oh, there goes rabbit, he choked….Yeah nevermind the Eminem reference. Monday morning I headed back to the cities and Sara spent the day with her family before heading back.

We’re planning for our next ‘hockey trip’. We want to visit every single arena/center if possible!

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