Hockeytown Visit

This past weekend I trekked deep into enemy territory to a little place called Detroit, MI. My father went to Notre Dame, my sister went to Notre Dame, my aunt went to Notre Dame. I had more ND gear than most people have clothes. When the Avalanche came to Denver, my father encouraged me to start watching hockey with him. It was the first time I had actively followed the sport. My two biggest loves growing up were Notre Dame football and Avalanche hockey. There I was, in Ann Arbor, MI home to the University of Michigan Wolverines and Detroit, MI home to the Detroit Red Wings. While the rivalries have cooled a bit with both of my teams playing less than amazing lately, there was still the natural inclination to avoid mentioning where I was from, lest any Wings fan wanted to kick my butt. Lucky for me there was no need as the people of Detroit were more than accommodating, they were downright friendly.

This was the first adult trip I have ever taken. I flew solo, rented a hotel room for myself, and rented my first rental car. I knew no one, even the contacts I had made before flying in I had never met nor spoken on the phone to. Every contact I had was thru social media. I was a little nervous but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my time there.

Thursday morning I almost missed my flight. I hadn’t anticipated the line for security being as long as it was. I boarded the plane after a nice little sprint from the security line, my calves clenched, my heart was racing and I was starving. I thought I would have time to grab food on the way to board the plane. Nope. Lucky for me *sarcasm* the plane sat on the ground for another 45 minutes. Luckily, the man I sat next to was from Detroit’s suburbs and went over my pre-printed mapquest routes with me. He told me routes to avoid (8 Mile late at night), places to see, where to eat, etc. He was very friendly and I was grateful.

Upon landing only a few minutes behind schedule I went straight to rent my first car. The line was long and it seemed that customers were short on patience. One man was screaming at the associate and I couldn’t help but watch him. I honestly could not take him seriously because he had a ponytail down to his bottom with binders pinching off parts of it. A style no girl over the age of eight usually wears. After another thirty minutes of waiting I finally got my car. I went to my hotel, checked in and went straight back to the car. It was time to head to Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor was about twenty minutes away from where I was staying. The town was gorgeous, I parked by all the athletic facilities before meeting with the University of Michigan’s athletic department. A friend had a family friend who worked for the athletic department, so I was meeting with her and the hockey guy to start my trip off. Leah and Matt were both extremely nice, they shared what their typical work week looks like working in the sports industry, talked about their challenges and more importantly what makes each day worth it. They both truly loved their jobs. I left there with a few more names to contact and a few more places to see and a couple days worth of free softball tickets in my purse.

Next I was driving an hour to Royal Oak, but not before getting lost. One of the three times I had trouble (aka got lost), I took the wrong Highway 23 and went South instead of North. Took me awhile to realize it and then turned around and headed North. But apparently I was supposed to take it West when provided the option. I was confused beyond belief but over an hour later I arrived at D’Amato’s for a TweeTea. One of our great followers on twitter @goaliemom31 suggested that I speak with @becksdavis who recommended a ton of fun things to do, including this TweeTea. We were unable to find each other there but I met a ton of nice people before having to leave. I never carry cash let alone quarters and my meter had 30 minutes left when I parked there. Still starving I decided to head back to Romulus where my hotel was.

Back in Romulus I used my ‘Where’ app on my iPhone to tell me all of the places to eat in the area. One restaurant that had received five stars was called Beirut, upon visiting the website I learned it was Lebanese and Persian food. In Minneapolis one of my favorite places is called the Caspian Bistro, my former roommate is part Egyptian part Lebanese and she introduced me to Lamb Kafta. The restaurant was right next door to my hotel so I gave it a shot. Glad I did! The meal was delicious and it started my weekend quest to only eat locally. No national chains, I wanted to indulge in all that Detroit had to offer, and boy did they get BIG points gastronomically! Stuffed from great food I went to my room and passed out.

Friday morning came and I was very excited. Twitter had once again helped me to connect to some wonderful people in Detroit. @Tapeleg suggested back in March that I contact Christy Hammond, one of the Red Wings’ PR members. And just days before the flight @Dani3boyz had sent a shout out to @CHollis who gave her contact info on @TheTinnishFlash, @SnipeDangle, and @NWLife. Well turns out that Nicole Yelland, or @NWLife, worked in the New Media department (social media) for the Detroit Red Wings. I reached out to her and she said to stop by before I left so I could speak with her as well. I met with Christy first and she gave me a mini tour of the Joe or JLA as the locals there call it. Both Christy and Nicole were wonderful to take time out of their day to meet with me and give me the inside workings of a hockey organization and their positions. Meeting with them helped refocus me on what I need to do to get my foot in the door to the NHL.

Before pointing me in the right direction for a good meal, Nicole connected me with the Red Wings Commune as they call themselves. A group of bloggers and enthusiasts who know of all the happenings around the town. The Commune was going to check out the authentic equipment sale at Hockeytown Authentic the next day and they invited me.

What does one do while in Hockeytown? Eat at the Hockeytown Cafe of course! By the time I got there it was a little after 2:30 p.m. and quiet. I ordered the Hockeytown burger and was tempted by the Hat Trick. You know you’re eating at a great hockey joint when their drink menu is all hockey related. The Five Hole, The Hat Trick, etc.

After leaving downtown Detroit I went back to Ann Arbor or A2 as it’s called locally. I arrived a little bit late to the softball game between the University of Michigan and Wright State University. The game was fun, the people were nice, and overall it was good stuff. When the first strike of lightning took place the mens hockey team assisted the grounds crew in tarping the field. They were slip and sliding and wearing matching shirts that indicated they were there to help out. Their shorts on the other hand, were picked out individually. Just another reminder that hockey boys are truly unique.

The game resumed and the Wolverines started tearing it up. The relief pitcher for Wright State came in and her pitching style allowed a few batters to walk in runs. From what I could tell both of her feet were not touching the rubber. The first time she did it auto-walk. That was a real kicker with the bases loaded. You could tell it completely destroyed her. That’s the thing with sports once you start over-thinking you’re done. By the time the second rain delay occured the game was over every way but officially. The rain came down in sheets. What had started as a few fat drops turned into an all out monsoon type rain storm. After thirty minutes of waiting I bolted to my car right before it started raining hard again. The cute elderly couple I sat next to during the game suggested I try a place called AriRang, a small Korean food place right by I-94 and Ann Arbor Saline Road. After getting a bit turned around I found it. I had my typical meal Bolgolgi and Galbee. It was pretty good, not as good as the food back in Aurora but it was more than acceptable.

Leaving the Korean restaurant the monsoon weather decided to pick back up so 20 miles in 20 minutes should have seemed impossible, but I had learned to drive thru natural disasters when I was 15 by driving when there was a tornado thru Des Moines, IA. I had my permit and my father said I should drive in Iowa because the speed limit was 65 back then and Nebraska was 75. Nothing is scary when you have had fast winds moving your car out of your own lane into the lane of truckers who are still going the speed limit while you’re only able to go 55 and both of your parents are screaming at you. Compared to that, this monsoon type weather was a cake walk. 25 minutes later I was back in Romulus with Just Friends turned on the tv and ready to pass out.

Saturday morning brought more rainy weather but I was indoors anyways. I took I-94 East till I hit 75 and went North. I saw 8 Mile and had to take a picture for my brother who loves that movie. Finally I arrived in Troy where I took Exit 69 to Big Beaver Road. I kid you not, someone at the MDOT was less than loved when these roads were thought up. After getting lost for the third and final time this trip I finally found my way to Hockeytown Authentic and met Kris (@snipedangle) and Amanda (@nursenitz) as we geeked out to all the gear and some of the silly stuff on sale as well as some of the cooler stuff on sale. We walked next door to Joe Cool’s for lunch and a long conversation about hockey, the future of hockey, the oversaturation of Sidney Crosby in advertising, the Hawks being the NHL’s next ‘team’ and my personal favorite the glory days when the Western Conference Final was more exciting than the Stanley Cup Final, aka when the Avs and Wings duked it out with more intensity than one usually sees in the ‘new’ NHL.

I returned to my hotel and spent the afternoon catching my girlfriends up on my trip. I went down the street to one of the Coney Island chains that Christy told me I had to try. The chili cheese fries were delish! I ate in my room watching Failure to Launch. I’ve seen the movie a thousand times but a girl can never get too much Matthew McConaughey or Bradley Cooper. Passing out at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night was pretty pathetic, but a girl has to get her beauty sleep especially while traveling!

My last day spent in Detroit was actually spent in Ann Arbor. After finally sleeping in I drove to A2. The outside temperature was 85 degrees in the shade and it seemed Michigan and Minnesota share their love of humidity, bleech. Made this girl homesick for the altitude and dry air! The stands were packed for the Notre Dame v. University of Michigan game. The band was seated behind me and I learned the words to the University of Michigan song from hearing it about twelve times. Yeah, the Irish got stomped 12-2, it was painful.

After the game I decided to give myself a mini-tour of the University of Michigan by walking up State Street towards the campus in search of a bookstore. I have always been such a sucker for bookstores and I had an hour to wait for Leah to finish up some game stuff before grabbing dinner. I picked up a blue with yellow writing University of Michigan hockey t-shirt, a pair of matching yellow running shorts. The thing that really made my day was finding a pair of Victoria Secret cut-off sweat pants made for U of M students. FYI the most comfortable sweats I have ever owned. EVER.

I called my Mom on my way back down State Street and told her about my trip before meeting up with Leah to check out a local restaurant for dinner. We went to Spots which had amazing Philly Cheesesteaks (even the Original Philly Cheesesteaks with the cheese whiz stuff, gross I know I got the kind with provolone cheese instead.) The air conditioning felt great and Game Four between the Blackhawks and Sharks was on. It was nice to have another meal with someone. Even though I live alone now eating by yourself at home was very different from eating in a restaurant by yourself. The food was great and the conversation was excellent. It was the perfect end to my trip.

I left Hockeytown the following morning with a renewed respect for the Red Wings and their fans. Despite the long-standing rivalry between our two clubs they were great people who knew their hockey. The classiness and friendliness of the good people in Detroit has gotten this Avalanche fan to drop the mantra ‘Anyone but Detroit’.

*Apologies for the random pictures but this is what I found most entertaining while in Hockeytown.

  1. May 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I spent a lot of energy this year trying to prove to people that their perceptions of Detroit and the fanbase are all wrong… So reading this totally made me smile! I’m glad you had such a positive trip and experience, and glad that while you’ve got your own team to root for, you can appreciate other teams in true sportsmanship style. 🙂

    Keep on writing!

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