Game Date: Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Score 5-2 Florida)
With: My Mom & Dad
Seats: Section 116, Row 25
Total Trip Cost: $500 (part 2 of a 3 game trip)
As the second game on our Washington -> Florida -> Tampa trip, we were really looking forward to getting away from the cold and snow and down to some beautiful Florida sunshine! There are few things that beat a beer overlooking the ocean in the morning and a hockey game at night! We flew into Fort Lauderdale International Airport early Monday morning and had a rental car waiting for us. I’m not exactly a small person, but I probably should have considered upgrading from the Toyota Yaris that we spun around in. Money was the bottom line though, as it came in at about $30 or so a day (from Sunshine Rent A Car - note: if you want to save money, try to get an “off airport” rental car – a bit less convenient, but far less money).
We started by taking a trip to Fort Lauderdale beach and went for a walk – it was a bit windy, but fun to finally see the ocean again! While Fort Lauderdale and Miami are wonderfully positioned along the coast, Sunrise where the arena is located is not (but rather 30 minutes inland on the VERY edge of the everglades. We had a hotel reservation near the arena for Monday night, so headed over to the ridiculously large mall that shares an equally ridiculously large parking lot with the Bank Atlantic Center. Newsflash for everyone thinking about that mall: It’s your normal mall, but bigger. Just go to your regular mall and walk around it 4 times – then you can save yourself the super long trip.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure, which we got on Priceline for $90. It was a bit more then I had expected, but the hotel was very nice – more like a resort, with a great hotel bar that we ventured to for some late night grub & drinks.
It wasn’t the closet hotel to the rink being 3-4 miles a way, but I’d certainly rather stay at a resort type place then a Holiday Inn in a mall parking lot!
The next morning we brought the rental car back and spent the morning / afternoon at the beach – walking along Fort Lauderdale beach wasn’t the Spring Break party that it looked like back in the 90′s, but rather a mix between a geriatric beach trip and a 100 tacky bars. Luckily, those tacky bars had awesome drink specials and outdoor patios – hard to resist $15 for 5 bottles of Corona overlooking the ocean.
My parents, who live in Florida during the winter months picked us up (as we were certainly not in driving condition!) and brought us back to Sunrise for the game. This would be the first game that they went to (along with Tampa), so it was great to have a “posse” come with us! They also could take our picture, so we could finally get some good pics instead of the constant self-shots!
While it’s a bit hard to imagine hockey when it’s 95 degrees out, about 13,000 leafs fans decided that they were going to brave the heat and watch our beloved hockey team. The arena itself as mentioned above is literally in a Mall parking lot (Sawgrass Mills, one of the largest malls in North America). There’s an abundance of chain-type restaurants all around, but best of all is free parking – everywhere. They say that they work the parking into the ticket price, but let’s get real here – it would be a hard sell to add parking to south Florida residents who barely make it out to the game anyway.
Speaking of that, we actually purchased our tickets directly from the Panthers – for under face value. I found a gentleman on HFBoards who worked for the team, and after verifying that everything was legitimate I was able to buy tickets over the phone for pickup at the will-call window. The tickets available for under face were all “B” level, but that was OK at the price we were looking for. We ended up with $65 each about 20 rows up at the blue line (leafs shoot twice) – a view I don’t mind and often choose for value priced tickets. Although I have no idea if he still works for the team you can try to contact Zachary Cravitz @ firstname.lastname@example.org – either him or another rep could probably get the same type of deal if anyone is trying to go in the future. Secondary markets are tough because these games are the ones that they can sell for face or above, with snowbirds picking up tickets in hoards (especially on march break!)
From a leafs perspective, the game was nothing special. As expected with our luck we lost – 5-2 – in a game that was never really that close. This pushed us to 0-8 on the road this season – it was starting to get a bit ridiculous.
One of the funniest moments was at the end of the game when the “Panthers Faithful” (all 100 of them) lined up at the exit and serenaded us with “Na-na-nah-na, na-na-nah-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye”. A bit short sighted to be making fun of the away fans that literally keep your franchise afloat, but hell, when they’re on their way to Seattle / Quebec City / Markham / etc I’ll be the first one singing the same song It was all in good fun and it was nice to see some actual passion from a southern market!
After the game we headed back to Fort Myers where my parents were based – Part 2.5 of our trip the next day involved a Toronto Blue Jays spring training game in Dunedin, and part 3 was Tampa Bay vs. The Leafs – so there was still a ton of sports left!
I was walking around in my Kessel Jersey & blue wig / hockey helmet prior to the game and a nice little old lady walks over to me and pulls on my arm. She looks up and says “I love your jersey” and I respond “uhhh yeah he’s a great player” … she then puts the biggest, proudest smile on her face and goes “He’s my grandson!!!”
For some reason it was hilarious to me to meet Phil Kessels Grandmother and I imagine her telling everyone she meets about how proud she is (hell, I’d do the same thing). I suppose a lot of the grandparents/parents of players are probably in the area – so it probably happens all the time!