a, Sports

Cheap seats travel guide

1. Winter Classic

The NHL will further prove it has a Pennsylvania fetish on Jan. 2 (the NFL gets New Year’s to itself because it’s a Sunday) as the Flyers host the New York Rangers in the league’s showcase event at Citizens’ Bank Park. The Flyers are participating in their second Winter Classic (they last played in 2009) and join their Keystone state rivals, Pittsburgh, as the only teams to play in multiple classics. League-sponsored favouritism aside, the Winter Classic deserves its marquee billing. Hockey was invented outdoors—Stanley Cups were even won outside way back in the day—and seeing it played in its natural setting is a sight that never gets old. Sure, maybe the league has gotten a little too comfortable in keeping the games in cold-weather baseball stadiums. I’d personally love to see a game played on the Strip in Vegas or the Rideau Canal in Ottawa (shameless homer plug, right there), because it’s possible that fans will eventually get bored. Regardless, the league makes tons of money off merchandise and TV ratings, so it looks like the Winter Classic isn’t going anywhere soon. If you’re in Philadelphia, or if you’re watching TV and bowl games aren’t your thing, check out the Winter Classic because with global warming and all, it may not last forever.

2. World Juniors

In a hockey-mad country, it’s no wonder that one of our great holiday traditions is to wake up at ungodly hours to watch 18-20 year old kids play hockey against the best the rest of the world has to offer. Although the first few games of the tournament typically consist of Canada beating up on the countries where hockey isn’t so popular, the tournament’s championship game (which more often than not includes Canada) is must-see TV and always ranks near the top of TSN’s most-watched events of the year. This year the tournament is back in Canada, which means that instead of traveling halfway around the world to create a sea of red and white in a foreign arena, we get to do it in our own back yard. If you’re from out west or are going to be in the neighbourhood to hit the slopes, make your way to Calgary or Edmonton, this year’s co-hosts. The feeling you’ll get when ‘O Canada’ is played after the game is hard to replicate, and having seen Jordan Eberle’s legendary goal to knock out the Russians in the 2009 semifinal in Ottawa, I can certainly attest to that. If you can’t make it to see Team Canada, the other games should be very entertaining as well. That same year I witnessed a matchup between Latvia and Kazakhstan where the stadium was nearly full. Oh, and if you’re from the U.S., please stay home.

3. NCAA Bowls

Jan. 1, 2008. New Orleans. The Allstate Sugar Bowl.

The year was poised to get off to a great start, as my father, my brother, my cousin, and I took in New Year’s Day at the Louisiana Superdome to watch the Georgia Bulldogs take on the Hawaii Warriors.

All four of us were cheering for the scrappy Hawaii team, which was coming off anunbeaten season, quarterbacked by the future Washington Redskins third stringer, Colt Brennan. We were all decked out in Hawaii T-shirts, leis, and hats, and arrived at the stadium in the middle of the Bulldogs cheering section.

Lasting memories from the game include Georgia fans heckling us, the length due to constant injury and TV time-outs, and when my cousin, using a Southern drawl, convinced a junior college coach that he was an all-Ontario Tight End only to receive the coach’s business card. 

This year, fans in New Orleans will be treated to two spectacles: the Sugar Bowl and the BCS Championship. If you’re in the Big Easy (or Glendale, Miami, or Los Angeles, for that matter) take the opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow along with the pageantry that only a bowl game can provide. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Crashed Ice

Along with Moscow, Valkenburg, and Munich, Quebec City is home to one of five Red Bull Crashed Ice races. Swarms of (mostly drunken) fans surround the curving 575 metre track, standing right in the heart of Quebec City, allowing spectators to watch over 100 athletes race. In a combination of speedskatingboardercross, and downhill skiing, fans are likely to see skating of up to 60 kilometres per hour, daring jumps over obstacles, and of course, some major wipe-outs. This is an event everyone has to experience at least once. The ambience is great but it’s outside, so dress accordingly. 

After being outside for an hour, watching the Jumbotron televisions while also trying to find a good place to catch just two seconds of the race live, I opted to go to a bar. Every bar was full to the brim, with all eyes glued to the televisions providing full coverage of the race. The energy of those around me was contagious, and made the experience that much better. This is an exciting event and a sport that makes Canadians proud. Last year, Canadian racers placed second and third at the World Championships, and at least one Canadian placed in the top three at every other competition. Get ready for Red Bull Crashed Ice Quebec City on Mar. 15-17, 2012.

5. Dolphins Football

What do birds, humpback whales, monarch butterflies, and retired grandparents all have in common? They migrate to warmer climates during the winter. So this winter break, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy your own short-term-migration and spend some time with the elderly in Florida, take the opportunity to go to a Miami Dolphins game. While fans in Pittsburgh and Green Bay will tell you that a real football game is fought in the cold hard conditions of winter, going to a Dolphins game in 25° Celsius weather in December beats sitting in -10° Celsius any day.  From experience, the atmosphere at the game is electric, from tailgating outside the stadium to singing the Dolphins fight song along with 75,192 other fans—it’s a great way to enjoy an NFL game in a stadium where there are no bad seats. The fight song claims that Miami is “The greatest football team, we take the ball from goal to goal like no one’s ever seen.” Even if this is unfortunately no longer true (even T-Pain’s version of the song couldn’t revamp the team), despite their 0-7 start, the Dolphins decided not to “suck for Luck” and won three in a row followed by a last second one point loss to the Cowboys on American Thanksgiving. So head to Sun Life Stadium on New Year’s Day and see the Dolphins take on their division rival New York Jets to experience football the way it should be enjoyed.

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