An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Ice time – a national pastime, eh!

Courtesy of a pair of tickets gifted to me by wife (bless her cotton socks), we escaped the peaks around Whistler and drove south to the city of Vancouver for some R&R at a hotel on the waterfront, some shopping and to watch the Canucks play their latest game at the helm of their league. Nice little getaway indeed!

Now, I know this will come across as nothing less than blasphemy in this land, but it was, well, perhaps just a little bit dull guys! Sorry, but the game lacked any atmosphere that I was promised. I don’t know if it’s because it’s become such a family orientated spectator crowd, full of moms and kids (God only knows then why they continue to allow the pugilism on the ice as a shining example to those young and easily influenced – I can tell you now that if these games were as popular across the UK, the aggressiveness and fighting would have been distained and written about as the cause of the general decline of our youths’ attitudes and society! Different cultures I guess!), or whether having grown up on a diet of soccer I simply miss the passion, criticism and very British heckling found in every day games. Whatever it may be, I am obviously in the minority as it’s the national sport of choice and lauded by most everyone!

However, must there really be sooo many stoppages?? Everyone tells me its such a fast paced game and so exciting, but every couple of minutes, the team on the ice completely changes and every other few minutes, the game is stopped to ‘clean’ the ice. Can’t they simply wait until the end of the period? It’s only 20 minutes long after all!! One can only assume it’s for the benefit of the sponsors and advertising companies as they utilise this ‘break’ to zip to a commercial break. Money gets the better of everything at some point!

All this said, some five odd years after we landed on this side of the Atlantic, I am almost ashamed to say that this was only the first time that I had been to a live game, a game that many would have paid a good couple of hundred of bucks (around £130) per ticket to watch. It was an experience, but we almost walked early having waited for some real excitement. Fortunately as the Canucks (the Vancouver side) eventually realised during the third and final period that they were losing, (nice one guys!) they began t turn up the heat and get a little more passionate about their play. This only really extended to hear the crowd let out a few more ‘oohs’ and ‘arghs’ – such passion guys!

One of the best points of this trip was spoiling ourselves to stay in a popular hotel. A little bit of luxury. Funny that we still interpret a nice hotel with good amenities in this way, given that we both work for hotels and see the inner workings of everything that goes on. You could almost call it a ‘busman’s holiday’ I guess. Nothing like staying somewhere where someone else does the picking up after you!!

Another great reason to visit Vancouver is Stanley Park. This is a huge park area surrounded by the seawalls and when the cloud line allows, some epic views of the surrounding mountains. Whenever we stay down in Vancouver, if close enough, I will go running around the famous seawall and this weekend was no different. Evidently I was to be joined by numerous runners, some by themselves or many in running groups as they were no doubt venturing for their weekly / weekend training runs. Ask anyone who has run here and they will tell you that it ranks among many peoples favourite runs.

It’s a truly beautiful area of peace and tranquility (usually) and is merely minutes way from the core downtown area full of restaurants, offices, stores and hotels. Of course there is a lot more to this park than just its views and seawall. It harbours amongst other things, an aquarium, tennis courts, and outdoor swimming pool, beaches, restaurants and even totem poles to name but a few.

During the warmer, drier months, there can often be a variety of concerts and shows staged within its confines and tourists literally flock there on their rented bicycles, horse drawn carriages and sightseeing coaches.

So, some r&r, hot tubbing, room service and a Canadian cultural game of hockey with its exuberantly priced stadium beer all taken in, a fine weekend break was had. We even managed to catch up with some friends on this all too short a visit, but a break it was none the less. Back to Whistler it was then with more snow, more in the forecast and no sign of spring yet – ahh yes, home! Spring can’t be too far around the corner though can it…?