Sunday, September 16, 2007

I-95 HLOG Convention

We've cross-posted this on IPB (with pictures) but thought we'd share it here, too. We're sure the rest of the participants have more fun and exciting pictures to share, as well.

After much anticipation and giddy planning, this weekend finally rolled around and with it came the first-ever I-95 Corridor HLOG Convention. We tossed some essentials into our overnight bags, fired up Pookie's iPod on shuffle, and zipped down 95 to meet up with CapsChick, Shmee, Teka, Steph and Elly. Friday night was a short one for us, as traffic was rough outside Philly and we didn't get to Kate The Great's house outside DC until the wee hours of the morning, but we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get together with the gang at the Caps gorgeous training facility on Saturday morning.

While it was disappointing to not hobnob with players in the elevator like CapsChick seems to every time she heads over to Kettler, it was not at all disappointing to meet our HLOG sisters for the first time. While there were only two among the seven of us who could recognize more than one Cap, we still managed to have a far, far greater enthusiasm for the practice session we were watching than any of the other several hundred other fans there. That may have had more to do with the fact that seven HLOGers in one place makes for an extremely loud group, but the fact remains that a lack of interest in the Caps did little to diminish the joys Capitals training camp has to offer.

We mean, if nothing else, it was hockey players. On ice. With sticks. And pucks. Hockey is back! Seriously though, the Caps did an amazing job making training camp a fantastic fan-friendly event. The free open practices were peppered with player autograph sessions, and the practice itself was nothing like any other open practice we've attended. For starters, there were actually some players there, unlike the open practice we attended in Buffalo the day after a brutal loss this past March. In fact, there were so many players there, they spilled over onto two rinks! Moreover, the players were doing many varied drills instead of standing around lazily for half an hour. The coaching staff worked them reasonably hard, and after an hour of drills the guys on the big rink filed off the ice, the zamboni did its rounds, and then the players came back out on the ice in their fancy new unis and scrimmaged. It was a typical low-scoring affair, so at intermission we wandered over to the smaller rink to stand up next to the glass while Ovie, The Future Mr. CapsChick (Ben Clymer) and several others continued to engage in drills. The whole affair lasted almost three hours! Of hockey!

The best part of this all was that our fellow conventioneers are totally awesome. We'd met only CapsChick before this weekend, and we were our usual nervous nellies about social contact, but we shouldn't have been too concerned. Within thirty seconds of introductions around the group, we became the Most Annoying People At Caps Camp. At one point during the session CapsChick and Elly walked around to the opposite side of the rink to take a closer look at the players' huddle and returned with the news, "You guys, we could hear you all the way over there!" Heh. Mission accomplished. If you ever get an opportunity, Gentle Reader, to hang out with any of these gals, jump at it -- every one of them is hockey-savvy, smart, witty, quick to laugh, and foxy as all hell (of course).

When practice finally ended we decided to take our annoyingly loud act to a sports bar; our choices were some disreputable dive or a place called Bailey's. You'll be happy to know that, despite their omission of the prefix "IP" before the "Bailey's", we voted to lunch there in honor of the Irregulars. It being Saturday, the place was stuffed to the gills with rowdy college football fans, but when you've got Steph and Schnookie in one place, volume is never a problem. We had a rollicking lunch of mountains of nachos, rivers of beer and a free-wheeling, hard-hitting, all-over-the-board conversation about all things NHL. And as the people around us cheered the various noteworthy gridiron happenings on the TVs, our one moment of spontaneous applause came when a commercial for NHL 2K8 appeared during one of the football games. Because we were clearly the only ones in there with our heads screwed on straight.

After lunch, as the afternoon was winding toward evening, we trooped back to CapsChick's swanky pad, where we tried not to fall asleep from the combination of too much travel, hockey overstimulation, beer and the videos of Ben Clymer she subjected us to (think "Clockwork Orange" -- just kidding).

Just when we all thought we were in danger of slipping into comas, we decided to take a scenic detour/walking tour of all of Washington, DC on the way to Casa Shmee. We're sure it doesn't normally take that long to get there, but CapsChick's enviable sense of direction served us well as we traversed what seemed like every inch of sidewalk in our nation's capital. The carrot at the end of the stick during this epic trek was the promise of some highly potent party punches and a screening of "The Cutting Edge". Gentle Reader, it seems we will walk to the ends of the Earth for that combination. The trek was well worth it, as the punches were more potent and packed more party in every sip than we could have every imagined. Where was Shmee's "Pink Fire of Death" lemonade when this dreaded off-season started? We think the long months of June, July and August would have been a lot more manageable if we'd had a few pitchers of PFoD to dull the pain.

As for the movie, we've seen it probably close to 300 times, but it's never been as much fun as it was with this group. The fact that Elly hadn't seen it yet should probably have prompted us to hold back on shouting out lines before they were said. It didn't. Nor did it stop us and CapsChick from showing off our very best Cutting Edge skating-routine form.

Because we still had to find out way back to the trusty IPB Mobile (still parked at the ice rink) and then drive back to Farifax, we bailed before the group headed out for drinks and an impromptu field trip to a locked and dark Verizon Center. Our plan had been to be responsible and leave Kate the Great's house early on Sunday morning, but when it was suggested that we all meet up for practice early Sunday morning, we threw all thoughts of returning home early out the window. Shockingly not hungover, we motored back over to the rink at the crack of dawn (read: 9:00 in the morning) and were treated to another 4 hours of practice. This time around we got to watch Ovechkin and Kolzig engaging in a battle of trash-talk, shouted obscenities, and taunting dances.

We also sat way up close and personal with the guys, right up on the glass, so that it seemed they were rubbing their bared thighs in our faces all morning (either the Caps are a particularly chicken-legged group of guys or those new Reebok socks don't hold themselves up as well as advertised. It seemed every player, after a few minutes of skating, had his socks drooping down to his knees, and most of the Caps -- Nylander being the most egregious offender -- slash up the inseams of their shorts. It was a thigh-o-rama out there!). We like to think the boys remembered us from the day before, because Semin kept giving us the hairy eyeball and several times slammed his stick against the boards in front of us in what we can only assume was an attempt to get us to shut up. Nice try, Alex, but it'll take a lot more than that to stop our motormouths! We were especially thrilled to get to watch what turned out to be two successive practices, because we got to see our new favorite drill twice. Finally, we spent a few long, sympathetic moments watching the rookies skate suicides, then bid the gang adieu. It was time to sit in traffic for many long hours, before returning to the still hockeyless confines of stately IPB Manor. But worry not, Gentle Reader. We might be hoarse and exhausted, but after this weekend's training-camp immersion, we know that hockey -- even hockey that doesn't include Capitals -- is drawing ever nearer. We're even more excited than ever before, though, after getting to enjoy such a great time with such a great group of friends!


Tracy said...

AWW!! It sounds fantastic... I've never hated living in Arizona more than I do at this very second.

Jordi said...

Where's the Neuvirth recap!? THIS SUCKS. I'm going to be jealous and get drunk alone!

Shmee said...

Jordi, Neuvirth did indeed walk by. I have to warn you, it looked like he had used all the pomade in the DC area to slick his hair down into weird slices that ended in points over his eyes.

It was amazing, and so much fun to put faces to blogs.

Kerriberry7228 said...

That is so cute :-)