A couple weeks ago, I posted a FanPost about where the Blues stay when on the road in California. While I didn't get any solid leads with that post, there was some interest from others about my experience so I thought I'd share a little bit. If you're thinking about making the same trip, this might be used as a (marginally) helpful guide.
A buddy and I were at a Blues game at Scottrade in November and thought it would be awesome to see a hockey game in Canada, thinking the experience there would be completely different than in STL. We started looking into flights and travel arrangements for the Blues 3-game trip through western Canada. It turns out the airfare was upwards of $1000 which was a little steep for us. The road trip through California was the backup plan. The airfare was a lot more palatable, especially with Southwest reward tickets available. It's not the same as hockey in Canada (by far) but following the Blues on the road was an amazing time and we are already looking into doing another trip.
Wednesday night: Anaheim
Thursday night: Los Angeles
Saturday night: San Jose
Leaving single digit temperatures with 6" of snow on the ground for sunny weather in the 70s is definitely a great way to start any vacation (unless you're going to skiing, I suppose). As much as I dislike the culture of LA, I can't knock them for their weather.
We arrived a day early on Tuesday to get in some tourist activites (we were on vacation, after all) before making our way to Anaheim for the first game on Wednesday. The area around Honda Center is pretty suburban. We arrived around 4 PM and parked at a lot just across the river (about a 4 block walk) for $5. We went to a bar/brewpub just across the street from the Honda Center called JT Schmid's Restaurant and Brewery and saddled up to the patio bar. There were a handful of Blues fans around and had a pretty good atmosphere for a Wednesday night. We chatted up the waitress and found out that we had just missed the entire Blues coaching staff. They came in for lunch around 2 PM. She told us a lot of the visiting teams coaches and players drop by quite often before the game, and sometimes after. She said they always stay at one of the nearby hotels, but didn't know which one. She also didn't seem to be the brightest so take that with a grain of salt. She did get a picture of herself with the Blues coaches though. My advice: show up there early and get a sampler pack. It's not a bad way to spend the afternoon and you might run into some of the Blues. We made it over to the Honda Center just in time to cheer on the Blues at their tunnel for warm-ups. Their arena feels tiny. The concourse feels like a corporate event center, not like a sports palace. And beers are expensive: $11.50. The atmosphere was quiet. There were a ton of Blues fans there and were noticeably loud when we scored, at least early on -- it was a rough game. They have a train whistle that blows when the Ducks score. It was cool at first, a little different. After hearing it seven times, its charm had worn off. We found our tickets on StubHub for $30, lower bowl, on the end where the Blues shoot twice. They have black nets there. It's worth it to get tickets on the sides because the game is almost unwatchable with the black nets on the end. On the other hand, they didn't check tickets and we were able to upgrade quite easily on our own. For that matter, you can actually get tickets for less than $10, total, on StubHub a day or two before the game, then take your chances on upgrading once inside. Even if you fail (you won't), the upper deck is pretty close to the ice. The fans were super friendly. It turns out that half of the people who go to the games there are transplants from other cities and just want to watch a hockey game, any hockey game. We met about 20 people who made the trip up from San Diego, none of which were Blues or Ducks fans.
The next night (Thursday) was our bounce back game against the Kings. Traffic in LA sucks, so leave early. We got there around 6:30 for a 7:30 game and found street parking at 12th and Grand and got to park for free. There's lots for under $5 though. Stay away from the West side of Staples Center, unless you like getting robbed and shot (or so I'm told). There's a ton of restaurants right across the street from the Staples Center around the Nokia Theater. A Yard House and ESPN Zone are crowd pleasers there. It was way too crowded to get a table for dinner though. A couple drinks across the street then it was concession stand food for us, accompanied by $11 beers. Fortunately, they have a ton of choices for decent food inside the arena. Staples Center is huge. Capacity is actually less than Scottrade for hockey, but it's a cavernous venue. The lower bowl is slightly larger than Scottrade, but is broken up into 100 and 200 levels. We were able to get 200 levels, on the end where Blues shoot twice for $30 on StubHub. 100 levels were a lot more and too close to the glass for my taste. 200s were just right. Stay away from the upper bowl. You are literally in the rafters there, above 3 whole levels of suites and about a mile away from the ice. I found it really interesting that everything in Staples Center is a presentation. They really do a good job of using multimedia -- lights, sounds, video on ice -- to get the crowd into the game. That's no small feat because even if the crowd does get a little into it, the place is so huge they don't sound loud at all. Neat building though.
We spend the off day in San Francisco being tourists. Had a wonderful time, but were were really looking forward to our trip to the Shark Tank. We stayed in the Wyndham right across from the airport. I met the charter pilot who was flying the Blues back the next morning. He was staying at the same hotel. We couldn't confirm if the Blues were staying there or not though. We had a few drinks in the lobby after the game waiting for them, but no dice. The Harlem Globetrotters were checking out when we got there though, so obviously some teams stay there. We headed down to the downtown San Jose area around 4 PM. We got street parking for about $1 by paying the meter until the 5 PM cutoff in the area right around Santa Clara and San Pedro streets. There's a 3-4 block area full of bars and restaurants that offer a great place to hang out before the game. The place was hoppin' on a Saturday night. Sharks fans are awesome. If they don't have a team jersey on, they are definitely sporting the team colors. I recon it's like going to a Cards game. It's quite impressive to see such a display for a hockey game. St. Louis has a strong following, but SJ fans take the cake here. After grabbing a bite to eat and a few brews, we headed over to the HP Pavilion. This place sells out all the time, and tickets were tough to come by for a Saturday night. A month before the game, we couldn't find lower bowl StubHub tickets for less that $100. The price only went up. Two days before the game, only a handful were left and the going price was $250(!) for lowers. We ended up using Craigslist and bought some face value off a season ticket holder for the upper deck on the blue line for $50 a piece (beware: they have black nets). Not bad seats though as the place is tiny. It only has one concourse; up for the upper deck, down for the lower. It felt like a big Family Arena. We got there 30 minutes before the game to see warmups and the place was already packed. The visiting team doesn't have their own tunnel in this place so the Blues entered the ice in the corner. We were actually able to chat with the players as they waited to get onto the ice a little bit. This is also where Bernie was camped out. We talked to the hall of famer for 15 minutes while the Blues were warming up. Awesome guy. The atmosphere in the Shark Tank was unbelievable. Most fans were hockey-smart and extremely welcoming. They really knew the game and their team. We only had one guy about 10 rows behind us whose mission was to make sure we had a bad day. It didn't work. The Blues took care of that without his help. They have a real working fog horn in their building, and since the rafters are so close to the upper deck, it was quite an impressive sound. I heard it too much that night, but it was cool nonetheless.
To summarize this (unneccessarily) long and rambling post, I'd just like to say that if you ever get the opportunity to follow your team on the road, DO IT. Even though we went 1-2 on this trip, we had a ton of fun every step of the way. There was no better feeling than wearing the Blue Note out of Staples Center while fans scowled in disgust. Likewise, it was a surreal feeling having pitty taken on us in an enemy's building. Take some time to see the local sights, grab a beer with an opposing fan, and enjoy screaming at the top of your lungs when the Blues score (even if it means we're still losing 7-4). It's an experience I look forward to enjoying again.