Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
If you ever travel to or from Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines, hope you are scheduled to depart from gate nine. It is off the main concourse at LAX, a huge room with all the modern amenities including very comfortable seating and ports for computers. There is even a small deli there. When I got there from San Jose three hours before my flight to St. Louis, it was pretty much empty and very quiet. This is where I am writing this article about my trip to San Jose for games three and four. Of course, I will have to transcribe it to type since this old dinosaur does not own a laptop.
Yes, I flew out to sunny California (it rained Saturday) to see the St. Louis Blues take on the San Jose Sharks, and yes, it was agony on Thursday and ecstasy on Saturday. It was not only distressing to see the boys shut out again (I was in St. Louis for game two), it was even worse to suffer another shutout at the SAP Center, aka the Shark Tank and be taunted and teased by rabid Sharks’ fans. Most everyone out there was friendly and cordial, yet, as always, there were some (drunken) fools who screamed "Blues suck" and other vulgarities at me. Of course, maybe I deserved some of that since I was wearing an autographed game worn Steve Ott Blues jersey.
Actually, my discomfort began before the opening face off. As I settled forward in my seat with my elbows on my knees in my customary position for watching hockey after the national anthem (yes, the crowd did yell, "St. Louis…YOU suck!" just before the anthem), the "gentleman" to my right tapped my shoulder and told me I had to sit back in my seat. Of course I asked what in the heck he was talking about, and he said it was a rule at the Shark Tank that you could not sit forward due to the slope of the seats in the lower bowl. People in back of me could not see if I leaned forward. Of course, I reluctantly complied, yet it rankled me that I had to be responsible for the building architect’s blunder. Oh, well. That is northern California for you!
Another oddity at the Tank is that the gift shop is very small, about a third of what the Blues’ shop is, and very cramped and crowded. So, there is a line to even get in, a line that stretched around 100 yards into the lower concourse where you enter. And then the line to actually buy anything wrapped around the store all the way to the rear wall. Yikes!
Nor was it worth it as the merchandise was around 20% more than in St. Louis. And it had Sharks logos all over it, too.
Although it is a beautiful, clean, user-friendly venue with lots of kiosks and beer and food stands and bathrooms with great sight lines (as long as nobody leans forward, that is), it is quite costly at the SAP Center. Beer ranges from $8.25 (craft) to $10 (draft) and $13 for a large import. An aluminum bottle of Coors Light or Budweiser is $11.50. Glasses of wine start at $10, while most cocktails are $11. On the other hand, a red bull and vodka runs $16.50. Bottled water is $6.75. Most food items were roughly 20% higher than in St. Louis; a burger and fries will cost you $13.50.
The friendly folks at the SAP Center also offer a food/drink delivery service for selected seats in the lower bowl. Two Budweisers, two hotdogs, a peanuts and popcorn will run you $56. If you prefer the Asian chicken salad, a pastrami sandwich and two glasses of Chardonnay, you will have to fork out $44, not including the gratuity. And if you want a whole bottle of Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay or a nice Jordan Alexander Valley, get out the credit card for $125.
The cost of my tickets for both games was quite similar to what my tickets in St. Louis cost since I was with season-ticket holders and they graciously charged me what they actually paid for the ducats.
And there are absolutely no beer or food vendors that go up and down the aisles in either the lower or upper decks. Although not heavily enforced, you are not permitted to enter the arena or leave your seat during play, either. Surprisingly, there are in-and-out smoking areas all around the arena, making it quite easy to sneak out for a smoke. Yes, there are many, many smokers out there in politically correct northern California, despite what you might have heard.
Naturally, I enjoyed the game Saturday a lot more. The Blues redeemed themselves with a high-powered performance, scoring six goals, including a shorty and two on the power play. The final score did not actually reflect the disparity in play, nor did the shots on goal. It has been a rather strange series (and playoffs) since the team that has been out shot in most games has won the game. And, of course, nobody taunted me or teased me after the game, although several people stopped to shake hands, thank me for coming and offer congratulations on a great Blues’ victory.
These two teams are so much like each other that is indeed ineluctable that the first four games have been split evenly (although the Blues have been shut out twice and outscored 8 to 11) and it is quite likely this series will come down to a game seven in St. Louis this upcoming Friday.