Saturday, February 18, 2017

How to Go to a Hockey Game In Newfoundland

Continuing my bid to do trip guides for all 50 American States and all 50 Canadian Provinces. On Friday, February 24, and Saturday, February 25, the New Jersey Devils' top farm team, the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League, will face the St. John's Ice Caps in the easternmost city in North America: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

There is a Newfoundland in New Jersey, an unincorporated community that straddles West Milford in Passaic County and Jefferson in Morris County. It's about 35 miles west of Midtown Manhattan, about halfway between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. This Newfoundland is considerably farther away.

Before You Go. Newfoundland is in Canada, so you will need a passport. And you will need to change your money. At last check, US$1.00 = C$1.31, and C$1.00 = US 76 cents. And I advise you to call your bank and let them know that you will be in a foreign country, so they won't see credit or debit card purchases from a foreign country pop up and think your card has been stolen.

Newfoundland has a weird time zone: While the rest of Canada's Maritime Provinces (a.k.a. "Atlantic Canada"), including Labrador, which is attached to the mainland, is 1 hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, the island on which Newfoundland sits is an hour and a half ahead. In other words, when it's 12:00 noon in New York, Montreal and Toronto, it's 1:00 PM in Halifax, but it's 1:30 PM in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Despite being in Canada, and an oceanfront city where wind can be an issue, and with this being winter, the weather is not expected to be all that cold. The Telegram, Newfoundland's largest newspaper, is predicting temperatures to be in the mid-30s on Friday afternoon and the low 20s at night, and the high 20s most of Saturday. The problem could be precipitation: They're calling for "a few flurries" on Friday, which doesn't sound so bad, but "ice pellets" on Saturday night, which could be a problem going into or getting out of the game.

Also, remember that they use the metric system. A speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour means 62 miles an hour. And don't be fooled by the seemingly low gas prices: That's per liter, not per gallon, and, in spite of Canada being a major oil-producing nation, you'll actually be paying more for gas up there. So, in order to avoid both confusion and "sticker-shock," get your car filled up before you reach the border.

Tickets. The Mile One Centre seats 6,287, but this is a minor-league game, and the Ice Caps and the Albany Devils aren't major rivals. So getting tickets shouldn't be hard: You might be able to walk up to the window on the day of the game and get one.

Seats are $37 between the goals, $34 in the corners, and $30 behind them. All of these prices are in Canadian dollars.

Getting There. It's 1,666 road miles from Times Square in Manhattan to the Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's. Halifax. It would be about 160 miles less as the crow flies, but you won't be able to do that unless a bridge is ever built connecting Cape Cod and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It's 1,133 miles from downtown St. John's to the closest border crossing, at Calais, Maine. If you can afford to fly, you should.

Because the only other option is driving. Greyhound Canada doesn't go to Newfoundland. Nor does VIA Rail Canada. Air Canada can get you to from New York to St. John's International Airport for under $700, but you'd have to change planes in Toronto each way -- in other words, go 500 miles west, and then go 1,900 miles east, and then reverse the process.

Here's the driving directions. Start out as if you're going to Boston: Take Interstate 95 North to New Haven. Take Exit 48, Interstate 91 North to Hartford. Take Exit 30, Interstate 84 East into Massachusetts. You'll merge with Interstate 90 East, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and take that until you reach Interstate 495, Boston's outer beltway.

But instead of continuing on the Mass Pike to Boston, take Exit 11A onto I-495 North, into Boston's northern suburbs, until you reunite with I-95 North at Salisbury, just before reaching the New Hampshire State Line. You'll cross New Hampshire and go into Maine. Take Exit 182A onto U.S. Route 1A, turn left on State Route 46, right on State Route 9, then follow this rural route all the way to Baring, where you'll meet up with U.S. Route 1. Turn left at International Avenue, and you'll reach the Border.

Don't get cute. Show your passport. If they ask for any other ID, show them that. If you have anything that could be considered a weapon, even a pair of nail clippers, it's probably best to mention that. Don't make any wiseass remarks about Canada. When they ask you your purpose for visiting Canada, tell them you' re visiting Halifax as a tourist. (That is the truth.) Presuming you don't do or say anything stupid, you should get across with no trouble.

International Avenue becomes New Brunswick Provincial Route 1. Take this to River Glade, where you'll get on the Trans-Canada Highway. You'll take that around Moncton and into Nova Scotia. Continue past Truro, where you would turn off to head down to Halifax, and go on to North Sydney. Here, the TCH continues as a ferry to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. This ferry covers 110 miles, and takes 9 hours and 15 minutes. Get some sleep.

Upon disembarking at Port aux Basques, remain on the TCH, crossing the entire island, until you reach Exit 41. Take Provincial Route 2 into downtown, where it becomes New Gower Street. The arena and the neighboring City Hall will be on your right.

If all goes well, you should be in New York State (not counting Manhattan) for half an hour, in Connecticut for 2 hours, in Massachusetts for an hour and 15 minutes, New Hampshire for 15 minutes, Maine for 4 hours and 45 minutes, Customs for 15 minutes or less, New Brunswick for 3 and a half hours, 5 and a half hours in Nova Scotia, 9 hours and 15 minutes on the ferry, and 9 and a half hours in Newfoundland. That's almost 37 hours. Given rest stops, it should take about 41 hours. Each way.

Once In the City. Newfoundland (officially, "Newfoundland and Labrador," abbreviated as "NL") is... different. And not just because it was still a colony of Britain until 1949, when it became the 10th and most recently-added Province of Canada. And not just because of that odd time zone, either.

The Vikings landed around AD 1000, but didn't stay, because the natives were harsh and the climate was harsher. In 1497, Venetian explorer Zuan Chabotto -- known as John Cabot to his sponsor, King Henry VII of England -- arrived, becoming the 1st European to reach mainland North America since the Vikings. (Although the Cabot and Lodge families of Massachusetts are descended from a John Cabot, it is not the same one.)

Whoever wrote Cabot's charter for King Henry (known by his former title of the Earl of Richmond in Shakespeare's Richard III, and father of Henry VIII) ordered him "to set up our banner on any new-found-land." And the Labrador section was named for Portuguese explorer João Fernandes Lavrador. (Both Newfoundland and Labrador would become names of breeds of dogs.) Both Cabot and Lavrador appear to have been lost at sea around 1501 or so.

Basques from Spain, Portuguese and Frenchmen set up fishing villages in the mid-16th Century, but a 1585 raid put the island under English control for the next 354 years. Off the southwest coast, the islands of the Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon make up the last part of North America still under French control, though only about 6,000 people live there. 

The combined population of Newfoundland and Labrador is about 530,000, and Prince Edward Island is the only one of Canada's 10 Provinces with fewer people. St. John's (usually written with the abbreviation, as opposed to the New Brunswick city, which is nearly always written out as "Saint John" and has no apostrophe) has about 108,000 people, with about twice that in the metropolitan area, making for nearly 40 percent of the entire Province.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a 15 percent Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). That's 5 percent federal, and 10 percent Provincial.
The Confederation Building in St. John's,
the Province's capitol building, and its tallest.

There is a dialect called Newfoundland English, found in both Newfoundland and Labrador. It makes a little bit of sense that easternmost North America and the westernmost British Isles would have some things in common, and Newfoundland English has been compared to England's West Country, such as Bristol, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall; and to southern and western Ireland. (What we've come to call "pirate talk" also has its origins in England's West Country, due to the portrayal of Cornish actor Robert Newton when playing fictional pirate Long John Silver and real-life pirate Blackbeard in 1950s films.)

Mainland Canada has "Newfie jokes." To Torontonians and pretty much everyone else, Newfies are heavy-drinking, cod-fishing, funny-talking island folk. So, kind of like rednecks, only more sea, less land, and fewer guns.

Many of the jokes are variations on other "dumb person" jokes, such as Polish, Italian, blonde, or fans of whatever team you might hate. Example: During the 1995 Quebec separation referendum, the Newfies were hoping it would pass, and Quebec would leave Canada, because it would make Toronto closer.

Anyway... In St. John's, street addresses increase the further west you get from the harbor (sorry, the Harbour), and the further north you go. There's no subway or light rail. Metrobus Transit runs buses, and a single fare is C$2.50. The drinking age in Newfoundland and Labrador is 19.

Going In. The Mile One Centre opened in 2001, and seats 6,287 people. The address is 50 New Gower Street. Parking is C$10.
The name of the building comes from Danny Williams -- no, not the Hawaii Five-O character. This guy is from the extreme opposite end of North America. A lawyer and former owner of cable-TV company Cable Atlantic, he bought the naming rights to the new arena, before selling his businesses and going into politics, but kept the naming rights. He chose to name the building the Mile One Centre, based on its location at the beginning of the Trans Canada Highway.

He served as Premier (think "Governor") of Newfoundland and Labrador from 2003 to 2010. After resigning, he brought pro hockey back to Newfoundland, and remains the owner of the St. John's Ice Caps.
The rink runs north-to-south. The Ice Caps are an American Hockey League (AHL) farm team of the Montreal Canadiens, with similar uniforms. Prior to their arrival in 2011, it was home to the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs (2001-05) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's St. John's Fog Devils (2005-08, no connection to the New Jersey Devils). The Ottawa Senators have held some preseason games there, including 2 in 2014 against the Islanders, who won both.

This will be the last season in the building for the Ice Caps, as the Canadiens are moving them to the Montreal suburb of Laval, as the Laval Rocket, named for Maurice Richard (who was from the nearby Bordeaux neighborhood). So far, no replacement team has been obtained, so the arena will likely remain mostly dormant, at least for the 2017-18 season.

While the Ice Caps name will stay with Danny Williams and the Mile One Centre, and will be used for any new team, for the time being, the last Ice Caps game will be on April 15, against the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs farm team formerly known as the Toronto Marlboros. (The Caps could, however, make the Playoffs.)

Food. Not much information available. The arena website says only, "There are 5 concession stands and many kiosks located throughout Mile One that provide a vast variety of food and beverage selections."

Team History Displays. This is only the 6th season for the Ice Caps, and they've won nothing. Nor did the Fog Devils win anything. The St. John's Maple Leafs won 3 division titles, the 1994 AHL regular-season title, and the 1992 conference title, all before moving into the Mile One Centre. But never the Calder Cup, the AHL Championship.

Maple Leafs alumni include goaltender Felix "the Cat" Potvin and a couple of Stanley Cup-winning coaches, Marc Crawford of the 1996 Colorado Avalanche and Joel Quenneville of the 2010, '13 and '15 Chicago Blackhawks (and a longtime NHL defenseman who was an original 1982-83 member of the New Jersey Devils).

The Fog Devils retired Number 12 for Scott Brophy, a St. John's native who's now out of hockey, having never reached the NHL, and that banner hangs in the Mile One Centre. But anyone who's yet played for the Ice Caps? The only name you're likely to recognize is that of former Devil Stefan Matteau, son of, uh, let's not go there. Defenseman Tom Parisi is from Commack, Long Island. Their Captain, a Swedish left wing named Max Friberg, has played all of 6 games in the NHL, all for the Anaheim Ducks.
Brophy, Brophy, Brophy, Brophy:
Born is the Ki-ing of the-e Newfies!
(Okay, they don't actually sing that.)

Stuff. There is no big team shop in the arena, just a few souvenir stands. There won't be any team videos. The closest thing to a book about local hockey is Bill Abbott's 2000 book The Herder Memorial Trophy: A History of Senior Hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador.

During the Game. You might be rooting for the Albany Devils, but there's no rivalry involved. Ice Caps fans are not going to hassle you. Don't start anything, and you will be safe.

The Ice Caps hold auditions to sing "O, Canada" and, since the opponent will be a U.S.-based team, "The Star-Spangled Banner." Since they're a Canadiens farm team, and Canadiens fans chant, "Go, Habs, go!" and Washington Capitals fans chant, "Go, Caps, go!" St. John's fans also chant, "Go, Caps, go!" But, unlike fans of the Queens-based college basketball team, they do not chant, "We are... St. John's!"

Their mascot is Buddy the Puffin. Puffins are a bird common to Newfoundland, and Buddy has been with the various St. John's teams since 1992, which is why he wears Number 92 on his jersey.
After the Game. If you don't want to get your postgame meal at a chain like Tim Hortons (just south of the arena), The Keg or, God forbid, Jack Astor's, there are options.

The Chinched Bistro, a block east of the arena at 7 Queen Street, advertises itself as a "relaxed neighbourhood joint" serving "eclectic, seasonal bistros dishes & cocktails." Nearby, to the west, at 65 Lemarchant Road, Bacalao Nouvelle Newfoundland Cuisine sells Provincial favorites (despite their half-Portuguese, half-French name). East of the arena, George Street, Duckworth Street and Water Street have several options.

These include The Duke of Duckworth pub, at 325 Duckworth Street, said to be the leading pub in the Province for watching English and other European soccer games.

Sidelights. As I said earlier, Newfoundland is different. While hockey is popular there, in large part due to radio (until 1949, CBC announcer Foster Hewitt would begin a broadcast by saying, "Hello, Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland"), soccer, rugby union, and, due to the Irish and Scottish influence, Gaelic games are more popular there than in the rest of Canada. (Rugby league, not as much.)

But gridiron football -- both the 11-man, 4-downs, 100-yard variety played in America and the 12-man, 3-downs, 110-yard kind played in Canada --is virtually nonexistent. In each case, the British influence has something to do with it.

Soccer is hosted at King George V Park, a 6,000-seat stadium built in 1925, during the Dominion period, making it the world's oldest existing soccer-specific stadium (others are older, but were originally meant to house multiple sports), as Newfoundland's "national stadium." On September 14, 1985, it hosted the Canadian national team's 2-1 win over Honduras, clinching the country's 1st (and still only) berth in a World Cup, the greatest achievement in the team's history. 3 Carnell Drive, about a mile and a half north of downtown. Bus 3.

Right around the corner, at 20 Lake Avenue at Kings Bridge Road, is the site of St. John's hockey prior to the opening of the Mile One Centre. Opening in 1955, Memorial Stadium seated 4,190 people. After the new arena opened, it was converted into a supermarket, Dominion Memorial Market, about a mile and a half north of downtown. Bus 3.
Baseball is not particularly popular in Newfoundland. Not even the Toronto Blue Jays: While their radio network includes stations from coast to coast, from Vancouver in the West to Halifax in the East, they don't have a station in St. John's, or anywhere else in Newfoundland or Labrador. At any rate, the closest teams in any of the major league sports are the Boston teams, and they're over 1,400 miles away.

Neither Elvis Presley nor The Beatles ever performed in Newfoundland or Labrador. The Mile One Centre is easily the Province's leading concert venue. There are 2 colleges in the Province: The Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John's; and the College of the North Atlantic, based in Stephenville on the island's west coast but with a campus in St. John's.

There are 2 notable museums in St. John's: The Rooms, an art museum, at 9 Bonaventure Avenue downtown; and Signal Hill National Historic Site, the location of the last battle of the French and Indian/Seven Years' War, where France finally surrendered North America to Britain on September 15, 1762.

It includes Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of John Cabot's arrival, and the 60th Anniversary of Queen Victoria's ascent to the British throne (her Diamond Jubilee). It was from Signal Hill, at a building since destroyed by fire, on December 12, 1901 that Guglielmo Marconi "invented radio," receiving the 1st transatlantic wireless transmission from Poldhu, Cornwall, England. (Which certainly makes sense, given the Cornish connection to Newfoundland.) 230 Signal Hill Road, about 2 1/2 miles northeast of downtown. Not really reachable by bus: Bus 3 will get you from downtown to Cavendish Square, and then it's a half-hour walk up Signal Hill Road.

Neither Newfoundland nor Labrador has yet produced a Prime Minister of Canada, and so there are no historic sites relating to such people. But a government building, the Confederation Building, home to the Provincial Parliament, is the tallest building in the Province, albeit only 210 feet high.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Newfoundland. The longest-running, on CBC from 2010 to 2014, was Republic of Doyle, a police procedural that was both comedy and drama. There have been considerably more films set and made there, most notably part of James Cameron's 1997 Titanic.

*

Newfoundland is a fascinating place. And different. Is it worth all the fuss it takes to get there? Maybe. They do love hockey. And they're playing the Devils' top farm team this weekend. This is the time to check it out, before the Ice Caps move. Who knows when they'll be replaced?

Friday, February 17, 2017

How to Go to a Hockey Game In Alaska

Continuing my bid to do trip guides for at least 1 team in each of the 50 States, I turn to the most famous team in our northermost State: The hockey team at the University of Alaska Anchorage (no hyphen or "at" in the name), the Seawolves.

On Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25, they will be playing their arch-rivals, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, at home at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.

Before You Go. Being so far north, if there's one thing anybody from the Lower 48 States knows about Alaska, it's that it's cold. Anchorage is farther north than the legendarily cold cities of Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; and St. Petersburg, Russia (known as Leningrad in the Soviet era). It's also on the Eagle River, which is rather wide, and conducive to strong, chilling winds. In fact, like Pittsburgh, it's on 2 rivers coming together as 1 at the western end, producing the potential for more of this.

So... How cold is it? Actually, according to the State's largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, the forecast is for weather not especially cold by New York standards. For Friday, they're predicting the high 30s and early light rain, dropping to the high 20s at night. For Saturday, it should be in the low 30s in daylight and the mid-20s at night, with late flurries. That doesn't sound so bad at all. Just dress like you would for a winter day in New York.

Alaska has its own time zone, 4 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

If you're flying from the U.S. mainland to Alaska, you won't need your passport. However, if you're getting there any other way, you will need one, as you'll have to go through Canada. It may also help to exchange a little bit of your money. At the moment, US$1.00 = C$1.31, and C$1.00 = US 76 cents.

Tickets. The arena seats 6,290 people. Ordinarily, getting tickets wouldn't be tough. But it's the State's 2 most popular teams in any sport facing each other. Definitely order online before you go.

Sideline seats are $14.50. Corner, end, and upper level General Admission seats are $5.95. A bargain -- and, at last check, seats were still available in most sections.

Getting There. It's 4,368 miles by car from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Anchorage. Amtrak doesn't go there. Greyhound doesn't go there. You're either flying or driving. United Airlines can get you to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport -- named for the longtime U.S. Senator from Alaska -- changing planes in Denver each way, taking up most of a day each way, for a little over $1,200.

Don't fancy that? I don't blame you. Here's what driving from New York to Alaska is like:

It's best to get someone to go with you, so you can trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it across Minnesota, over the Red River into North Dakota.

At Exit 258, take U.S. Route 52 West, all the way up to the Border at Portal, North Dakota. You'll present your passport, and you'll answer whatever questions the Customs agent has. Presuming you have everything in order, and you don't do anything stupid to make him (or her) keep you out of Canada, the agent will let you pass into North Portal, Saskatchewan.

Route 52 becomes Saskatchewan Route 39, part of the CanAm Highway system. At Estevan, you'll take Route 47 North. At Stoughton, you'll take Route 33 North. At Regina, you'll take Route 11 North. At Saskatoon, you'll switch to Route 16 West, part of the Trans-Canada Highway. You'll take this into Alberta. At Edmonton, you'll switch to Alberta Routes 216 and 28 to get to Alberta Route 37 West. At Onoway (Yes, way), you'll switch to Alberta Route 43 West. You'll take this all the way into British Columbia, but don't let that fool you: You'll be nowhere near Vancouver or, dare I say it, Seattle.

Route 43 becomes BC Route 2. Take that into Dawson Creek (as far as I know, the U.S. TV show Dawson's Creek wasn't named for it), where you'll switch to BC Route 97 North. This is the Alaska Highway. You'll take that until you reach the Yukon Territory, where it becomes Route 1. Just past Beaver Creek, you will reach the Border again, and go through Customs again, and you'll be back in the U.S.A., in Alcan Border, Alaska.

Here, the Alaska Highway becomes Alaska Route 2. You'll take it to Tok, and turn left on Alaska Route 1 South. You'll pass Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and, from there, it's less than half an hour to downtown Anchorage.

You got all that?

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, 4 hours and 15 minutes in Minnesota, 6 hours in North Dakota, 8 hours in Saskatchewan, 9 hours and 15 minutes in Alberta, 11 and a half hours in British Columbia, 8 and a half hours in Yukon, and 7 hours and 45 minutes in Alaska.

That's 72 hours. That's 3 full days. Throw in rest stops, and you're talking 4 full days. Then, after doing what you came to do, you do the whole thing all over again, in reverse.

Maybe the arduous flight isn't so bad after all.

Once In the City. The name Alaska comes from an Aleut word meaning "object to which the action of the sea is directed." The Russian Empire had settlements there from 1733 until 1867, when the U.S. purchased it through the efforts of Secretary of State William H. Seward. (He had previously served the State of New York as Governor and U.S. Senator.) By the time of the Russo-American Treaty of 1824, Russia's financial interest in the place was so weakened, it was simply a matter of when, not if, they would give it up.

Alaska's Seward Peninsula Russia's Chukchi Peninsula are 53 miles miles apart at their closest point. On a clear day, you actually can see a point in Russia from a point in Alaska. Then-Governor Sarah Palin was telling the truth when she said that. (She never said, "I can see Russia from my house!" That was Tina Fey's impersonation on Saturday Night Live.) Of course, she used that as a foreign policy credential, when it had nothing to do with her, so...

The discovery of gold made Alaska a destination for wealth-seekers in 1897-98, a period known as the Klondike Gold Rush. gained U.S. Statehood on January 3, 1959, making it the 49th State. (Hawaii became the 50th later that year.) Anchorage was incorporated in 1920, so named because it was a railroad terminus. Anchorage is home to about 300,000 people, with a metropolitan area of about 400,000, or more than half of the 738,000 who live in the State as a whole.

Because of Palin, Alaska has a reputation as a conservative State. Actually, it's more libertarian than anything else. It has no sales tax, and the people do loves them some guns. But the current Governor is a Republican-turned-Independent, Bill Walker, and he willingly ran with a Democrat, Byron Mallott, as his Lieutenant Governor. The current Mayor of Anchorage is not only a Democrat, but Jewish: Ethan Berkowitz. And in 2015, they approved Alaska Measure 2, which legalized recreational marijuana, making it only the 3rd State to approve it, following the considerably more liberal Colorado and Washington.

Transportation? According to Wikipedia:

The Alaska Railroad offers year-round freight service along the length of its rail system between Seward (the southern terminus of the system), Fairbanks (the northern terminus of the system), and Whittier (a deep water, ice-free port). Daily passenger service is available during summer (May 15 – September 15), but is reduced to one round-trip per week between Anchorage and Fairbanks during the winter. Passenger terminals exist at TalkeetnaDenali National ParkFairbanks, and several other locations. These communities are also served by bus line from Anchorage. The Ship Creek Shuttle connects downtown with the Ship Creek area, including stops at the Alaska Railroad depot.
Anchorage also is currently conducting a feasibility study on a commuter rail and light rail system. For the commuter rail system, Anchorage would use existing Alaska Railroad tracks to provide service to WhittierPalmerSewardWasilla, and Eagle River.

Until then, Anchorage's bus system, called (like Detroit's downtown monorail) People Mover, will have to do. A single ride is $2.00, and a 1-day pass is $5.00. A Street divides street addresses into East and West. East-west street addresses increase on either side of the river. West of A Street, north-south streets are lettered until reaching U, and then suburban names take over. East of A Street, the streets are named alphabetically, with names relating to Alaska: Barrow, Cordova, Denali, Eagle, Fairbanks, Gambelli, Hyder, Ingra, Juneau, Karluk, Latouche, Medfra, Nelchina and Orca, until, as with the west, suburban names begin.

Alaska is, easily, the largest State by area, and the least densely-populated. The distances are truly vast: The capital of Juneau, on a southeastern peninsula, is 849 miles southeast of downtown Anchorage (and the only real road between them it goes through Canada); Fairbanks is 359 miles north; Nome is 538 miles northwest; Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the U.S., is 724 miles north; and the only way to get to the last 2 of these is to fly: There is no highway. "Bush pilots," like Janine Turner's character Maggie O'Connell on Northern Exposure, take a lot of risk in that nasty weather, but they can make a fortune.
Believe it or not, this is the State House in Juneau.
Not a factory or an old high school.

One more thing: The native people of Alaska now view "Eskimo" as a pejorative term, and prefer the name "Inuk" (singular) or "Inuit" (plural).

Going In. The George M. Sullivan Arena, a.k.a. The Sully, is at 1600 Gambell Street, at East 16th Avenue, a mile and a half southeast of downtown. Bus 15 will get you to 15th & Eagle, about 5 blocks away. It is owned by the City of Anchorage, of which Sullivan was Mayor from 1967 to 1981. (His son Dan Sullivan was Mayor from 2009 to 2015.)
It opened in 1983, seats 6,290, and is part of the Chester Creek Sports Complex, which includes Ben Boeke Ice Rink to the south, and Mulcahy Baseball Stadium and Anchorage Football Stadium to the west.

It is home to the Alaska Aces of the ECHL (which, for geographic reasons, is now named with just the initials, not its old name of "East Coast Hockey League"), and to the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The rink runs north-to-south. It hosted college basketball's Great Alaska Shootout from 1983 to 2013, and it is also known for hosting mixed martial arts events.
Food. Not much information is available on the arena website, and it says nothing about concessions. The site Stadium Journey points out a lack of "local color": No moose stew, no reindeer dogs, no salmon. Instead, it mentions the usual stadium/arena items, such as burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, fries and pizza. They also mention caramel apples, shaved ice, corn fritters and candied nuts.

Team History Displays. The Alaska Aces have won the ECHL titles, the Kelly Cup, in 2006, 2011 and 2014, and their banners hang in the arena. They have 3 retired numbers: 8, center Keith Street, 1991-2001, a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks; 16, right wing Wes Goldie, 2010-12, whose 370 goals (only 81 of them for the Aces) make him the ECHL's all-time leader; and 18, center Dean Larson, 1996-2003 after 2 seasons at the University of Alaska Anchorage. But none of these players played in the NHL. 
Photo apparently taken during the 2014 Kelly Cup,
as that achievement is not yet noted, but that season's Division title is.

The Aces are currently coached by former Winnipeg Jet Rob Murray, and previous head coaches include former Ranger Walt Poddubny and former Islander Butch Goring. Former Devil and Ranger Scott Gomez, the 1st Alaska native to play in the NHL, played for the Aces in the lockout season of 2004-05, and again at the start of the 2012-13 season before being called up to the San Jose Sharks.

The Alaska Anchorage Seawolves haven't been as successful, making the NCAA Tournament only 3 times, in succession: 1990, 1991 and 1992. Their most famous player, who played for them before that, was Mike Peluso, later of the Devils' Crash Line and the 1995 Stanley Cup.

There is an Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, at the Airport. It includes Gomez; former Fairbanks Mayor and Lieutenant Governor Red Boucher, who founded the famed Fairbanks Goldpanners baseball team; ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, winner of 3 Super Bowl rings as an offensive tackle with the Washington Redskins' "Hogs" and Mike Shanahan's Denver Broncos; and basketball stars Wally Leask, Trajan Langdon (the former Duke star is now the assistant general manager of the Nets) and Carlos Boozer.

Stuff. There is no mention of a team shop on the arena website, so it may only have small souvenir stands. Don't expect to find many, if any, books or videos about Alaska hockey, either collegiate or minor-league.

During the Game. There's not much information available. The Alaska Anchorage Seawolves and the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks, and their fans, don't much like each other, but they will leave visitors alone. Presumably, the National Anthem will be sung, or played by a school pep band.

I can't find much about either school's mascot, only that Anchorage's is named Spirit the Seawolf, and that Fairbanks' is a polar bear named Nanook. Nanook was a character in Inuit religion, "the master of bears," who decided which hunters should be rewarded with a kill, and which should be punished. The 1922 film Nanook of the North, often called the first documentary but mostly staged, led to "Nanook" being a common nickname for Eskimos, the way "Mickey" or "Paddy" was for an Irishman, "Pierre" for a Frenchman, "Ivan" for a Russian, and so on.
Though I did find this photo of them posing
at the Fairbanks airport.

After the Game. As I said, your safety should not be an issue. Finding a place to get a postgame meal or snack might be. Twin Dragon Mongolian Bar-BQ is 3 blocks north of the arena, at 612 E. 15th Avenue. A bar called Crossroads Lounge is a block further north, at 1402 Gambell Street.

Sidelights. Alaska doesn't have much of a sports history. As I said, the Chester Creek Sports Complex includes Sullivan Arena, Ben Boeke Ice Rink to the south, and Mulcahy Baseball Stadium and Anchorage Football Stadium to the west. The Rink, named for a longtime City Clerk, went up in 1974, and seats only 1,000 people.

Mulcahy Stadium seats 3,500, and was named for William Mulcahy, a former executive with the Alaska Railroad. It is unusual in that the outfield is natural grass and the infield is FieldTurf -- a combination tried only once in the majors, by the Chicago White Sox as "Sox Sod" at Comiskey Park from 1971 to 1975 -- and only the pitcher's mound has actual dirt.
While it hosts high school and American Legion baseball, it is best known for being home to the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Anchorage Bucs, both of the Alaska Baseball League, an amateur collegiate summer league, similar to Massachusetts' Cape Cod League.

This league includes the famed Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks (formerly the Fairbanks Goldpanners), whose alumni include Yankee Legends Graig Nettles and Dave Winfield, Met "Franchise" Tom Seaver, Terry Francona, Andy Messersmith, Dave Kingman, Bill Lee, Bob and Bret Boone (but not Aaron), Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. 

The Anchorage teams haven't been as lucky: The Bucs, formerly named the Cook Inlet Bucks, have had Wally Joyner, Jeff Kent, Keith Foulke and Ike Davis; the Pilots have had current Yankees Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge, former Yankee Eric Hinske, former Met Mike Pelfrey, former Met and now Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, former single-season saves record holder Boby Thigpen, and Mark McGwire. The Bucs and Pilots play an annual 4th of July doubleheader, attracting crowds of over 4,000.

Mulcahy Stadium opened in 1964, so it has passed the half-century mark, and is older than every stadium to be used by Major League Baseball this year except Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium. There has been talk of building a larger replacement, in the hope of attracting an official minor league team. So far, no progress.
An old picture, before the FieldTurf installation

Anchorage Football Stadium seats 4,500, and hosts UAA and high school football, soccer, and track & field events. In 2003, a Cessna 207 Skywagon plane made an emergency landing on the field during a soccer game, while a game between the Anchorage Bucs and the Alaska Goldpanners was going on next door at Mulcahy Stadium. All 4 passengers survived.
As I said, Sullivan Arena hosted college basketball's Great Alaska Shootout every Thanksgiving week from 1983 to 2013. The 3,500-seat Buckner Fieldhouse hosted it from its 1978 inception to 1982. 690 Richardson Drive, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (formerly Fort Richardson), 10 miles northeast of downtown. Entry to the Base is restricted, and there's no public transit there.
Since 2014, the Shootout has been held at the 5,000-seat Alaska Airlines Center, which is also the home court for the basketball team at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It is between the campuses (campii?) of UAA and Alaska Pacific University. 3550 Providence Drive, 4 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. Bus 3.
There is no professional soccer team in Alaska. If you visit Anchorage during the European soccer season, which we are now in, McGinley's Pub is said to be the premier soccer bar in Alaska. 645 G Street, downtown, around the corner from City Hall.

The most famous sporting event in Alaska is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, run every early March since 1973, over 1,049 miles from Settler's Bay to Nome. The record time was set last year by Dallas Seavey, at 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds.

In 2012, Seavey became the youngest "musher" ever to win it, 25. He has now won it 4 times, as have Lance Mackey, Martin Buser, Doug Swingley and the late veterinarian Dr. Susan Butcher. Rick Swenson, however, leads them all with 5 wins. In 1978, he controversially lost to Mackey: Although Swenson crossed the finish line before Mackey did, Mackey's lead dog crossed 1 second before Swenson's lead dog, and that's what counts.

Neither Elvis Presley nor The Beatles ever performed in Alaska. No Alaskan has ever gotten close to the Presidency. The only one to ever run for President thus far is Mike Gravel, a U.S. Senator in the 1970s who waited until 2008 to run, but won no delegates in the Democratic Primaries, switched to the Libertarian Party, failed to get their nomination, and ended his political career. Since a full 8 years have come and gone since Sarah Palin was nominated for Vice President by the Republicans in 2008, and Presidential nominee John McCain lost that election solidly, and is himself still alive, and that Palin didn't run in 2012 or 2016, it's safe to say that Gravel got closer to the Presidency than Palin has thus far.

The Anchorage Museum at 625 C Street, downtown, includes a planetarium and the kid-friendly Imaginarium Discovery Center. The Alaska Museum of Science & Nature has features on Native culture and dinosaurs. 201 N. Bragaw Street, 3 miles east of downtown. Bus 45. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is at 8800 Heritage Center Drive, 7 1/2 miles east of downtown. Bus 75 will get you to within a mile of it.

Alaska is the site of the only battle of World War II fought on U.S. land. (Pearl Harbor was attacked from the air, and no Japanese troops hit the ground, under their own power or otherwise.) Attu Island, the westernmost point in any U.S. State (or, perhaps, the easternmost, as it's over the International Date Line), was invaded by the Japanese on June 7, 1942, and the 42 inhabitants were taken to a prison camp on the Japanese home island of Hokkaido; only 26 survived. The U.S. took it back on May 29, 1943. In 2010, the U.S. base there was decommissioned, and the 20 people stationed there were transferred. The island's current population is zero. And, since it's owned by the federal government, civilian travel there is not allowed.

The highest point in America is in Alaska, 20,310 feet high. It was named Mount McKinley after the 25th President, but given the Native name Denali (meaning "the high one") in 1975.
Not surprisingly, the tallest building in Alaska has the name of an energy company on it. The Conoco-Phillips Building went up at 700 G Street in downtown Anchorage in 1983, and stands 296 feet high.

While several documentary series -- Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Life Below Zero, and the "reality shows" hosted by various members of the Palin family -- have been taped in Alaska, the only TV series anyone remembers taking place there is the early 1990s CBS sitcom Northern Exposure, in which Rob Morrow played a young Jewish doctor in New York, indentured to Alaska as a result of his student loan, and experiencing quite the culture shock. It was probably the first show to depict Eskimos/Inuit as real people rather than as caricatures. The show was set in the fictional town of Cicely, but was filmed in Roslyn, Washington. (Hence, "Roslyn's Cafe.")

Films set in Alaska tend to emphasize the cold weather: The various depictions of the stories of Klondike gold prospector and writer Jack London (Call of the Wild and White Fang), the 1960 Klondike epic North to Alaska (with a hit theme song by Johnny Horton), Runaway Train, Snow Dogs, the vampire film 30 Days of Night, and The Grey, where Liam Neeson punches a wolf.

*

Getting to Alaska, and back, is difficult. Living there is difficult. I can't decide for you whether it's worth it... just to see a hockey game. Or, if you prefer, just to cross another State off your list. If you decide to go -- for this occasion, or any other -- I hope it works out for you.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A-Rod as Yankee Manager? Oh, HELL, No!

Today, Andrew Marchand posted on ESPN.com, suggesting that Alex Rodriguez could be the manager of the New York Yankees.

No.

Just no.

In fact, in the immortal words of Maya Wilkes (played by Golden Brooks on Girlfriends), Oh, HELL, no!

Let me take Marchand's argument apart, piece by piece:

Alex Rodriguez has said he never wants to be a major league manager, but he has said a lot of things and then ended up doing them.

Good reason not to let him be Yankee manager: Changes his mind way too easily.

It's easy to imagine a plausible case for it.

Just because something is easy to do doesn't mean it should be done.

Let's start with the most important part of being hired -- the person doing the hiring has to like you a lot. Hal (Steinbrenner) loves him some A-Rod.

You don't hire a manager because you love him. That is a sure recipe for disaster. You hire a manager because he is competent and has a burning desire to win. A-Rod does not fit on the former, and the latter is highly doubtful.

Meanwhile, A-Rod owes his current rebuilt life to Steinbrenner. If Steinbrenner had just cut A-Rod after the Biogenesis scandal, there would have been no 33 homers in 2015, no redemption tour, no Fox TV gig. A-Rod probably would have remained a permanent PED pariah. So if Hal were to ask A-Rod to do anything in the future, A-Rod would be ungrateful -- never mind foolish -- not to consider it thoroughly.

A-Rod did not redeem himself. Not by a long shot. He is still a pariah. There is no team, other than the Yankees, who would consider hiring him, in any capacity. His other former teams, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers, wouldn't lift a finger to hire him. Nor would the team in his hometown, the Miami Marlins.

Seriously: Who would hire a known liar and a known fool?

Oh, that's right: Fox. You know: The people who still think Donald Trump knows what the hell he's doing. And let's not forget: The big thing people remember about A-Rod during the 2016 postseason is how he made his fellow Fox studio analyst look like a fool. Said analyst was Pete Rose. Who, should his ban ever get listed, also wouldn't get hired by any MLB team, with the possible exception of the Cincinnati Reds.


On Wednesday, I asked Steinbrenner for the criteria he uses to evaluate a manager. He gave three traits:
1. Working well with both young players and veterans
2. Smarts
3. The ability to handle New York
Check. Check. Check. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez meets all three marks.

On No. 1, Rodriguez loves to teach youngsters and, when it comes to veterans, he enjoys discussing the intricacies of the game. 
How well A-Rod works with young players and veterans is debatable. But it's worth noting: In his last 2 season with the Yankees, when Derek Jeter was not around to undermine any authority he might have had, and Mariano Rivera was also not around to be the guy, and neither CC Sabathia nor Mark Teixeira nor any other veteran was trying to be, when it was unquestionably A-Rod's team, the Yankees played in a grand total of one postseason game, and lost it. Partly because A-Rod went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts. Some example.

On No. 2, Rodriguez is very smart when it comes to baseball, a true student of the game. 

"Smarts"? Don't make me laugh. If he was smart, he wouldn't have put himself into position to get caught using PEDs a 2nd time. A 1st time, maybe, if he was desperate. But "a true student of the game"? He flunked out!

On No. 3, who has been through more and somehow, some way, made it out the other side in the Big Apple than A-Rod?

Since when can A-Rod handle New York? If Hal actually said that, he's clearly on a drug. If Marchand finds that credible, so is he. Whatever drug they're using, it's not enhancing their 
performances!

"Who has been through more?" Nobody. But A-Rod put himself through it. Yes, he made it out the other side, but he didn't come out smelling like a rose. Unless you mean like the aforementioned Pete Rose.

The players would love him. The fans -- if he won -- would love him. The media would love him. That's the Triple Crown.

Yeah. If he won. Huge if. Or, to put it another way: Joe Girardi has won a World Series, but only 1, and has blown at least 1 other Pennant, and at least 1 other American League Division Series, and at least 1 other AL Wild Card game, and at least 2 AL Eastern Division titles. Is he loved by the fans? No, he is not. Joe Torre won 6 Pennants and 4 World Series, but by 2007, 4 years without a Pennant, lots of people (perhaps not a majority) were ready to let him go.

And the media? Sure, they would love him -- as a meal ticket. You think the New York media of the 1970s and '80s loved the copy that George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin gave them? You bet your sweet bippy, they did. You think they actually liked George and Billy, liked dealing with them face-to-face? Oh, HELL, no! As a result, they chewed The Boss and the Brat up and spit them out.

And they actually were tough. A-Rod is the least tough player I've ever seen in a Yankee uniform, and that includes Ed Whitson. Hell, that includes Billy Crystal.

You know how the baseball media are. They love every team but the Yankees. And the guy who has embarrassed the Yankees more than anybody else, as the manager? They would presume him guilty of any charge of wrongdoing, from his players taking PEDs to any other form of cheating to headhunting.

Can you imagine if A-Rod were the manager, and one of his players threw at heads like Pedro Martinez? They'd demand A-Rod's head. Can you imagine if one of his players made a Chase Utley slide? They'd crucify A-Rod, and make him watch as they burned his offending player at the stake. Can you imagine if one of his players did a David Ortiz homer-watch, or a Jose Bautista bat-flip? It would be the worst crime since Hillary Clinton wrote an e-mail, and they'd blame A-Rod first and the player second.

He would be presumed guilty until proven innocent, and even then, they wouldn't let him off the hook.

A-Rod as Yankee manager? It would be the ultimate distraction, and the players would suffer as a result.

Much of Rodriguez's success and failure as a player was a result of his endless desire to be the best. It was draining and led to some inexplicably stupid decisions. But there is a reason Rodriguez is so good as a TV analyst. Talking about baseball is when A-Rod sounds the most, well, normal. He is a different sort of cat, but when he is discussing baseball, A-Rod speaks like someone with a Ph.D.

The only reason A-Rod is good as a TV analyst is if you're deluded. Or on, as I said earlier, a drug that is not enhancing anything. Yes, he's better than Rose. But he's he's not as good as Harold Reynolds. He's not as good as John Kruk. He's not as good as Steve Lyons. Hell, he's not even as good as Cal Ripken, who's more wooden than a bat.

His public-relations comeback is already legendary. Becoming the Yankees' manager would be the topper.

No. It would be the bottomer. It would be the cherry on a vomit sundae.

No. Just no. Oh, HELL, no!

*

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 2. By a quirk in the schedule, the New York Islanders, a team they usually play several times a season, don't show up on the slate until this Saturday night, at the Prudential Center. The next game against the New York Rangers is on Saturday, February 25, at the Prudential Center. The next game against the Philadelphia Flyers is on Thursday, March 16, at the Prudential Center.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 4, Monday afternoon at 2:55 (7:55 in the evening, their time), away to 5th division Surrey club Sutton United, in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. They played away to Bayern Munich in the 1st leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, nd were level, 1-1, with a precious away goal, early in the 2nd half, when centreback Laurent Koscielny had to leave the game with an injury, and his replacement, Gabriel Armando de Abreu, known as Gabriel Paulista or simply Gabriel, played his usual horrible game against one of the top 5 teams in the world, and it was 5-1 to Bayern. And with Chelsea running away with the Premier League, it now looks like the FA Cup is the only available trophy for Arsenal. And manager Arsène Wenger's contract runs out at the end of this season, and the clamor of the idiots that he be gone has never been louder. Funny, but what he's done since 2005, or even since his last trip to the Champions League Semifinal in 2009, would have been considered a stunning success for most previous Arsenal managers.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 6, next Wednesday night, in the 1st leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal, home to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 2nd leg will be on March 2. The winner will face the winner of the Quarterfinal between 2 Mexican teams: Mexico City-based Pumas de la UNAM, and Monterrey-area team Tigres UANL.

Days until the 2017 Major League Soccer season opens: 17on Sunday, March 5. The Red Bulls will visit expansion club Atlanta United, which will be playing their 1st competitive match ever, at Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium, home of Georgia Tech. It will be their home field until Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where they will be tenants of the NFL's Falcons, opens in the Summer.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 36, on Friday, March 24, home to Honduras, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, in a CONCACAF Qualifying Match for the 2018 World Cup. It will be the team's 1st competitive match in the 2nd run as manager for Bruce Arena, now that Jurgen Klinsmann has finally, mercifully, been fired. 

Days until the Yankees' 2017 season opener: 45on Sunday, April 2, at 8:00 PM, away to the Tampa Bay Rays. A little over 6 weeks.

Days until the Yankees' 2017 home opener: 53, on Monday, April 10, at 1:00 PM, home to the Rays.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 58, against D.C. United, on Saturday, April 15, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. They will next play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, May 6, at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. They will next play the New England Revolution on Saturday, May 27, at Red Bull Arena. And they will next play a Hudson River Derby against New York City FC on Saturday, June 24, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 68on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.

Days until the next North London Derby: 72on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at White Hart Lane. A little over 3 months. It could be moved to the next day, Sunday, April 30, to accommodate the TV networks. It is also possible that Arsenal could face Tottenham again sooner than that, through a pairing in the Quarterfinal, the Semifinal, or the Final of the FA Cup.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 198, on Saturday, September 2, 2017, home to the University of Washington. Under 7 months.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, as the 2017 schedule hasn't been released yet. If history is any guide, it will be on Friday night, September 15, which would be 211 days from now. 

Days until the next election for Governor of New Jersey: 264, on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. A little under 9 months.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State football game: 268, on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 280, on Thursday morning, November 23, 2017, at 10:00. A little over 9 months, and thank God it's at home at Jay Doyle's grove, rather than at the purple shit pit on Route 9.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 483, on June 14, 2018. Under a year and a half, or a little under 16 months. Now that Klinsmann has been fired, our chances have improved, but did he already ruin them? Or will Trump ruin them? Maybe, with the tournament on his soil, Putin will tell Trump to tell Bruce Arena to tank the games. Maybe not. Or maybe just if we end up playing Russia.

Days until the next Congressional election: 628, on November 6, 2018. Under 2 years, or 22 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 692, on January 9, 2019. Under 2 years, or 23 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 1,063, on January 8, 2020. Under 3 years, or 35 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 1,254, on July 24, 2020. Under over 3 1/2 years, or a little over just 41 months.

Days until the next Presidential election: 1,356, on November 3, 2020. Under 4 years, or a little under 45 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 1,434, at noon on January 20, 2021. A little under 4 years, or a little over 47 months.

How to Go to a Hockey Game In Maine

Continuing my bid to do trip guides for all 50 States, it's Maine's turn.

On Friday night, February 24, and Saturday night, February 25, the University of Maine will play hockey against Northeastern University of Boston.

Before You Go. Maine is in northern New England, and this is winter, so it's going to be cold. But maybe not cold by New York and New Jersey standards on the weekend in question. According to the State's largest newspaper, The Portland Press Herald, both Friday and Saturday are projected to be in the mid-30s in daylight. Friday night is forecast as being in the mid-20s, Saturday night in the low 30s. Saturday may have rain and/or snow, so that could be a problem.

Maine is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to make any timepiece adjustments. The University campus is 100 miles west of the Canadian border, so it doesn't make sense to make a side trip, for which you would have to bring your passport and change your money.

Tickets. Alfond Arena seats 5,641 people, and this is the most popular sports team in the State of Maine. And Northeastern, like all the Boston schools, has a fan base that travels well. Getting tickets may be difficult.

If you order them through the University website, center-ice seats are $35. All others are $20.

Getting There. It's 449 miles from Midtown Manhattan to the Maine campus in Orono. It's in that iffy zone: Too close, really, to fly, but too far to go any other way. And considering that you'll never get a nonstop flight from a New York Tri-State Area airport to Bangor International Airport, and that this is the closest airport to the campus, and that it's 12 miles, you're better off going by some other way.

The good news is, Amtrak does go to Maine, with Downeaster service. The bad news is, not only will going there from New York's Penn Station mean you'll have to get from South Station to North Station in Boston, but it doesn't go to Orono: nce you get to Portland, you'll have an hour and a half layover to get a bus to Orono. And it won't get there until 6:50 PM. So you will probably miss the opening puck-drop. So, forget Amtrak.

How about Greyhound? No, they too only go to Portland, not Orono. They go to Bangor, which is just 11 miles from Orono, but there's no public transit from Bangor to Orono. You want to take a taxi? In Maine? No?

So it looks like you'll have to drive. Start out as if you're going to Boston: Take Interstate 95 North to New Haven. Take Exit 48, Interstate 91 North to Hartford. Take Exit 30, Interstate 84 East into Massachusetts. You'll merge with Interstate 90 East, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and take that until you reach Interstate 495, Boston's outer beltway.

But instead of continuing on the Mass Pike to Boston, take Exit 11A onto I-495 North, into Boston's northern suburbs, until you reunite with I-95 North at Salisbury, just before reaching the New Hampshire State Line. You'll cross New Hampshire and go into Maine. Exit 193 will take you onto Stillwater Avenue. Cross the Stillwater River, make a right on College Avenue (Alternate U.S. Route 2), and drive a mile south. The University's athletic complex will be on your right.

If all goes well, you should be in New York State (not counting Manhattan) for half an hour, in Connecticut for 2 hours, in Massachusetts for an hour and 15 minutes, New Hampshire for 15 minutes, and Maine for 3 and a half hours. Given rest stops near Hartford and right after crossing into Maine, it should take about 9 hours.

Once In the City. Maine, home to 1.3 million people, was named for a province in France, and much of it was part of New France, which would later be limited to Quebec, which borders it. It became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, though separated from present-day Massachusetts by New Hampshire. In 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise, was added to the Union as the 23rd State, a free State to balance out the new slave State of Missouri.

Maine has several thriving seaport towns, including Portland, Boothbay Harbor, Old Orchard Beach, Bar Harbor, and Kennebunkport, known for Walker's Point, ancestral home of the Walker family that included George Herbert "Bert" Walker, one of the founders of Merrill Lynch; his son Herbie Walker, an original part-owner of the Mets; Bert's daughter, Dorothy Walker Bush; Dorothy's son, George Herbert Walker Bush; and the son of the preceding, George Walker Bush.

Despite the 43rd President's protests that he is a Texan through and through, and the 41st having lived most of his adult life in Texas, "Bush 41" was born in the Boston suburb of Milton, grew up in the New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, and has always felt most at home at Walker's Point, with his boat, much as the Boston-based Kennedy family has always felt more at home at Hyannis Port, where Cape Cod begins, with their beach compound and their boats.

Most people who've never been to Maine know it for 2 things: Its seacoast and the lobsters obtained there. They may also know it for being a rural part of New England, where, in the accent, people tell outsiders, "Can't get theah from heah." And, away from the Atlantic Ocean, much of the State remains rural, hilly, forested, and unpopulated.

Indeed, 2 weeks before Charles Lindbergh made the 1st successful crossing from the New York Tri-State Area to Paris, winning a substantial prize, 2 other men tried to win the prize in the opposite direction. Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli, French heroes of World War I, took off from Paris and disappeared. The leading theory is that they crashed over Maine, but the forest is so dense, the remains of the men and their plane have still never been found, 90 years later.

Although the small (19,000 people) city of Augusta is the State capital, its Supreme Court meets in its largest (67,000) city, Portland, for which what became the largest city in Oregon was named.
The State House and surrounding woods in Augusta

Maine and Nebraska are the 2 States that apportion their Electoral Votes according to which candidate wins that District. As a result, in 2016, for the 1st time in the State's history, the Electoral Vote was split: The District that includes the population center of the south, including Portland, went for Hillary Clinton; but the rest of the State went for Donald Trump, giving him his 1 and only Electoral Vote in the Northeast. These are the people who elected the psychotic right-wing bigot Paul LePage Governor in 2010 and 2014. Indeed, Maine and Vermont were the only States that Franklin Roosevelt never won, even going for Alf Landon in 1936; yet Maine has gone Democratic in every election since 1992. For the most part, Maine is tolerant, in ways that LePage isn't.
Portland, Maine

Orono (shown in the photo at the top), the seat of the University of Maine, is in Penobscot County, named for the dominant Native American tribe of Maine. One of their chiefs was Joseph Orono, who, as an old man, sided with the Americans against the English during the Revolution, and was alleged to be 113 years old when he died, and the town was named for him. The town is small, with only 10,000 permanent residents.
The Maine Folklife Center, the cultural center of the University

Situated on Marsh Island, between the Penobscot and Stillwater Rivers, the University of Maine is America's only "land grant college" on an island. It was founded in 1865.

The State's sales tax is 5 1/2 percent. Public transit is not good. You'd need Greyhound to get from Portland to Augusta or Bangor, and good luck getting anywhere else without a car.

Going In. The Harold Alfond Sports Arena, with its distinctive pointed roof, opened in 1977, at Tunk Road at Long Road. Parking is free. It seats 5,641, and a next-door football stadium seating 10,000 is also named for Harold Alfond.
Alfond founded the Dexter Shoe Company in Dexter, Maine. He also invented the outlet store, donated heavily to the University of Maine, and since 1978 the Alfond family has owned a share of the Boston Red Sox, as the men operating the team for Jean Yawkey wanted investors from all over New England, and Harold Alfond seemed the obvious choice from Maine. (I guess the children of Leon Leonwood "L.L." Bean weren't interested.)

The student section and the band are behind the goal in the upper deck, in Section HH. If you're a New Jersey Devils fan, you might recognize the name of the Black Bears' head coach: Dennis "Red" Gendron, an assistant coach for the 1995 Stanley Cup winners, and the head coach of the Albany River Rats farm team during the Devils' 2000 and 2003 Cup wins.

Food. It's a college sports arena. It has small concession stands, with generic sports arena food, and that's it. Better to eat before or after the game.

Team History Displays. The University of Maine hasn't had much success in sports. Its football team has never won a conference title. Neither has its basketball team, nor has it ever been selected for the NCAA Tournament. Their best sport is hockey.

They've won Hockey East in the regular season in 1988, 1993 and 1995; won its tournament in 1989, 1992, 1993, 2000 and 2004; reached the NCAA Frozen Four in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007; and won the National Championship in 1993 and 1999. The 2 National Championship banners are hung at one end of the arena, the other banners at the other.
The 1988 and '89 Frozen Four teams included former New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano and his brother Dave, and former Devil Eric Weinrich. The 1991 Frozen Four team included former Devil Scott Pellerin. The 1993 National Champions included Anaheim Ducks star Paul Kariya, former Devils backup goalie Mike Dunham, the twins Chris and Peter Ferraro, and former Philadelphia Flyers goalie and now Islanders general manager Garth Snow.

The 1999 National Champions included Paul's brother Steve Kariya. The 2004 Frozen Four team included Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup winner Dustin Penner. Scott Darling of the 2010 Maine team won the Cup with the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks. And, graduating in 1981, John Tortorella didn't reach any Frozen Fours, but he coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Cup, and then coached the Rangers and now the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Stuff. The arena is too small for a big team store like a major league team would have, and only has a couple of small souvenir stands. If you'd like memorabilia, your best best is the University Bookstore, at the Memorial Union on Belgrade Road. There are no books about University of Maine hockey, but DVDs of the 1993 and 1999 National Championships are available.

During the Game. Maine has unique geography: It's the only State in the Union that borders only 1 other State. (Alaska and Hawaii don't border any other States.) As a result, their arch-rivals are the team in that other State, the University of New Hampshire. You're (probably) not from New Hampshire, so they may want to show off their State and their team, and be courteous to you as a visitor. Respond accordingly.

Maine's teams are called the Black Bears, for the beast that roams its vast northern forests. The mascot is named Bananas T. Bear (I'm presuming that the T. stands for "The"). This may seem odd for a school about as far from the tropics as you can get and still be in the continental United States. In 1914, a bear cub was given to a local police chief, who named it Jeff, and loaned it to the University as a football mascot. Jeff was taken into the auditorium for a pep rally, and stood on its head, and the local newspaper account said that the crowd "went bananas." The mascot costume is kept by the Alpha Delta fraternity, and its wearer is always a member.
They're not Chicago, but they are Da Bears.

After the Game. Safety almost certainly won't be an issue. Where to go for a postgame meal or snack might be. The Orono Farmer's Market is south of the arena and west of the main campus, at 300 College Avenue, and might be all right if you're coming out of an afternoon game. But these will be night games, so it will be closed.

Your best bet is to head back up north on College Avenue, to Stillwater Avenue (Alt Route 2) in Old Town, where you'll a McDonald's, a Tim Hortons, and Governor's Restaurant & Bakery.

Sidelights. Orono is far from pretty much anything: 60 miles from Bar Harbor, 87 from Augusta, 139 from Portland, 245 from Boston, 296 from Montreal, and 449 from Midtown Manhattan. To get anywhere, you gotta get out.

Maine has 2 professional baseball teams. The only one affiliated with a major league club is the Portland Sea Dogs of the Class AA Eastern League. They started in 1994 as a farm team of the Florida (now Miami) Marlins, but since 2003 have embraced their New England roots by being a part of the Red Sox' farm system. They've won 6 Division titles, most recently in 2014, but only 1 Pennant, in 2006.
The Sea Dogs play at Hadlock Field. Seating 3,768, it opened in 1994, but is designed to look like an old ballpark. In 2003, following the switch to the Boston system, left field was remade to look like Fenway Park's, with a high wall called the Maine Monster, 315 feet from home plate to match the former posting at Fenway (it's now posted as 310), and replicas of the CITGO sign and the light tower Coke bottle.
It is part of a sports complex that includes the Portland Exposition Building (which appears to be trying to take the right side of the infield away), Fitzpatrick Stadium and the William B. Troubh Ice Arena. 271 Park Avenue, about a mile west of downtown.

The Exposition Building is home to the Maine Red Claws, the Boston Celtics' team in the D-League. It opened in 1914, and, behind Boston University's Matthews Arena, is believed to be the 2nd-oldest sports arena in America still in use. Fitzpatrick Stadium seats 6,300, and is mainly used for high school football. Troubh Arena, formerly the Portland Ice Arena, hosts high school hockey.

The Cross Insurance Arena, formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center, was home to the Maine Mariners from 1977 to 1992, and the Portland Pirates from 1993 to 2016. The Pirates have moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Portland is trying to get a new team for the arena. 1 Civic Center Square.
As for Maine's other pro baseball team, the independent Empire Professional Baseball League includes the Old Orchard Beach Surge, based at The Ball Park in Old Orchard Beach. A 6,000-seat facility with close foul poles (312 feet to left field and 327 to right), it opened in 1984 as the home of the Maine Guides, the Class AAA International League farm team of first the Cleveland Indians (1984-86), then the Philadelphia Phillies (1987-88).

The Phillies moved their top farm team to the Scranton area, due not to attendance, as Summer vacationers flocked to the place; but traffic and... flies. Never mind the Maine Black Bears: It's the Maine Black Flies that are truly a problem.

From 1990 to 2009, the place lay derelict, and appeared to be doomed. But it was restored, and began hosting high school, Summer collegiate league, and Red Sox alumni charity games. The Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide arrived in 2011, and gave them pro baseball for the 1st time in 22 years, followed by the Surge in 2015.

So far, no Pennants have been won at The Ball Park. But it is still the place where the State of Maine came the closest (1 level below) to having a major league sports team. It's certainly one of the nicer settings in pro baseball, especially when the leaves begin to change. 14 Emerson Cummings Blvd., 17 miles southwest of Portland and 157 miles southwest of Orono.
Arguably, the most significant sports building in Maine is the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston. Not because it was home to the Maine Nordiques, a farm team of the Quebec Nordiques, from 1973 to 1977. Not because it hosted the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2003 to 2011, before they moved to Sherbrooke from whence they came. Not because it hosted the Portland Pirates in the 2013-14 season while the Cross Insurance Arena was being renovated. Not because it is now home to another junior team, the L/A Fighting Spirit. ("L/A" standing for Lewiston and neighboring Auburn.)
No, it's because, after the Boston Garden balked at holding it due to both men's controversies, the rematch between Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali and former champion Sonny Liston as held at this arena, then known as the Central Maine Civic Center. Built in 1958, it is the smallest building to host a Heavyweight Title fight: 3,677 seats. Ali famously knocked Liston out in the 1st round. 190 Birch Street in Lewiston, about 36 miles north of Portland, and 116 miles southwest of Orono.

The highest-ranking soccer team in Maine is the Portland Phoenix, who play in the Premier Development League, the 4th division of American soccer. They play at the 5,200-seat Memorial Stadium, at Ludlow & Leland Streets in Portland, 4 blocks from at Deering High School, who use it as their stadium.

If you visit Maine during the European soccer season, the leading soccer bar in the State is an outlet of the Ri Ra chain at 72 Commercial Street, on the Portland waterfront.

The Beatles never played in Maine. Elvis Presley did, on his last tour, on May 24, 1977, at the 6,777-seat Augusta Civic Center. 76 Community Drive.

Maine is a terrific museum State. On the University of Maine campus, the Page Farm Home & Museum focuses on rural Maine life in the 19th Century, while the Hudson Museum contains many Native American artifacts. In nearby Old Town, at 12 Down Street, is the Penobscot Nation Museum. The University of Maine Museum of Art isn't actually on the campus; instead, it's at 10 Harlow Stret in downtown Bangor, 10 miles to the southwest.

In Portland, the Portland Science Center is at 68 Commercial Street, 2 doors down from Ri Ra. The Maine Historical Society Museum is at 489 Congress Street, and includes the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Portland Museum of Art is downtown, at 7 Congress Square, at Free & High Streets, across from the historic State Theatre. Next-door is the Children's Museum of Maine, with a mailing address of 142 Free Street.

The Maine Maritime Museum oversees a historic shipyard at 243 Washington Street in Bath, 35 miles northeast of Portland. The Maine State Aquarium is at 194 McKown Point Road in Boothbay Harbor, 60 miles east of Portland.

The Kennebunkport History Center is at 125 North Street, 27 miles southwest of Portland. The Bush family compound is about 4 miles south, but as it is still a private residence, you probably won't be allowed to get very close. Unless you want to count Franklin Pierce (a cousin of Barbara Pierce Bush, Number 41's wife and Number 43's mother, and also a cousin of Longfellow) having attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick (as did Longfellow and their friend, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne), the Bushes are the only Presidents with legitimate connections to Maine.

However, Roosevelt Campobello International Park, in Welshpool, New Brunswick, across a bridge from Lubec, Maine, was a Summer home for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it's where he was diagnosed with polio.

Also in Lubec, 6 miles from the bridge, is West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, at Quoddy Head State Park, the easternmost point in the continental United States. (If that sounds strange, like West Ham United being the soccer team of London's East End, I've looked it up: There is no "East Quoddy Head," Not even in the adjoining Canadian Province of New Brunswick.) 3 Lubec Road, 124 miles east of Orono, 234 miles northeast of Portland, 352 miles northeast of Boston, and 556 miles northeast of Times Square. As my Grandma would have said, "That's a fur piece."

The tallest building in Maine is Franklin Towers, a 175-foot, 16-story apartment complex built in Portland in 1969. 211 Cumberland Avenue.

Maine has a TV influence far beyond what its relatively small population of 1.3 million would suggest, and that's not even taking into account that its most famous fictional character, Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, played by Alan Alda on M*A*S*H, was never shown as being in Maine. (Other characters had home movies showing their houses sent to the Army hospital in Korea. Dr. Richard Hornberger, who as Richard Hooker wrote the novel on which the 1970 film and the 1972-83 TV series were based, was born and raised in Trenton, but went to Bowdoin and lived the rest of his civilian life in Maine.)

The 1966-71 vampire series Dark Shadows was set in Collinsport, which, like Hawkeye's hometown of Crabapple Cove, was a seaside community made up for its show. It was said to be 50 miles southeast of Bangor. (Hornberger lived in Pittsfield, with an hour's drive west of Orono and Bangor, and not a seaside community.) Also fictional, and definitely on the sea, is Cabot Cove, home to mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote. Although Cabot Cove was said to be near Kennebunkport, its scenes were filmed in Mendocino, California. Storybrooke, the town in Once Upon a Time, is also a fictional seaside community.

Movies set in Maine, but not necessarily filmed there, include The Man Without a Face, Jumanji, Casper (about the Friendly Ghost, set in fictional Friendship), In the Bedroom, The Cider House Rules, Welcome to Mooseport, Empire Falls (filmed in Waterville), and the animated films Pete's Dragon and The Iron Giant. While the 1957 version of Peyton Place was set in New Hampshire, it was filmed in Camden, Maine.

The most famous real-life Mainer -- or, dare I say it, Maineiac -- is Stephen King. The horror writer was born in Portland and lives in Bangor, and has set much of his fiction in Maine, including Carrie, Salem's Lot, Graveyard Shift, Dreamcatcher and, of course, The Shawshank Redemption.

*

Maine can be a nice place, and it can be a weird place. In real life, Paul LePage is much crazier than Stephen King. And the Portland Sea Dogs and the Maine Black Bears hockey team are worth a visit.