Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Riding the Amtrak Acela

Well, I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing more regularly on the Hat Trick after my absence during the Stanley Cup playoffs (Let’s Go Red Wings!). Also, in keeping with the theme of a “hat trick”…I have realized that I need to do give more attention to my other topic areas, travel and politics. As much as I would like to, you can’t talk about hockey ALL the time!

I’m currently writing from a business class seat on Amtrak’s Acela service, somewhere between Washington, DC and Philadelphia. I’m heading up to Philly for a business meeting and decided it was time to take the train again as it has been a while. Needless to say, I forgot how civilized riding the train can be!

For those not familiar, AMTRAK operates a significant schedule of trains in the “Northeast Corridor” between Washington, DC, New York and Boston (including Baltimore, Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia and Newark). The most popular service for the business traveler is the Acela train, which is a high speed train that operates between the main cities in the Northeast Corridor plus a few other selected stops. The train is all business class with one first class car. Business is pretty nice with comfortable seats and power plugs at ever seat so you don’t wear down your laptop battery. There is also a “quiet car” where cell phone conversations are forbidden!

Today was great because you can arrive 20 minutes before departure, grab a good seat and not have to deal with the TSA and security lines at the airport. Trains also can travel in rain and thunderstorms, unlike airliners, and you don’t have that jammed in feeling that I encounter quite a bit when I fly. Taking the train is a little bit of civilization in an increasing uncivilized travel world. AMTRAK certainly has its problems, but they seem minimal right now as I zip past cars on I-95 knowing that I will pull into Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station in about 20 minutes, and be at my downtown hotel 10 minutes after that!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Red Wings Win the Stanley Cup!

It’s amazing what happens when you don’t blog for a while! And little did I realize that when I started this blog would I get to write about the Detroit Red Wings (Let’s Go Red Wing!) winning their 11 Stanley Cup!!! Needless to say I’m pretty stoked.

This spring has been exceptionally busy with lots of travel and work, plus trying to fit in Red Wings game in-between. I have to admit that I went into the playoffs cautiously optimistic on the Wing’s chances. They played very well during the regular season (except for that loss to the Blue Jackets in March that I witnessed up close and personal!), winning the President’s Cup again. Having home ice advantage throughout the playoffs was huge as the Wings played very well, losing only three (3!) games on home ice. Another key to bringing Lord Stanley home to Hockeytown was the amount of travel, or lack of, during the playoffs. Unlike the 2007 playoffs when the Wings had to fly Red Bird One across the country multiple times, 2008 proved quite different on the wear and tear. With a first round opponent in Nashville, the Wings only had to deal with a one hour time change and a quick flight to Nashville. The second round against the Avalanche required the longest amount of travel, but only incurred a two hour time change and few miles traveled compared with going to the West Coast in 2007 to play the San Jose Sharks in the same round. An added bonus was the 4-0 sweep of the hated Avs! Finally the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Stars allowed less travel and only a one hour time change to adjust to as opposed to 2007 when the Wings, having beaten the Sharks, had to play the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. I think this was a big help for the Wings although it reignites my irritation that both the Red Wings and the Blue Jackets are in the Western Conference even though they both reside in the Eastern Time Zone!!!

Another huge key to the win was the play of goalie Chris Osgood. Run out of Detroit after the 2001 season for not being reliable, Osgood came in during the first round against the Nashville Predators (ironically when Dominik Hasek struggled) and was rock solid the remainder of the playoffs. I was very impressed with his play…especially in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals when Osgood was solid and shutout the Penguins by a total score of 7-0. Bravo Osgood!

Finally, I would like to comment on the Penguin fans and the class they showed during the finals. They were behind their team 110% throughout the finals, even when the Pens were a little shaky in Games 1 and 2. “Lets Go Pens” was a chant heard often and loudly even when things did not look good for their team. I am continually disgusted by Colorado Avalanche fans that are apparently only original enough to come up with “Red Wings Suck” and the Penguin fans sure showed how classy they are by not going down that road and just focusing on their team. Bravo to the Penguins…I think they have a bright future in the NHL and are in the same position as the Red Wings were in 1995 and 1996 when we had to lose (swept by the Devils in the Stanley Cup finals in 1995 and knocked out in the Western Conference Finals by the Avalanche in 1996) before they could win. I’m happy that the Red Wings won again but know that the Penguins will be here for a long time to come.