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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The East Cup Chronicles: The 2013 Winter Classic

January 1, 2013
Manhattan Stadium, New York, New York

“Sitting inside here never gets old,” said Jasmine Bryar, sitting with her Islander fan friends, George Callahan and Roswell Marquez.
“MSG sure knows how to build them,” said Marquez. “This time they've kept it up.”

Finished in 1995, Manhattan Stadium was an all-purpose, all-weather stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, in the old site of the West Side Yard. It was built by Madison Square Garden in an attempt to lure the NFL and Major League Baseball to Manhattan proper, but when both MLB and the NFL collapsed after the Cold War, MSG had to settle for the St. John's Redmen, Major League Soccer's Chivas USA and- the stadium's only revenue generator- top tier concerts and festivals.

Inside were all the bells and whistles a modern stadium could have. An HD big screen, padded seats (with headrests that served as monitors showing a live broadcast of the game), generous sightlines, state of the art facilities, an elevator and even a helipad that could be rolled on to the field. The “feel” of the stadium, though, evoked nostalgic parks of years past, akin to Baltimore's Camden Yards and New York's own Polo Grounds. Normally, the stadium sat 85,246 faithful, but because of the Winter Classic and the smaller ice surface, field level allowed for an extra 5,000 to be in attendance. Bryar, being a member of the Islanders' Insider Club, got first crack at field-level seats, and got one right at centre ice, though it still cost a pretty penny.

The game started pretty sloppily, as both the Islanders and Rangers were trying to wear off the rust of not playing over the Christmas break. Midway through the first period, the teams combined for just two shots, with one of them being a long range slapshot by the Islanders’ Shawn Bates that Rangers goaltender Corey Crawford saw all the way.

With 10:18 gone, the Islanders received their first break. Alexei Yashin was using his big frame to cause problems in front of the Rangers’ net, frustrating Ranger defenders having problems moving him from in front. Eventually, a penalty came, as Brent Seabrook was forced to trip him in order to retrieve the puck. Mere seconds into the powerplay, Yashin worked the puck back to the point, which Alexei Zhitnik used to blast a shot past Crawford to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

“Yes!” said Bryar, jumping up and hollering in celebration, while inadvertently spilling her beer. Her friends also jumped up in celebration, although Marquez’s was soured a little since Bryar’s beer spilled all over her new blouse.
“Rosie,” said Bryar, noticing what she had done, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” said Marquez, smiling. “We all lose our heads when we get excited.” She was miffed considering this wasn’t the first time Bryar didn’t pay attention to her stuff and spilled things onto her, but now wasn’t the time to have that argument.

After the goal, the game proceeded to revert back to its turgid display. The Rangers tried to press the play in order to level the score, but the Islanders’ stout defence turned them away at every opportunity, as Islander coach Ted Nolan employed a counter-attacking neutral zone trap that worked so well to neutralize the Rangers’ offensive weapons.

It didn’t stop Bryar from being a bucket of nerves. Even though she knew the Rangers weren’t mounting any kind of serious offensive threat, the longer the score was 1-0, she fretted with panic, knowing the Rangers needed just one shot to level things.

“I know in my head I shouldn’t be afraid,” said Bryar to her friends, her face buried behind the game program as the Rangers mounted an offensive attack, “but I just can’t help myself.”
“Well,” said Callahan, trying to bravely watch the attack, “how many times have we seen the Islanders get defensive and lose because they didn’t think to expand on their lead?”
“That may be true,” said Bryar, “but the game plan dictates it, at least tonight.”
“If only we hadn’t traded our big guns,” mused Marquez wistfully, “we wouldn’t have to play a trapping style.”
“I’m sorry guys,” retorted Bryar, “but I don’t give players who relieve themselves on our flag a pass.”
“They denied it though,” said Callahan, “and I believe them.”
“Oh please,” said Bryar, “they caught it on tape.”
“He had his back to the camera,” said Marquez, referring to the player who took his jersey to have it urinated on, “and the other two players’ faces were obscured by hoodies. This could very well be the case of someone who knows the MSG camera angles and was carefully trying to frame our guys.”
“Then I would invoke Occam’s Razor,” said Bryar, “because that explanation raises too many questions.”
“Occam’s not always right,” said Callahan.
“The hoodie worn by Malkin is his own custom-made hoodie,” said Bryar. “That says everything to me.”
“So their huffy denials mean nothing?” replied Marquez.
“The evidence is as clear as day,” said Bryar. “Eventually they’ll have to come clean.” The friends then decided to drop the debate, since it would only go in circles from there.

After the game- won 1-0 by the Islanders, Bryar went back to her hotel to get ready to hit Manhattan’s finest nightlife with her friends. As she was getting ready, she gave her friend, Pete Moyer, a call.

“Hey Jazz,” said Moyer, “how was the game?”
“It was a very good experience,” said Bryar. “I know it didn’t look like it on TV, but it was fun. The atmosphere was terrific, Manhattan Stadium always betters itself.”
“Glad to know you had fun. I saw you on TV a couple of times…I pointed it out to Richie a few times…he then proceeded to poop in my lap, but what are you going to do?”
“He’s, what, six months?”
“He still hasn’t hit four yet…fortunately the diaper got everything but it wasn’t fun. He continued sarcastically. “Plus, the game was so exciting that it gave me an opportunity to change his diapers right there.”
Bryar laughed. “Glad to know your weekend home has been a good one.”
“My wife loves having me around. It’s actually good to be home for a few days for once…hopefully my work will realize that.”
Bryar smiled, but offered no reply.
“Is something wrong, Jazz?”
“You know, most days I revel in the fact that I’m a single lady…relationships lead to so much bulls*** that I see no rush to get into them. Tonight…though…I mean, I’m happy for you and I’m happy for Rosie and George…but tonight I’m going to be reminded of my own loneliness.”
“I know how you feel…you see everyone hooking up but yourself…I went through that stage…I got past it knowing that eventually I’ll be the one with the girl…and I was right. Attraction is innate…you can’t force it. Some nights…heck, many nights…it’s just not your night. One night it will…that’s what will keep you going.”
Bryar responded warmly, encouraged by his words. “Thanks Pete.”
“You’re welcome. Party hard tonight, okay?”
“I promise.”
“…and maybe tonight you won’t get a guy who blows a load in his pants while dancing with you.”
Bryar chuckled. “I let that go…it happens with grinding. There’s not much I can do about it…besides, I found it amusing, and the guy and I had a laugh about it later. No harm no foul.”
“Have fun tonight, Jazz.”
“Will do, Pete.”

Pacha New York Night Club

“I need another drink,” said Bryar, finally making her way to the bar amidst the throng of revellers who never seemed to know how to form a lineup. As the sounds of “Alive”, from the night’s guest DJs in the form of Chicago’s Krewella, came pounded through the speakers, Bryar got her drink and found an empty section of stands that she could shimmy herself into. She took one swig of her drink before slamming it on to the tabletop, frustrated.
“This isn’t your night is it?” said a man standing next to her.
“I had to spend ten minutes of my life getting followed by some guy who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Bryar, wearing a blue and orange striped sleeveless cocktail dress.
“Some women like persistence.”
“Yes, but there’s a difference between a ‘no I’m not interested’ and a ‘no, you’re not impressing me yet’. Sometimes I wonder if I have to spell things out for men.”
“Imagine how it is for me…I’m a gay man. People assume all kinds of things.”
“Heh…I know, it’s sad…people seem to think homosexuals are just going to jump the first person they see…it’s as if people forget that gays and lesbians are humans too, humans who follow the rules of attraction and self-control.”
“Well, some people think we’re not humans…and some hetero men seem to have problems with self-control too.”
“Toronto just had a serial killer who didn’t know self-control…he definitely couldn’t take no for an answer.”
“Bryan Hudson? Heard about him on the news…he was a piece of work.”
“Glad he’s finally behind bars.”
Bryar smiled wistfully, agreeing with her new bar friend.
“Pretty girl like you…did you come with anyone?”
“Just my two friends…they’re making out somewhere on the dancefloor. Me…I’ve got no one.”
“I’ll be your friend. My name’s Josh.”
Bryar firmly shook Josh’s hand and introduced herself. “Jasmine.”
“You’ve got quite the grip.”
“I work for an ad agency…I have to.”
“So you’re a single lady…you must hear about it a lot.”
“I have my moments…it’s funny…everyone seems to think it’s easier for us ladies…it’s not. This whole ‘buffet’ thing I keep hearing about…I don’t know where to begin on that one.”
“I agree. Not every woman gets 100 suitors…it’s just the really pretty ones…just like only the top end guys get hounded by women.”
“Not only that, but I’ve done my fair share of approaching…I’ve been rejected. It happens.”
“…and the majority of the guys who do approach you are the classless jerks you don’t want anything to do with.”
“Exactly…or needy guys who think having a girl around will make up for their own self-created feelings of their lack of self-worth.”
“The good ones never seem to come out.”
“You got that right.” Bryar then motioned towards the dancefloor. “Do you want to have a dance?”
“Are you asking me out?” Josh chuckled.
Bryar laughed. “Well, as much as a hetero woman can ask out a gay man. I think tonight I realized I don’t hate being single so much…and all those people making out on the floor…it won’t bother me anymore. Time to face them head on.”
“You’ve got the spirit. Now let’s dance.” Bryar and Josh made their way to the dancefloor and danced the night away.

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