It’s a commonly-held opinion around these parts that the NHL schedulemaker — an eyeless, hairless, only vaguely human creature that awakens every summer in his dark, cob-webbed crypt deep below NHL head offices and begins shouting out teams, dates and times seemingly at random as league officials try to write it all down before he returns to slumber — doesn’t spend too much time thinking about how to make the Canucks and their fans happy.
But that’s not entirely true. Consider, for instance, the Canucks’ annual California road trip, which is perfectly structured to allow adventurous Canucks fans to venture down the coast and follow the team around the sunshine state.
Every year, with the exception of the lockout year, when the NHL wasn’t thinking about its fans at all, there’s at least one perfectly scheduled trip, and it usually goes something like this: the Canucks visit Anaheim and Los Angeles, two cities a stone’s throw from one another, on a Saturday and Sunday, and two days prior to or after that, they’re in San Jose. It opens up a few possibilities:
1. You can get tickets to the LA and Anaheim games, fly down after work on Friday and spend the weekend in LA, flying back either late Sunday night or Monday. In this scenario, you only miss one day of work, and you get two Canucks games out of the deal.
2. You can use up a couple vacation days, and take in the game in San Jose as well. Of course, since San Jose is about five hours from the other two cities, you’re going to have to figure out how to cross that divide. The most popular way: you bring a car with you. In this scenario, you get three games and a road trip, which usually means shenanigans. For example: these guys, who are legends.
Three years ago, Daniel and I did option 2 with our wives. It was pretty great. This year, I decided to do it again, but on my own, and chronicle the adventure as something of a guide for those hoping to make the trek next year.
This year, the Canucks visit San Jose first, which is ideal, because San Jose is the closest. Vancouver to LA is about 21 hours — Vancouver to San Jose is about 15. This breaks the first stretch up quite a bit, and with a day off before the weekend set in LA and Anaheim, you can make your way down there at your leisure.
I decided to break up the Vancouver to San Jose leg over two days, because I’m old now, and because I had a friend in the other Vancouver — the crappy one in Washington — that I wanted to visit. So I did that, leaving Wednesday morning and only spending five hours in the car on day one before I stopped, grabbed a hotel right on the Oregon border, had a nice dinner, and took advantage of Oregon’s incredible lack of a sales tax.
But while I saved a little money, I paid for it the next day on the road, since I had 10 hours of driving ahead of me and I had to be in San Jose for 7:30, which meant leaving incredibly early.
Alone in the car, I passed the time in several different ways: playing the license plate game; burning through the first 12 episodes of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, which is amazing; retreating into my own mind, which, like Camelot, is a silly place; and listening to the entirety of Miley Cyrus’s new album, Bangerz, a promotional copy of which was given to me as a gag gift by Vancouver Sun music critic Francois Marchand. Somehow, it never made it out of my car, and during a long stretch of the I-5 in Washington, which looks like pretty much any other stretch of road in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s not all that interesting to me, I gave the album a shot.
My brief review of Bangerz: it’s not very good. For a girl in the midst of a showy rebellion, it’s weirdly tame, and disappointingly lame. For instance, the album is book-ended by overt Christian references. Seriously, Miley basically raps 1 Corinthians 13 to close the record. Worse, the only truly catchy, memorable songs are the two that have already been released as singles — “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” (the latter of which I will defend to my death as a pretty awesome track). As for non-singles, “FU” is super catchy, and could have been the album’s standout, but the lyrics are atrocious, and exactly what I’m talking about in terms of Miley’s awkward and not-really-all-that-bad never persona. “I got two letters for you,” goes the chorus, “one of them’s F and the other one’s U.”
Really? Miley’s all about sex and drugs and stuff now, but she’s still censoring her swear words? That’s stupid. Even more stupid is that the song appears to be about the act of sending an angry text. The last line of this terrible chorus: “SMH, I’m pressing send on you.”
SMH stands for Sucky Miley Hook, I think. I left Bangerz in Washington.
The drive is incredibly easy, especially if you cross at Peace Arch. It spits you out right on the I-5, and then you stay on it. Forever. Seriously. Apart from being mindful to veer at the occasional fork, you don’t have to make a single navigational decision.
The best part of the drive: entering California. As you cross the state line, you come out of a mountain range, and the climate and scenery changes instantly. Where once there were evergreens, there are suddenly shrubs. Green grass is a sun-dried yellow. And there are signs warning that speed laws are enforced by aircraft, which suggests to me that excessive speed gets you carpet-bombed by a drone. I didn’t test that theory.
I got into the Bay Area at about 5pm, which is, as you might have guessed, rush hour. Imagine Vancouver rush hour, except about a billion times more infuriating. Like a sequel to Rush Hour, except with unlimited bridges and drivers that don’t wave at you when you let them into your lane. Californians are inconsiderate. I’ve got two letters for you, Californians. SMH.
I got to the
HP Pavilion SAP Center about 7:30, and I was in my seat about 7:45. By then, the Canucks and Sharks had already traded goals, which I probably should have expected, considering the Canucks’ recent strategy of surrendering a goal on the first shot, or, if possible, before that.
I actually love the SAP Center, and not just because they provided complimentary hot dogs in the press box. Or at least I think they were complimentary. I may have stolen several hot dogs.
It’s just a great building, and of the three California arenas, it’s by far the loudest. And granted, they have one of the stupidest in-house traditions in hockey — the paper teeth that come out when the Sharks get a powerplay — but San Jose has awesome fans. They hate the Canucks, of course, and there are always plenty of others that made the trek for these games, but because their team has so many similarities to the Canucks, it’s almost a friendly hatred, full of understanding, like two people that have been married awhile.
The hockey game wasn’t bad either, even though I was seated directly behind a beam. (It’s like they don’t know who I am, or more likely, they do know, and thought, put that loser behind the beam.) The Canucks played well, ending their absurd, 10-game losing streak versus San Jose, and doing so on the strength of their bottom three lines as opposed to the Beastmodo trio in a rare turn of events. It was an impressively complete performance, and it put them in strong position heading into the weekend. With 3 out of a possible 4 points on the road trip, even a split in their final two games sends them home 2-1-1, and I’d call that a successful road trip.