Sunday, June 28, 2009

True North, Day Three

I started the day by calling HSBC again, and telling my story again. The non-Indian lady who took the call agreed that what I was told yesterday was wrong, and my card was not one of those involved in the potential vendor fraud. Thus, it should not be suspended, and she released the lock on it. Yeah! It turns out that Mastercard is not an evil empire, after all. HSBC just has poorly trained phone support personnel. Who knew?

After clearing that all up, I headed off to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is a pretty cool place, though smaller than I had anticipated. I had figured that they had some kind of exhibit that at least listed all of the people that have been inducted, but they had nothing of the kind. They had a huge exhibit, right up front, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, and a number of cool exhibits focusing on specific individuals of major importance in the NHL, such as Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. That makes sense. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that this is not just the NHL hall of fame, it is truly the world hockey hall of fame. For example, an entire wing was dedicated to the International Ice Hockey Federation. The coolest part of this was all of the jerseys from various countries that you wouldn't think of as hockey places, such as South Africa, Ireland, Mongolia, and Mexico.

After seeing all of that I headed off to the section that focuses on North American hockey, which is pretty cool because they had a lot of displays focusing on Collegiate and minor league hockey on the continent. Until you really pay attention to minor league hockey, you just don't realize how many teams there are out there. Probably not as many as baseball, but it seems close. Each NHL team has at least two affiliated minor league teams, and there are many more out there, especially when you consider the Canadian development leagues. One thing I learned today that I had never known before was that every minor league follows the NHL's lead by having a championship trophy (or plaque, or cup, or whatever) that just gets passed around every year, rather than creating a whole new trophy for each season or tournament.

Speaking of that, the best part was of course going into the trophy room and seeing the Stanley Cup as well as the other major trophies (Hart, Vezina, Calder, Lady Byng, etc.) that are handed out every year. Everything but the Stanley Cup was in a plastic casing, but the Stanley Cup is just right there on the back wall (with an employee that does nothing but watch it and make sure you don't engage in inappropriate behavior with it), completely free and open. Coolness! I had last seen the Cup in 1996 in St. Louis during the entry draft that year, but seeing it in its home was great. Speaking of it, the trophy room is a total cathedral, with nice wood paneling, carved designs in the ceiling, and a wonderful stained glass dome right in the middle. The design of the room really lets you know that while the displays of players and jerseys, sticks and pucks, skates and masks are all nice, the trophy room is serious. This is why you trek in from all over the world, for the trophies, and specifically for the Cup. At the risk of being sacreligeous, it's kind of like making your hajj journey for a hockey fan, you're just going to the Hall in Toronto rather than Mecca.

Speaking of the cup, did you know that what you see on TV, and is displayed in the trophy room, isn't the original? The original is in the "vault" (which opens to the trophy room), and looks basically the same, but there have been lots of changes in the rings underneath it, and at some point in the '40s, I think, they made a whole new trophy based on the original. Pretty interesting. They even kept all of the old silver rings that used to be on it, and they are mounted around the room.

My journey ended in a trip to the gift shop, at which I spent lots of money getting various books and tchotchkes that I don't need, but you don't buy a book of hockey quotes because you need it, you buy it because it is funny (example: "How would you like it if, at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you?" by Hall of Fame Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante). I also bought a really dorky looking mug with my name on it, which is rad.

After that, my legs were tired so I headed back to the hotel to rest up a bit. For dinner I am going to go to St. Louis Bar and Grill, which is right across the street from the Rogers Centre, because I'm from St. Louis, so of course I need to eat there. I shouldn't even have to explain this to you.

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