Right Wing Conspiracy – 10 OCT 2013
Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure. The NHL Weekend Roadie is a periodic feature of RWC, appearing throughout the season as good road trip opportunities present themselves. Whether your goal is to visit all 30 NHL barns or simply catch a game or two while on vacation, the NHL Weekend Roadie has a trip for you.
My partner in crime on this website (who happens to be my brother) has written several times over the past few years advocating “black-and-blue” scheduling for the NHL – pairs of home-and-home games between divisional rivals, with the goal of amping up the intensity level of regular season contests by creating a “mini-playoff” atmosphere. A glance at the 2013-14 schedule shows Gary Bettman might just be reading this blog. Here’s an NHL Weekend Roadie which allows fans to get in on the ground floor of a brand-new rivalry:
Black & Blue Jackets
Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh, PA are a mere 185 miles apart – that’s an easy three-hour drive down I-70. Until this season, they were in opposing Conferences, so the teams met once or twice each winter with nothing more than regional pride on the line. Beginning with the 2013-14 campaign, however, the Blue Jackets and Penguins are both in the Metropolitan Division. This roadie features the first two meetings of these clubs as divisional rivals.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1: COLUMBUS @ PITTSBURGH. The Blue Jackets travel to the Steel City to play the Penguins for the first time this season. While Columbus is out to build on last season’s remarkable run to (just fall short of) the playoffs, Pittsburgh looks to bounce back from being swept out of the Eastern Conference Finals by Boston last spring. Beware: You can get Primanti Brothers sandwiches at the CONSOL Energy Center, as well as a cross-cultural abomination called a “cheesesteak taco.”
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2: PITTSBURGH @ COLUMBUS. Exactly twenty-four hours later, the same teams meet again. As stated above, it’s an easy and pleasant three-hour drive between the two cities, so you can sleep in this morning and still make it to Columbus in plenty of time to sample the pot roast at Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails before the game. Nationwide Arena is a great place to watch a game, from the fans to the drum corps to the cannon. Many Pens fans are sure to be in attendance, so expect the verbal competition in the stands to rival the physical competition on the ice.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3: ??? If two games won’t satisfy your hockey appetite, make the six-hour drive up to Chicago to catch the Flames-Blackhawks tilt; otherwise, go home!
HOTELS – Begin your search with Hotwire. Currently, a 3.5-star hotel in downtown Pittsburgh can be had for just $86 on November 1, while 3-star lodging in the Ohio State University area (a short drive from Nationwide Arena) is a very reasonable $60.
FLIGHTS – If you’re traveling on game day, always book an early morning flight. Airfarewatchdog.com is a great place to shop around for the best deal.
FOOD – In Columbus, the aforementioned Tip Top is a local favorite, but you can’t go wrong with Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, either…and an after-dinner visit to Schmidt’s Fudge Haus next door is a must. For breakfast, grab a seat at the counter of the German Village Coffee Shop and watch the cook pour your hotcakes onto the griddle. When in Pittsburgh, Crystal on Penn is an excellent alternative to arena food, located just minutes from the CONSOL Energy Center. For breakfast or lunch, the Dor-Stop Restaurant is a satisfying, low-cost option.
TICKETS – Great seats are still available in Columbus. While Pittsburgh also has tickets remaining, you may be in for a case of sticker shock, depending on what you’re accustomed to paying. Great deals can be found on resale tickets, both through NHL Ticket Exchange and StubHub.
GETTING AROUND – You will need to rent a car. *PRO TIP* – Do NOT rent at the airport! Taking a bus or taxi to an off-airport car rental establishment can easily save you enough money to pay for a game ticket (or two), even with the added transportation cost. Find a car rental company you like and compare on- and off-airport prices in your destination city. Also, if you fly into Pittsburgh and out of Columbus, know that one-way rentals don’t come with unlimited mileage; in fact, you can expect to pay as much as $.25 a mile.
This NHL Weekend Roadie is a quick 2-in-2-in-2 (Games/Days/Arenas) featuring the dawn of what is certain to become an intense rivalry, easy driving and great food along the way. What more could you ask for – a third game? Less driving? Tune in next week and your prayers will be answered!
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926