26 April 2018

Hockey Road Trip: Tobacco Road Tumble

When we set out to do all these hockey road trips, I always had my eye on North Carolina - I knew very little about the state (besides its tobacco-infused history), but it always seemed like a hotbed of sports success. Expansion teams in the NFL and NBA arrived in Charlotte at the dawn of the 1990’s, which set the stage for the NHL’s Hartford Whalers to relocate to Raleigh in the latter part of the decade.

But college basketball is the dominant obsession, as the region is filled with notable programs from Duke and the University of North Carolina, to NC State and Wake Forest. Hated as they may be in the eyes of many sports fans, I’ve always felt a fondness for Duke. Coach Mike Kryzezewski has built one of the most storied programs in the country, consistently keeping his team near the top of the polls and funneling a pipeline to the professional ranks (even though NBA success has often eluded these players). My high school years were filled with the images of Grant Hill and Christian Laettner winning championships for the Blue Devils, and the sight of Duke fans boisterously cheering on their beloved team during home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke’s campus in the city of Durham is just down the highway from the state capital of Raleigh - this path is affectionately referred to as “Tobacco Road”, denoting the popular crop produced by the state. I knew that my trip to see the Hurricanes would HAVE to include a visit to Duke, so I specifically focused on the college basketball schedule each year. Unfortunately, given the popularity of the program and the fact that virtually all of the tickets are reserved for students and season ticket holders, I would have to pay an exorbitant price to see them in person. For conference games against their ACC rivals, Duke tickets would go for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market - as a result, I found a non-conference game at the beginning of the schedule that allowed us to see the Hurricanes the following night.

One added bonus: my cousin Courtney was attending graduate school at North Carolina State, and had offered to give us a tour of Raleigh during our visit. But she would complete her two-year program in the spring of 2017, which pushed this trip a little higher up our list and prompted a visit in November 2016. And away we go!

09 April 2018

Squire Report, Vol 8: Ontario

The Vegas Golden Knights won the Pacific Division in their inaugural season. I cannot believe I just typed that sentence. Rather than dwell on my amazement, I’ll instead use this report to focus on some of the future Knights that I was recently able to see in-person.

As part of my “quest” to see a game in every NHL arena, I found myself in Toronto last month to check the Maple Leafs off the remaining list. I timed out the vacation with the start of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, which provided the opportunity to witness many of the NHL’s future stars, including those drafted by Vegas.


I started with the highest-profile Vegas prospect in Ontario, first-round pick Nick Suzuki. He had just completed an amazing regular season with the Owen Sound Attack, finishing fourth in league scoring with 100 points (42 goals, 58 assists). He and his teammates would square off in the opening round against the London Knights, a perennial OHL powerhouse who was in the middle of a slight rebuild after having won the Memorial Cup two years prior. We arrived in Toronto in the early afternoon, then made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Owen Sound to see the league’s smallest arena.

This was Game 2, with the Attack having prevailed two night earlier in the opening game. Right from the opening faceoff, Suzuki stood out - he played with patience, controlling possession for his line and creating several scoring chances with deft touch from his impressive hands. He finished the game with 3 assists, including the primary setup on the game-winning goal in overtime.

Two nights later, we would be in London for Game 3. While he didn’t have as much success on the road that he had in front of his home crowd, Suzuki was still dangerous every time he touched the puck. Owen Sound would go on to win again in overtime, then close out the sweep later that week - he was impressive throughout the series and while he lined up at center in the OHL, I think Nick Suzuki could be a dynamic playmaker on the wing in the NHL.

London's Evan Bouchard (in the penalty box) will be a 1st round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft

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