October 4, 7pm
I am starting to recognize faces in the SKA fan crowd.
The travel books are so completely and shamelessly wrong and evil. I will leave the Lonely Planet one behind, my host might find it amusing, or offensive. Not sure. I don’t want to carry it anymore. I still need the Frommer’s for the metro map. I choose it because it weighs less.
Here in St. Petersburg I want to wear sunglasses all the time. People look you in the eye here. They didn’t do that so much in Omsk.
I see no riot police tonight. My seat is behind the visitor´s bench again, not right behind, 8th row. Oddly, my seat did not show up at all on the seating chart at the box office. I went there earlier to make sure my computer generated ticket was a “dobry billeta.” I think that means “good ticket,” and it’s the best I could come up with for “valid document.”
When the arena opened, I was clamoring to get in because I was overheated again, this time from jogging laps around the concourse, going from kiosk to kiosk trying to find a #20 jersey. I did not find one. Nabby is either too new to the team or too popular. I got a #56 and a #73. S plays defense, one of those will suit.
When they let us in, there was some ditty about hockey being the greatest game playing. It made me think of old time soap commercials. I have never heard it before and don´t much want to hear it again. Now ZZ Top, Gimme All Your Lovin´ is playing. That´s more like it.
The teams just came out. I’m wrong again. I’m behind the home team´s bench. Why can’t they pick a side? My seat is right over the tunnel. It is covered with a blue tarp so I can’t throw flowers or anything.
The man next to me speaks some English. He just pointed out that I am sitting in seat #113, in section #213, and he says this is good luck.
It´s all yours, Nabby.
My still cam is out of memory so I will try the little video camera I brought. The quality is pretty poor and I really don´t feel like spending the game documenting. I´m not very good at that anyway.
The names on the jerseys have all been changed to the Roman alphabet. Weird! At least they left “CKA” alone.
I was not wrong about that hard “g” letter. It isn’t ever pronounced like any sort of an “h”. Now I wonder what in the world is the correct pronunciation of Hasek´s name?
I actually stopped taking notes as soon as I started talking to Alexander. I had noticed that fans chant something that sounded to me like “defense” during the game, both here and in Moscow, maybe Omsk too. But they didn´t chant it during appropriate times, if that was what they were saying. So I asked Alexander. They are chanting “Peter”, meaning Peter the Great.
I encountered two American men on the way in. They were dressed in dark suits and had plastic badges clipped to their jackets. I thought they might be some sort of big wigs but I didn´t care. Also, they looked lost. I said “hey, English speakers!” They noticed me. They asked how to get to section 3 hundred something. I looked up at the nearest stairwell, clearly marked with 4 hundred something to something or other. I compared this to the sign I had just walked past and suggested that they should go thatta way. They did not move. They explained that they had a box. I said then it will probably be up some stairs thatta way.
They repeated that they were in a box. A Russian man came up also wearing a suit, also wearing a badge. He acted like they were big wigs so I said “good luck, enjoy the game,” and moved back into the crowd. I don’t know if they heard me. I tried to think back to how I felt at my first game here, subtracted a little fortitude for being big wigs, and tried not to think the worse of them. I did not see the men in the box again.
It was so important for SKA to win. There was just no way having Carolina come to St. Pete’s and beat SKA and Nabby would have been okay.
The first period was wonderful. I think it ended 2-0 SKA, might have been 3-0, the crowd was elated.
During the second period, I think Carolina realized they might have to take SKA seriously. They seemed very large in the second. Then the fights started, several. Two or three or four players were evicted, some from each team. The first fight was not such a surprise. That’s what starts to happen when an NHL team is losing and feeling out of sorts.
The refs had as much tolerance for fighting as I do, they jumped right in to break it up, no uncomfortable standing around like boxing refs. Both fighters went to the box. That should have put everyone on notice.
I cannot be sure Carolina players were always the first to drop the gloves. Most of the fights took place in a blind spot from where I was sitting. But since this was the first fighting I had seen on KHL ice, I sort of suspect Carolina. Also, since SKA is more “my team” than Carolina, I give them the benefit of the doubt without a second thought.
The fights continued, notice or no. At least one Carolina player was evicted for inappropriate self-expression.
I am not at all sorry that the Sharks did not acquire a Stahl over the summer. This Stahl put me quite off the name.
I can’t say no fights this time, but I can say no goals through Nabby’s five-hole. Two on the stick side and one that was pretty hopeless-two or three shots in quick succession before one got around his right foot. Hm, stick side again?
Mostly I noticed how good he is controlling the puck. Almost never sent it back out in front, and he seemed to enjoy getting out of the crease and playing a bit. Ward came out a ways in the first I think and passed the puck to someone well inside the neutral zone. Not long after, Nabby did the same. He was smiling a lot, looked like he was having fun.
I noticed #47, (Petrov?) in Moscow too. He really seems very good at his job. Alexander said that he is also quite young, as an explanation for why he got evicted. No sense of discipline.
The game ended 5-3, SKA.
Alexander plays with a bunch of guys in Moscow, men from various embassies. A sort of mini Embassy League: Poland, Finland, Canada, maybe a Swede too. Alexander plays defense. He and Natasha are not married. He called her his partner, but soon after took her hand in a very affectionate manner. I wonder what he meant by “partner.”
Walking back to the metro station, I was in a sea of fans, red, white and blue scarves everywhere. I saw some Sharks gear too. The Sharks fans were speaking Russian. Pushing into the train, I felt no worries, no questions, no doubts. I knew how to get home, wasn’t lost anymore.
So, of course the next day I leave for Stockholm. Of course.