It was raining and dark, and there I was, standing outside of Joe Louis Arena in Detroit without a ticket.
I had driven in from Ann Arbor, where I played at the Ice Cube earlier in the day, since I really wanted to experience the cross-border rivalry between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs. My plan was to do as I’ve done for many past NHL games: buy a ticket off a scalper by the arena. What I didn’t plan for was Detroit’s anti-scalping law, which seemed to be keeping the scalpers away in spite of being struck down by a federal judge last month. There were none in sight.
I had been hanging around the arena entrance for about five minutes, trying to figure out what to do, when a lone scalper finally appeared.
“How many you lookin’ for?” he asked.
“Just one. What have you got?” I replied.
Before the scalper could respond, one of the fans streaming by me spoke up.
“You just need one?” said the man.
“Here you go,” and the man put a ticket in my hands, turned and kept walking.
I looked down. It was lower-level, section 114, behind the goalie on the end the Wings attack twice. Face value: $110.
“Wow, thanks!” I shouted. The generous fan and his two companions looked back, smiled, and told me to enjoy the game.
It turned out that the fan was Dan Merrill, father of Jon Merrill. Jon is a defenseman on the University of Michigan hockey team and was taken by New Jersey in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft. I chatted with Dan throughout the game, and as you might expect, he was quite knowledgeable about hockey in general and the Red Wings in particular.
The game itself had decent, entertaining hockey. About half of the fans seemed to be cheering for Toronto, and half for Detroit. It was particularly amusing when the chants of “Go Leafs Go” and “Let’s go Red Wings” alternated in such a way as to fill each others pauses.
When the game finally ended in overtime on a Maple Leafs goal, half of the crowd jumped up in joy, and the other half jumped up to get the hell out of there.