Onwards and Upwards

Game #50: Oilers v. Avalanche @ Northlands Coliseum

Jessie and I and friends went out into the snowing Vancouver night a week or two back. A friend was having birthday drinks at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the downtown east side. It is a winding circuitous bus ride from the valley Kits to the old hotel, upwards towards the bridges and onwards through Gastown and the Hastings slums. We had never been there before but its reputation as a multi-roomed creative compound chalked full of hipsters and socialites preceded it, and certainly intimidated us.

We walked with false confidence into a black-tie, invitation-only fundraiser happening at the hotel restaurant – The Nuba Cafe. In the lobby a concierge with one side of her hair buzzed down to fuzz, chubby cheeks, and a black-tie sitting on top of a white button-down shirt-vest combination greeted us. I was not wearing a black tie. Neither was Jessie. I think she could sense that we were in the wrong spot but she wasn’t about to bail us out. We asked if we could go up the staircase to the right – which we thought would lead us to a less exclusive lounge and the birthday party – and she replied, “of course.” These stairs led us to hotel rooms and confusion, and some curious looks from coat checkers who both watched us enter the hotel and head upstairs and return.

What we were actually looking for was the Polynesian themed cabana-esque Tiki Bar that shares a wall with the Nuba Cafe. Here, in a room shaped as a half-moon, bartenders with mustaches waxed to straight tips light your cocktails on fire, there are paintings of nude Hawaiian women on the straw walls, and a cold bottle of Molson Export can be had for a couple of bucks. I had a friend who once said that Molson Export always reminded him of the first beer he ever had with his Old Man. Sure. I think the first drink I ever had with my old man was a Coors Light or a vodka and Pepsi. I can’t say for sure. But nostalgia dominated the night, still.

At the Tiki Bar most Saturdays – including this one – the “Three Amigos” spin vintage vinyl. Yet they don’t spin so much as “pick” the music. On the back wall behind the record player sit two separate stacks of wax that one “amigo” pulls from and hands to another “amigo” who queues the next song to play right after the other has finished, and the third “amigo” dances, drinks, nods his approval in beat of his other “amigos” work. They alternate all night. Once one song finishes the “amigo” who is playing the music passes the record back to the “amigo” who is picking and he creates a new pile of used records next to the one he is pulling from. When they are done with both stacks they go back over all the albums selecting different songs each time. And, of course, one “amigo” dances. We all dance. And if you wear plaid shirts and double-fist Gin and juice then you one hand fist pump the entire night, at least one guy did.

The effect of the picking method is a continuous wall of ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, rock and roll that fills the swaying half-moon room. I imagine we are dancing like our parents and their parents danced to this music. The pace of the night is driven by the different instruments that each “amigo” seems to be keying off of. This night the Hammond organ pops and honks out of the speakers. Sometimes it’s the Doors, other times The Kinks, still others The Animals. The Yardbirds make an appearance. And then more obscure bands debut: Them and ? And The Mysterians. This is not to say that “Them” are obscure but in relation to some of these other bands that infiltrated the space they may be harder to remember without Google.

We landed at the Tiki Bar around 9:00 that night, we sipped tall rye and cokes, we stood, we waited for the “Three Amigos.” If you came later. Much later. Some time after a wide-shouldered man in a black tuque stands at the door and asks you for 12 dollars to get in, and the basement is opened-up for a ’90s themed aerobics dance party – spandex mandatory – and hidden further in the basement a dance hall is pounding with Hip-Hop, the Tiki Bar might sound like this:

Then, much later, the sound would still permeate the room. You feel as though you never leave the incessant beat of ’60s style vintage rock. The Hammond organ tares on into the night. It might sound like this later:

And we drink, there is dancing, and we find our way home. Back into Kits. Late.


The end of the All-Star break is for me the start of the season’s denouement. As Lowetide outlined in his preview of tonight’s game February is a big month for the Oilers going forward. How they preform when healthy, how the call-ups preform, and how the trade deadline plays out might define this franchise for the next 8 or 9 months. It starts tonight at home.

Some things I would like to see then moving onwards:

– That Ales Hemsky be treated with respect and class during the trading process. By all accounts he is out the door with Nashville and Detroit being the two best bets. According to Elliot Friedman, GM Steve Tambellini is looking for a defenseman in return for any trade. I have spoken before about how important a guy like Ryan Suter (from Nashville) would be for this rebuild, I’m excited at the possibilities. In my opinion Hemsky is worth an NHL defenseman. Anything less would be a steal for the other team.

-That Sam Gagner is still an Oiler March 1st. Black Dog Hates Skunks wrote a terrific article about what bad teams do to get better and what bad teams do that stay bad. Trading a 22-year old centre who averages 0.65 points per game is something bad teams do that stay bad.

– That we get more than just a late round pick for Andy Sutton, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Theo Peckham.

– That we see continued development from Jeff Petry, Magnus Paajarvi. Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander, and Devan Dubnyk. Obviously, Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle, are important but for this rebuild to reach the next level we need our depth prospects to start turning out too.

– That the Oilers official return to Winnipeg to face the Jets nets me some money from my roommate who will undoubtedly be so drunk off of scotch and the Jets’ flickering playoff hopes that he bets me they actually make it. Ha.

– That the Oilers experience an injury free last 32 games. That is all.

For tonight, still no Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tom Gilbert, or Cam Barker. Philippe Cornet has been called-up from Oklahoma City and according to Jason Gregor will play on the first line with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle. Cornet has twenty goals already and has had an impressive season so far in the AHL. Barons head coach Todd Nelson credits Cornet’s improved foot speed as the reason he has found himself in better shooting positions. Hopefully he does that tonight.

Colorado is a good, young team. Before the season I expected them to grab that last playoff spot in the West and they are in striking distance to do that. The good thing about Colorado is though that will let the Oilers skate. No team should do that. We are too good when we get skating. I expect a good game once the All-Star break rust is knocked out by the first intermission.


***Added a new link to the Blogroll. Check out “You Broke the Internet” a very sexy new Tumblr that Jessie forwarded me. It’s not about sports.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s