The Units Minor League Hockey Excursion
The first big road trip for the Barstool Units in 2022 saw Coach Duggs and me going to Upstate New York to watch the Devils' minor league affiliates in Glens Falls and Utica. Both teams contacted us to watch a game, so we decided to take one weekend and watch both the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL and the Utica Comets of the AHL. The weather was seasonably cold, but the area in the Adirondack Mountains was lovely as we had a great time that won't soon be forgotten. The trip was one to remember, as I put two biscuits in the basket and went viral with my goal from center ice.
The trip was a part of a three-day three-level hockey watching funfest. I am a veteran of watching hockey, being a season ticket holder for the Devils. However, Coach Duggs is new to watching hockey, having spent his life in Jacksonville. He is new to the rules and trying to learn about offsides and the various penalties in each game. The hockey experience began on Thursday night, January 6th, with a game at the Prudential Center. The Devils, despite being shorthanded, with players in COVID protocol, played one of their best games in weeks and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1.
The trip began on Friday morning, January 7th. It had snowed overnight, so the road was slick but picturesque as with all road trips, there time set aside for Hot Dog reviews that will be released at a different date. We picked up Playboy Marty to document the journey as I handed the wheel of my Hyundai Santa Fe over to Coach Duggs, being that I don't drive over 35 and don't like driving on highways. We went through the Holland Tunnel and up the FDR to stop at Walter's Hot Dogs in Mamaroneck. There Coach Duggs went sledding for the first time, borrowing a sled from the kids going down Hot Dog Hill across the street from the famous establishment in Westchester County.
After filming the hot dog review, it was time to get back on the road to Glens Falls. We road alongside the Hudson River, seeing just how much it cuts through the State of New York. Sadly there was a casualty as the Mets flag that was on my car snapped off. I never knew that could happen, but driving over 70mph can cause more stress than when I cruise around 30. We made an additional hot dog stop in Troy before making our way to Cool Insuring Arena.
The Thunder promoted the Unit's appearance at the game and set us up by the entrance to meet and greet the fans, giving us both personalized shirts. They had a plan for us to meet the team and read the starting lineup in the locker of the Adirondack Thunder before the game and have us participate in a shot for the money during the first intermission. The players were fired up by our appearance, as the Thunder got off to a strong start and had a 2-1 lead over the Maine Mariners at the end of the first period.
The trip's highlight came when we stepped on the ice during intermission. Coach Duggs had a disadvantage having never walked on hockey ice before; in addition, he had never shot a puck. I had limited experience shooting a puck as we each got two shots from the blue line for $100 and two shots from center ice for $500. We stepped on the ice, and I had the first shot, trying to get the puck through three cutouts at the bottom of a board in front of the net. My strategy was to hit the board, and I was on target earning the $100 as the crowd roared. Sadly Coach Duggs was off-target on his two tries as he had learned how to hit a hockey puck on ice. My first shot from center ice sailed to the left. Coach Duggs had his shot on target, but it came up short. I then stepped up and hit the perfect shot from center ice, with the puck going scraping the side of the hole as it went in for $500. It was the greatest athletic achievement in my life as the crowd went wild. I was scared of falling as the on-ice host jumped on my back. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling moment that would be difficult to achieve again, as hitting a shot like that is rare even former NHL players like Ryan Whitney have not been able to hit the shot.
The shot quickly went viral, achieving over four million views as I was trending on Twitter. Sadly the Thunder could not hold the lead as Maine won the game 3-2, with Jeremy Brodeur earning the win. I was happy to see the GOAT's son get the win in net. It was nice to see the Thunder play, and I hope to return to Glens Falls; hopefully, Adirondak wins that game.
After a night in Glens Falls, we got up at the Queensbury Hotel and began the journey to Utica. The Queensbury Hotel was a throwback to a different age as it still had the charm and feel of a classic hotel from the 1940s. Of course, we made sure to record another Hot Dog review. Before hitting the highway, we needed to add some gas, and I had to pump gas for just the second time in my life. Pumping gas is not fun; every state should be full service like New Jersey. Along the way, we lost another flag as the American Flag ripped and had to be cast aside as it was making a distracting rattle. Memo to self, remove flags when going on long road trips on the highways.
We got to the Adirondack Bank Center a few hours before the game as a college hockey game was ending. The building itself is classic as it has been part of the Utica landscape for 60 years. It is the same building that Martin Brodeur played at in 1993 when he was with the Utica Devils. The building was used in the film "Slapshot" when the teams had a pregame brawl. Its roof also influenced the builders of Madison Square Garden. Like the Thunder, Utica gave me and Duggs personalized shirts as we participated in a pregame Beer Pong tournament. Sadly we did not do well as we lost twice, even after being given a second chance to advance.
The Utica Comets started the season with a record 13-game winnings streak and are still the best team in the AHL, showing the Devils have a bright future. However, with the parent club going through player shortages, the Comets had several players with the Devils or in their own health and safety protocols, including the top prospect Alexander Holtz. The Comets were hosting the Hartford Wolfpack, affiliates of the New York Rangers, which meant that the building was filled with Rangers fans. The Wolfpack jumped out to a 2-0, as the Units led the crowd in a Utica Chant. Again we met with several fans as I surveyed the hot dogs at the concession stand. I would give a single. Testing the hot dogs was necessary as we tossed a dozen hot dogs to the crowd during the second period, despite Rangers fans trying to cause trouble.
The Comets scored in the third period but could not get the equalizer, losing 2-1. The officiating was horrendous throughout the game, as several bad calls went against the Comets. Utica got a power play with three seconds left. Before the final faceoff, the Wolfpack tried to sneak an extra player on the ice as the crowd roared. Comets coach Kevin Dineen needed to throw a water bottle on the ice to get the referee's attention. The ref tried to toss Dineen until he realized that he was showing him that Hartford had five skaters on the ice. The Comets would get a shot at the net, which was saved, as the Wolfpack held on to win the game.
The Utica Comets lost this game, but they are a strong team and will make the playoffs. We were told that playoff games in Utica are an event. The weather will be nice, and fans are outside tailgating. When that happens, the Units will make another trip to see the Comets, hopefully bringing home the Calder Cup. After the game, we stopped off for the worst slice of pizza in Upstate New York, as the weekend was nearing an end. Going home, we made one last hot dog review, as Duggs learned how to do the Penguin walk in slushy conditions while listening to the Jaguars end the Colts' playoff dreams. It was another excellent road trip; I look forward to the next as we get to have more Unit Adventures ahead in 2022.