Monday, November 07, 2005

Gosh! A Bad Day at the Hockey Rink

I take full responsibility. I should have known better than to dabble in the lesser sports.

Because when you try to step away from the glory of baseball, bad things happen.

My wife and kids are big "Napoleon Dynamite" fans, and I saw that the actors who played Kip and Pedro were scheduled to appear at Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game last Saturday.

The two stars were signing autoragphs before the game, and the team -- the Detroit Red Wings' farm club -- was giving away "Vote for Pedro" t-shirts to the first 1,500 fans.

So I thought it would be a nice little family activity. And since we went to the ballet the week before, it would be an opportunity to broaden our cultural experiences.

We should have stayed home and watched the movie on DVD. Or any other movie, for that matter.

The problems started almost immediately. The gates open at 6 p.m., and they let people in the lobby before that, I suppose because of the thunderstorm raging outside.

We were inside the lobby at about 5 minutes to 6, and passed through the turnstiles minutes later. There was a small mob around an employee handing out shirts, and I reached in an got one for my 13-year-old.

Then I heard the guy yell, "I've got just two more and I want to give them to kids" He dropped one on the floor then said "It's for her!" and gave it to my 8-year-old. People were going nuts.

I looked at my watch, and it was 6:05. Are you telling me they went through 1,500 shirts in five minutes? And unlike Shea, there are only two entrances to this place. Something very fishy was happening.

I wasn't too outraged as long as my kids got shirts, since it's not likely that my wife would wear one and goodness knows I have enough t-shirts. But there were a lot of ticked off people.

We immediately got on the autograph line. The actors would be signing for an hour in a banquet room that is part of the Van Andel Arena. The line looked big, and there was no staff policing it, so people were cutting in like crazy.

But I figured we got on within minutes of the gate opening, so we shouldn't have a problem.

We inched closer and closer, turning the corner to the door of the banquet room, assuring the now tired and cranky family that we were almost there -- only to see cattle chutes set up with velvet ropes inside. My heart sank. The line inside was almost as long as the one outside.

We were about two turns away when a Griffins employee came in and announced that the two actors were needed for the ceremonial puck-dropping.

An hour on line for nothing. Why did the team let the line get that long if it knew there was no chance in heck that even a third of the people standing on it would get autographs?

But don't worry, the employee said. He would hand us tickets, and the two actors would be signing during the first intermission, and only people with tickets would be allowed to get back on line. Not in the same order, mind you, but back on line.

We finally get to our seats, no help from the usher, thank you, and naturally there are people sitting in them. And now everyone else in the row has to deal with them getting all their stuff and standing up and blocking everyone else's view as they move to swipe someone else's seat.

With about five minutes left in the first period, my 13-year-old and I went back to get on line, which was already huge. We waited as the period ended, waited some more and finally the 20-minute first intermission ended and we had not budged a step. I went to the employee at the head and asked what was going on.

He said the two actors had not even started signing yet. "They had some other obligations," he said. "But don't worry, they'll be here."

After what was not a grand total of an hour-and-a-half standing on line, I had it.

I also knew that returning to the seats without some sort of treat for the already suffering wife and daughter would not be a good thing.

And naturally, there is only one concession stand that sells ice cream, and it has a line that is not quite as long as the one for autographs, but not short, either.

Andrew wanted a Lemon Chill -- one of those ice things you scrape with a wooden spoon -- and I'd get root beer floats for Julie and Caroline.

It was finally our turn, and of course they were out of Lemon Chills. Andrew must have seen the steam coming from my ears because he yelled "Three root beer floats! Three root beer floats!" before I could say something unplesant.

That actually worked out for the best, because as we were waiting -- one of the two soft-serve machines broke down -- two teen-agers walked up with two Lemon Chills that were all liquid -- yeeech -- and said the customer service people told them to go to the stand to get their money back, only the guy behind the counter was refusing.

So $11.75 later Andrew and I made it back to our seats as the second period was wrapping up. The total on the night: 15 minutes watching hockey, nearly 2 hours on lines.

I was in a daze. Couldn't even muster up some excitement when a brawl broke out. just stared blankly through the glass. And this is a guy who once started a roterisserie hockey league based entirely around penalty minutes.

The period ended, and my wife concluded that the night had been a disaster, the Griffins' customer service is horrendous and perhaps we should just pack it in before anything else bad happened.

I'm one of those sticklers who refuses to leave games early. But I had to agree with her on this one.

I realize that if everything always ran smoothely, outings wouldn't be adventures. And I don't get as upset when I'm by myself. But when you drag the entire family out and things go this far astay, you feel angry and guilty.

We'll try to survive the off-season and wait for the Whitecaps to celebrate Opening Day before trying to take the family to a sporting event again.


deezofeezo said...

The Griffs customer "service" people sound like a bunch of "Frickin Idiots".

I am all about minor league sports, but sometimes their promotions department doesn't quite forecast for a good turn witnessed by a past debacle at a free haircut night here at Lake County Captains Stadium.

Joe said...

That picture of Kip has made all of it worth it.

G-Fafif said...

During last March's NCAA tourney, I heard the coach of Vermont (I think) interviewed. He was about to retire after a very long career. Said that on the team bus his team was laughing hysterically at "Napoleon Dynamite" and that was the moment he decided he was too old for this gig because he didn't find it the least bit funny.

I'm with the coach, but I wish your ice capade was handled better for the Murrays who think "Napoleon" was, well, dynamite.

In case you need a cushion? Took me a minute to get that.