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(Ed. Note: The following photos are large files, intended to give you a much closer look if you click on them.)

Seeing as that some teams aren't worth discussing right now, the time seems about right for TUC's breakdown of our trip to SoCal.

As stated earlier, The Driver and I took in a game at Staples Center -- Stars v. Kings. It was an afternoon game, which was fine by us as we were coming in from San Diego and didn't want to deal with traffic.

This was around the "front" of the arena. *snicker*

It seems like everything inside the building is purple, or purple-hued, which must make the Clippers feel like crap (sorry, the AFL and WNBA aren't worth referencing).

The arena itself is difficult to describe -- it's a tall building, but the sections of seats don't seem that big (this might have to do with the fact that there are three levels of suites going around the middle of the place like a very expensive belt). I took a peek around various points of the ice and the sightlines were fantastic. You'll also note that the retired jerseys are not hung from different spots on the roof, but instead are displayed all on one side of the ice.

During the St. Louis game here in Ottawa, The Driver and I were complaining about the quality of SBP's scoreboard (which has already been "improved" since the building opened). You can't make out anything on it -- basically it's like watching A-Channel. Now take a look at the pics below (by the way, I was making a similar face after discovering the score of the Sens-Bruins game):

I was sitting on a level called "Premier" -- if you've been to see the Wild play, it's similar to their Club Level. It's a restricted area with restaurants, a carpeted concourse, bigger bathrooms, etc. It's a great setup, although to be fair, the regular concourse itself was pretty fabulous -- with a monstrous team shop that blew Sensations out of the water (both in selection and prices). I wanted to take a photo of the store, but it was a madhouse in there. Our seats were situated just above the 100 level. There were only two seats to each row (excellent idea) and included in-seat food and beverage service (yes, sushi was on the menu). Here's some views from where we were sitting:

Here's a shot of the little signs that the ushers hold up during the game. No, I'm not kidding.

Now here's where it really becomes apparent that Senators fans are getting the short end of the stick -- let's talk about food selection. Here's what 23 USD (including tax) gets you at Staples Center:

We picked up these sandwiches at the Buss Stop (an eatery which may have been named by a Sun Media editor -- just a guess*). The Driver got a turkey and swiss sandwich; I went with a vegetable one on a croissant. Everything is prepped in front of you -- fresh, generous and surprisingly delicious. I hesitate to call hot (real) turkey fast food, but if you're going to eat on the quick at a game, this is the way to do it. And to top it all off? Plenty of tables and chairs to relax in. No hovering over counters and condiment kiosks here.

As for the game itself -- I won't lie, it wasn't a lot to write home about. As I was telling some of you earlier today, the Senators currently resemble the Kings in a lot of ways: The disorganized defence, the lack of shots on goal (it took L.A. nearly 15 minutes to get a SOG in the second period), the overpaid "elite" defenceman collecting his cash and playing out the string, the overcommitment by the goaltenders (Ersberg got yanked)...do I need to go on? High point of the game came when Marc Crawford made the utterly baffling decision to put Raitis Ivanans out during a power play, apparently to fight Steve Ott. Methinks it's about time Paulie Walnuts was put out to pasture. All that being said, the fans that were there definitely gave a (expletive) about the game -- a very high percentage were wearing Kings gear as well.

And here's a side note: You can add Kings mascot Bailey the lion to the list of NHL names beginning with "B" that I've nearly bowled over (other members of the club include Commissioner Gary Bettman and CBC announcer Bob Cole). We were in the process of opening an entrance to the main concourse when all of a sudden Bailey came barreling through it (he was on his way to the ice in an apparent hurry). It's the first time I've seen a mascot do a double take. He definitely wasn't expecting anyone to be behind that door.

Oh, and in case you were curious:

Tickets: $130 (included parking)
Food: $23
Two t-shirts (one chick-style longsleeve): $40 (seriously)
In-seat snacks and drinks: ~$20
Number of times Trooper was played: 0

In short, it was the best hockey experience I've had in 3 years...and the one before that came in Minnesota when we saw the Wild play Phoenix.

So what does that tell you?

Next up: Hockey Night in La Jolla.


*That's a joke, Ottawa. Calm yourselves.