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Taking time out for hockey involves a bit of travel

One of my interests is watching professional hockey, especially the Detroit Red Wings. With the scheduling in the National Hockey League, visits to the East Coast by Detroit, which is in the Western Conference, are somewhat rare. The Red Wings played in Boston on the day after Thanksgiving, but I had gone to Michigan to visit family over that long weekend. The next East Coast game was against the New York Islanders on Jan. 10, so I decided to take an adventure trip to see the game.

Although I had previously mentioned the possibility of going to the game to others, Jan. 10 pretty much came upon me unexpectedly. I made a few calls to see if anyone would go with me, but no one was available on such short notice. I opted to simply go by myself.

When I was considering the trip, many simply suggested driving to the game (at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island). I shunned that idea: I enjoy traveling by public transportation when I can. So I studied the various schedules and came up with a plan to get to the game (and, just as important, back home the same night).

I drove to Stamford to catch a Metro North train to Grand Central Terminal. Stepped off the train and wandered down to catch a 7 line subway to get to Queens. In Queens, I left the subway and crossed the platform to hop on the Long Island Railroad. That train took me to Hempstead. From the train station, I walked across the street to the transit center to get on a bus. The bus took me several miles to the entrance to the arena. I walked into the arena at 6 p.m., after traveling for four hours.

I was genuinely surprised at how far east I had to travel from Grand Central to the arena. I had no delays at any time on the trip, nor did I have to wait for transportation — I pretty much left one mode, walked a short distance, and immediately embarked on the next. It was, nonetheless, a relaxing journey, watching the people and the scenery.

I “eavesdropped” on a few cell phone calls — it’s hard not to when you are in a confined space such as a train car and the talker makes no effect to speak in quiet tones. The obliviousness of these talkers bewilders me. Personally, I have no desire for strangers to hear details of my family, my job, my schedule, but some people announce everything to everybody.

On the bus, I was able to use some of my long-forgotten Spanish to have a short conversation with a young guy sitting next to me. I was able to confirm that I was on the right bus heading in the right direction. At least, that is what I thought I said and to what he responded. After getting off the bus, I joined several other Red Wing fans walking toward the arena.

Getting a ticket was no problem, as I figured. The Islanders do not have a good team this year, ranking in the bottom three of all the teams (whereas the Wings are in the top ten). The ticket salesman was somewhat surprised when I asked for only one ticket, but he ended up selling me two: I could have bought one for $55 or two (of the same seat) for $53. I left the other ticket at the ticket window to give to someone looking for a ticket, but it turned out that my coat had a seat for the entire game.

Now, even though the two teams are vastly separated in the standings this year, the Wings, for some reason, have had problems with the Islanders, failing to beat them for the past several years. Things looked somewhat promising, though, when the Wings were only behind 1-0 after New York outshot them 17-8 in the first period. Most of the time, the Wings give up 17 shots for an entire game, not just a period.

In the second period, the Wings did hold New York to only four shots, but three of those shots scored, and the rout was on. The Red Wings were serenaded off the ice as 5-1 losers with chants of “You can’t beat us!” I took some good-natured ribbing from the New York fans sitting by me, but I stayed to the end.

I laughed and told the fans that perhaps we’d meet again in the playoffs, but probably not since the Islanders will undoubtedly fail to make the playoffs. I walked out of the arena at 10 p.m. to begin my return journey.

The trip home was as routine and uneventful (and long) as was the trip to the game. The trains and highways were not as crowded, but the subway still had plenty of people. I got home at 2 a.m.

I enjoy these adventures. I like watching the people and doing something different. I don’t mind doing it alone, either. If I want to go somewhere, I’ll go, and the lack of company won’t keep me from going. I’ve seen some movies, eaten at restaurants and seen some landmarks by myself, and everything was just as impressive as had I had companions.

So get out and do things. More importantly, look at things — see what we are surrounded by, the people and the places. We are a wonderfully diverse nation and we need to revel in that. I enjoy the co-mingling of races and ethnicities and languages and sexes and backgrounds on public transportation. In the Midwest, we didn’t much have the chance to see those differences and those differences offer great opportunities.

Now I need to make my plans for the Wings game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 21.

Dale Martin is the town manager of Winchester.

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