[ Sorry to be so late; I was at the Cinematic Titanic performance, more about which anon. If this movie taught us anything, there are severe defects in our educational system. ]
Our tickets were bought by my brother's workplace and I'm not sure how he ended up with them, but they were seats with some definite advantages for hockey: almost directly behind one goal, but high enough that the risk of a stray piece of equipment hitting us was really nil. You'd need not only the hockey puck to go wild but also to be relayed by a small, solid-fueled rocket to get up to us, somewhere around 25 storeys up. So we had a long escalator ride up to our level. A quick glance at the map confirmed that we were not quite 180 degrees around the arena from our seat, and under my guidance we promptly set off in the wrong direction so we did have to walk more than 180 degrees to get there. Still, we got seated with just a couple of minutes to spare, long enough that we didn't feel rushed and short enough to not get bored watching the countdown.
I hadn't been to professional hockey before, nor Devils hockey (yeah, I know they've got a lot better, but man were they bad when they were bad), so I was watching for little things that might surprise me. For example there was the start-of-game countdown, which you don't get in baseball games. As it got to zero the scoreboard showed a little video of the New Jersey Devil, or at least a guy dressed as Pitch from classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 experiment Santa Claus smiling and nodding and waving his trident around to set lightning off in the scoreboard and the video side panels. The video side panels were also used to show close-ups of Devils player faces, giving the impression that giant hockey players were peeping through the Venetian blinds.
The game didn't start just at the official Start-Of-Game time, which shows the dangers of running this sort of countdown to events that are just going to happen when they happen and there's no rushing them. Maybe they were waiting for the TV people to get back from commercial. But it got started soon enough, and in a nicely zippy fashion, and I realized that hockey suffers on television much the same way baseball does; the television screen just doesn't let you see the whole ``strategic unit'' of stuff that's happening at once, and you can't get the full sense of the game when it's chopped into master shots and close-ups instead.
About five minutes in, my eye was roving about exploring the corners of the center, and something big and flashing happened just in front of us. Based on the cheers, the flashing lights, and the triple foghorn, the Devils scored and they were waiting for a pilot boat to see them into harbor. And, sure, I technically missed it, but there had already been roughly eighty shots on goal already; I'd be better prepared for the next one.
Trivia: In April 1809 the New York State legislature appropriated $1,000 to surveying an Erie Canal. This was soon reduced to $600. Source: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.
Currently Reading: The Death Of A President: November 1963, William Manchester.