Part springtime sinus relief, part faith statement celebration: I am weekending in New England, where vestiges of winter are still to be found, supporting the Bears, the Caps, and the region’s craft beer culture, in the irreplaceable company of my puckhead pals Mike and Marleen. We were last united rather recently, over an elongated Presidents’ weekend, but we parted under grim conditions — mere hours after the Capitals endured a vivisection at the sticks of the Hurricanes, concluding a lost weekend that seemed to lose also the high hopes of the whole hockey season. At that moment, it was all we could do to refrain from alighting an effigy of GMGM. The morning of my departure we tabulated forecasts for the season’s concluding 20 games, and unanimously agreed that our guys wouldn’t qualify for the postseason. My Mainer friends asked me to construct Articles of Impreachment against Capitals management.
Instead, six weeks later, somewhat infused with optimism, I impulsively purchased a plane ticket to return to friends, and Mike and Marleen, similarly reoriented in good puck cheer, set about designing what we believe could be the greatest shared weekend of puck passion of our decade-long friendship.
Tonight, Hershey is in Portland for what is virtually a must-win game for the host Pirates. We have center-ice seats in what promises to be a packed old port town barn, within which is served on tap sumptuous Shipyard. Technology back at Mike and Marleen’s grand and gorgeous Victorian Portland home will record game 2 of the Flyers-Pens maelstrom. We will savor that showdown deep in the night, with even more Shipyard, and logs on the fire.
Flyers-Pens is almost a centerpiece of our weekend, particularly after the agonizing manner in which game 1 matured for the Flightless Fowl. Wednesday afternoon my friendship with Marleen suffered a deep bruise when over the phone she articulated to me her “support” for the Flyers in the series. My position: Capitals fans are congenitally, genetically incapable of harboring sentiments of support for either of the Pennsylvania clubs, no matter the circumstances. Marleen’s commendably darkened heart was almost in the right place; the distinction, I explained to her, really is one of syntax: more than our own health we wish for Pittsburgh’s premature extinction, but in doing so we must not advocate prosperity for that other Pennsylvania club. It is lamentably true that one of those clubs must advance in the postseason, but we Caps fans needn’t articulate that in the affirmative.
Midway through American League period three tonight my thoughts will be squarely anticipatory toward what hopefully will be elongated, mass carnage in Pennsylvania, rendered to me commercial free, in high definition, fireside, with my Patrick-foe-loathing pals. Late tonight I want as many gloves dropped on that Pennsylvania ice sheet as Shipyard empties into my friends’ recycling bin. What a start to the weekend.
At various points during the weekend we’ll visit the Snug, a great Irish hole famed mostly for the take-no-shit spirit of incredibly curvacious and vivacious bartender Michelle. Saturday morning we will brunch at port — at the Porthole, specifically.
“Since it opened in 1929, the Porthole has been widely considered a favorite breakfast spot. Now with so many other restaurants in town, it’s a bit of a cult favorite again, which means its many devotees can hope to get a seat without a half-hour wait. Don’t be fooled: this isn’t diner food, and the experience of eating here is unmatched. You haven’t lived in Portland til you’ve barked at a seagull making eyes at your graham-cracker coconut French toast.”
We haven’t decided yet if we’re Portland pubbing Caps-Bruins game 2 or boarding the Downeaster — a mere $24 each way aboard rail cars serving regional craft beer — and gamely seeking access to the game. The train drops you off literally at the foot of TD Garden.
“We cannot drink and drive but we most certainly can drink and train,” Mike likes to remind me.
I made the case that we’d enjoy the excursion irrespective of whether or not we gain game admission — Boston has a couple of pleasant taverns and eateries, after all. But we may opt merely to relax back before Mike and Marleen’s 70-inch flatscreen, and stack more logs on the fire and sip some more Shipyard.
Ideally, most especially after our frowns and furrowed brows and cursing of February, Mike and Marleen and I will share the exhilaration of a Capitals postseason victory this weekend. We are reuniting this weekend most particularly because we couldn’t reasonably have forecasted such circumstances six weeks ago. I hope to victory hug my friends a number of times this weekend, but no matter the games’ outcomes the sport we cherish has managed to rekindle in us an enthusiasm that seriously sagged not long ago. Friendships forged in hockey know neither slumps nor losing streaks.