By the time I made it to the front of the line outside of the Glens Falls Civic Center box office, my nose was cold, my boots were covered in a layer of slush, and I could have really used a beer.
Then I found out I was in the wrong line. Will call was inside.
When I finally got my ticket, I handed the whole package — stapled envelope included — to the guy at the door.
If there was any doubt I’m new to this ticket stuff — translation: I’m used to being a spoiled reporter — that erased it.
For the first time since at least 2004, I went to a Phantoms game as a fan on Saturday night.
I thought there might be a couple of different stories to come from my experience.
I might have written about a player that stood out, or one that surprised me. But I never even made it to my seat. Someone had to tell me the score in the third period.
I might have written about the fan experience. But I still was looking for that beer after the game. And I don’t think I even glanced at the video boards.
About the only journalistic thing I did was snap that photo you see here. (Yeah, another thing I’m spoiled by is having a professional photographer.)
Instead, I spent the whole game talking. So much so that I’ve had a sore throat ever since I got home.
Talking to Gordon Woodworth, the reporter from the local weekly who brings his mother’s banana bread to the press box during the holidays.
Talking to Art Porlier, the blue-blazered off-ice official who has a slow clap for everyone who makes it up the steep pressbox steps.
Talking to Dan Miner, the public address announcer who will go off script try to arrange a date for single reporters over the loudspeakers. (Not tonight, Dan. Sorry.)
Talking to so many more I could never name them all here.
And I didn’t even get to see everyone I wanted.
There’s Terry Potter, who guards the lobby outside the coaches’ office and pulls back the curtain between the two teams’ areas with a broken stick. (Someday, I think that stick is going to come in handy for another reason.)
There’s George Champion, the arena guard so iconic they named a street after him. Sort of.
Then there’s those whose names I don’t even know.
The guy who greeted me as “Tim” and patiently unwrapped my ticket envelope. The women behind the welcome desk who always kindly let me in the press box when I locked myself out. The grizzled man who operates the spotlight and decorated his walking stick with green garland last year.
I could have spent a week there and not made all the rounds I wanted.
For 30 of the last 32 winters, there’s been hockey at the Glens Falls Civic Center. For 30 of the last 32 winters, many of those same people have been at their same stations, doing many of the same things.
I arrived in the middle of January in 2007, one of those two years when there was no hockey. It was the only Glens Falls I knew, and I couldn’t imagine anything else but an empty Civic Center.
Now, like most of those people, I can’t imagine it any other way than it was Saturday.
I don’t know if Glens Falls can still support an AHL team. The depth of the fanbase is there. I don’t know if the breadth is. (We’ll have that discussion soon enough.)
I don’t know if they’d accept another solution, like a lesser league.
But I do know that if there’s an empty building, whether it’s next season or the one after, there’s going to be a great sense of something missing. There’s going to be friendships interrupted, relationships that never start, and a loneliness I’ll feel no matter where I live.
And it took me going away and coming back as a fan to really understand that.