It’s no surprise to anyone that I love to travel and I love hockey, and this year was filled with both of these things. To anyone who knows me, I am the one person you can count on to be up for an adventure at anytime. I’m also the person who can tell you pretty much anything about Canada, just in case you needed to know something like the capital of Nunavut (Iqaluit) or how to pronounce the capital of Nunavut (I-kal-oo-it). I wish more people could see the person I am when I’m up in the true north. I’m a lot more fun, care free, and up for anything when I’m somewhere as beautiful as the country of Canada is. But this post isn’t about Canada; at least not all of it. It’s about my year and about all of the adventures I had that made me smile. So here’s to 2016 and the year in review:
Let’s start with my spring break trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida with my family in February. We hadn’t been to Disney in over 7 years because of the high prices of the resort, but we decided it was time to go back to the place that we had made so many good memories at. This time around I wasn’t the kid who was interested in only the rides and character meet and greets. As a 21 year old vacationer I got to enjoy all that Disney offered including some of the best food, drinks, and experiences in Disney. Gone were the days that I ordered Mickey shaped pancakes for breakfast and chicken tenders and fries for dinner. I was eating like a queen with delicious dishes like potato leek soup at the Whispering Canyon Cafe and Beignets at our resort, Port Orleans French Quarter.
I appreciated the culture of the EPCOT World Showcase more this time around as well because I was more curious now than I was when I was a kid. I have to say I didn’t realize that you could actually rent out a country in the EPCOT World Showcase until I was denied access to the Canada pavilion because they were setting up for a wedding. Let’s just say I was ready to book the Canada pavilion as my wedding venue right then and there until I was reminded I’d have to have a fiancé before something like that could happen.
Even at 21 I was looking forward to riding the rides I had come to know and love: Soarin’, Mission Space, The Tower of Terror, and my personal favorite: Expedition Everest. Disney doesn’t just build rides: they create experiences and they tell stories. This ride has one heck of a story as you climb to the top of Mt. Everest. Pulling up the ride on youtube is one way to experience it, but to really appreciate it, you have to be there.
The best part about our trip to Disney though had to be signing up for the Disney Vacation Club. When I mention this club to anyone they think that it’s just a vacation club that allows you to travel to Disney World every year: no. It’s a time share with hundreds of thousands of hotels you can stay at around the world. Just in British Columbia Disney has over 30 resorts and hotels to stay at. Joining this vacation club would now make it easier for us to travel to places that have always been a little too expensive. In 2017 we decided to go back to Disney World as our vacation, but in the years to come we have decided on places like Hawaii, Banff, and Jamaica. At Disney Parks locations there are benefits to being a DVC member as well. 10% off of all food and store items, exclusive member nights at the parks, member only cruises, behind the scene tours, and some amazing member only lounges placed around the parks and resorts that offer free food, drinks, wifi, and incredible views of the fireworks at night.This club lasts for 50 years. That’s 50 years of at least one vacation a year, paid for. Looking at the list of destinations available on the Disney Vacation Club website, a trip to Scandinavia doesn’t seem so unobtainable anymore. This is a luxury that will be enjoyed by my family for years and years to come, so how could this not make my best of 2016 post?
Next on the list: The Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs run. Man was it fun watching that team the second half of the regular season! They were guaranteed to make the playoffs with how well they were playing, and the Pens making the playoffs has become an expectation in the city of Pittsburgh, but this year felt different. I had never been to a playoff game before this year but everyone had always told me “It’s completely different than a regular season game. You think it was loud at the Pens vs. Flyers game? Just wait until you get to a playoff game.” Well lucky me I not only got to go to one playoff game this year, I attended both the first game in round one and the fifth game in round one where they eliminated the Rangers. The atmosphere of the games were like an electric charge. People couldn’t stop chanting, screaming, yelling, and cheering for the Pens. I’m sure it helps when you go to playoff games where the Pens win, especially how they won in game 5, round 1: 6-2, eliminating the Rangers from their Stanley Cup Dreams. As the Pens went further and further, the stress got more and more prevalent. I think the city of Pittsburgh knew this time around though. They knew it was our year. We had festivals at the arena during game days just because the fans wanted them and wanted to be there. When the Pens announced there would be no big screen for the playoffs, the mayor of Pittsburgh requested that roads be blocked off during game time to allow the hundreds of thousands of fans to pack the street. When those roads became full, the mayor asked for another big screen to be placed in Market Square. Everyone knew. Everyone wanted to be there to see them win the cup. I guess in reality it hasn’t been very long since our last cup win, but we wanted it. The day of game 5 there were lines out the door of the arena just to get a “Stanley Cup Final” patch sewn on to jerseys. Sure, you should say that every other city does the same things I’ve listed, but there’s just something about the city of Pittsburgh when we come together. I’ve seen t-shirts that say “When you play Pittsburgh you play the whole city,” and the Stanley Cup Playoffs only reassured us of that.
My mom recorded a video of me in those final few seconds of game 6 when the Pens were going to win the Stanley Cup and I can promise you that that video will never be seen by anyone other than her and myself. I’m the epitome of a fan who has waited years to see their team win the ultimate title. I remember watching the game from my house on the couch in my living room, and I guess I decided at one point the couch wasn’t close enough to the TV so I ended up sitting on the coffee table. By the end of the game I was on the floor wondering if this was real. To say the Stanley Cup run was fun would have been an understatement. It was more like a roller coaster that you hoped would end, but only if the ending was going to be in a good place.
Well, everyone knows that after a Stanley Cup win there is a Stanley Cup Parade. It wasn’t 10 minutes after the win that I had declared I was going to go down to the city early on parade day to get a great spot. And there we were at 7 am on the side of Grant Street in Pittsburgh. There were lots of people walking around, waiting for someone else to set up camp for the 11:30 parade start. So by 7:30 we had claimed our spot and not long after people followed our example and did not move from that spot for the next 4 hours.
When the parade started the players were ecstatic which only made the fans enjoy it that much more. Hagelin and Kessel were there starting an “HBK” chant, Bonino was there pumping up the crowd. Of course they saved the best for last, Sid with the cup at the end. I should admit that I was hoping that the parade would stop right in front of us so that I could get Sid to sign my jersey, but of course that didn’t happen. If there were one person in the world I wanted to meet, it was Sidney. Time after time that summer I thought I had the chance to meet him and it never happened.
I guess that last sentence sets me up for an explanation of my trip to Nova Scotia in May now. Despite what everyone thinks, I did not go to Nova Scotia to meet Sidney Crosby. Something that not too many people know though is that a few years ago I watched the Penguins special, “There’s no Place Like Home with Sidney Crosby,” and I added that province to my bucket list because of how beautiful it looked. Before that documentary I never knew much about Nova Scotia besides the fact that the Titanic cemetery and museum was there. After watching the Penguins special, I made a promise to myself that once the Penguins won the cup again that would be my sign that it was time to cross Nova Scotia off of my bucket list. And guess what… two days after the Pens won the cup I had my flights and hotel booked.
Like all the other adventures I want to go on, I dragged my mom with me on that trip because no one else I mentioned the trip to had any interest to go, let alone had ever heard of Nova Scotia before my mentioning of it. I don’t think she was excited about the trip but I made her go anyways, promising her I would pay for the flights and hotel. One thing we never expected was how alike Halifax and Pittsburgh are. My mom fell in love with the city and that was that. How could you not love touring the Halifax Citadel that sits a top the city? Or kayaking in the Halifax Harbour to an off-limits island? Most of all how could you only spend a few minutes sitting on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove and not want to come back after seeing the rugged beauty of the province? I enjoyed my time in Halifax, but my mom was the one who can’t wait to go back. My heart is still set on Vancouver, but I have a feeling I will be traveling back to Halifax with my whole family sooner than I planned.
Only a few weeks after our Halifax trip we headed back up to Canada, this time for the World Cup of Hockey. I had bought the tickets way back in January and at that time it had seemed like this trip would never get here, but here it was and there we were going back up to Toronto. Isn’t it interesting that I’ve been to Toronto multiple times now, but have never travelled to New York City before?
Before we got to Toronto for the hockey game though we decided to spend a night in Niagara Falls. I’ve already written a blog post on my feelings of Niagara Falls so I won’t repeat my thoughts here. I’m glad to say that we only had to spend one night in Niagara Falls though.
As for our time in Toronto, I think the actual hockey game turned out to be rather boring for us, but our exploration of the city before and after the game made up for it. The Fan Village for the WCH was located in the Distillery District which is a part of the city we had never seen before. The cobblestone streets with the cute storefronts was enough to please my mom, but my dad, brother, and I were there for hockey. The fan village turned out to be on the outskirts of the distillery district and was a much bigger set up than I expected. There were people from all over the world that had come to see their respective country play. We met plenty of people from Sweden, Finland, and Russia that were here for the duration of the tournament.
I wish we would have gotten tickets to see Canada play that night we were there but unfortunately those tickets were, as expected, substantially more money. I have to mention, here I was again in a place where Sidney Crosby was and I still hadn’t run into my captain. I was beginning to get discouraged that I would never get to meet the face of the NHL!
Last on my 2016 list in the Penguins Fan Fest in October of this past year. The Penguins had promised every fan a scratch off ticket as soon as you walked in the door of the arena, and these tickets could get you everything from a free drink to a meet and greet with the players on the ice. Of course I was hoping for the latter but what did my whole family and I get? Free drinks. Gee thanks Pens! I had only spent my whole summer chasing a certain NHL captain around North America and all I get is a free drink? ( I need to get that printed on a t-shirt.) Beyond discouraged that I didn’t get anything other than a drink we started to walk around the arena and watch as everyone lined up for meet and greets, locker room tours, and autograph sessions. Here I was with my RC Cola.
To say that I ran into Sidney Crosby would be a good way to put it I suppose. There he was, being interviewed for Pens TV with only a few other fans around. All of the other fans had special passes that got them onto the ice so they ended up missing their chance to meet the captain of the Stanley Cup winning Penguins team.
After Sid’s interview was over, him and a Pens TV crew member sat and talked for a while while me and about 15 other fans stood around and waited for something to happen. Well I just wasn’t having that! As nervous as I will ever be, I called out Sidney’s name and he looked over. “What the hell do I say now? I have his attention and I need to say something.” I asked if he could come over and get a picture, to which he agreed. Now all of the fans around are going “Sid! Sidney! Over here!” But being the faithful captain that he is he bypassed those fans and took a picture with me. After that he was told by a Pens TV crew member that he was needed down on the ice and that was that. There was my 30 seconds with the one person I wanted to meet. And there were all of the other fans giving me dirty looks as they walked away. When I told a woman, in her thirties if I had to guess, about my encounter with Sidney she literally started to cry, saying it wasn’t fair. I guess I wasn’t the only one hoping to meet him that day.
Later that day the Pens picked up the picture that I had taken with Sid and after that the NHL added it to an article they wrote up about the success of the Pens Fan Fest. I guess you could say I had my 20 minutes of fame. (I’ll just leave the link to the NHL article right here: https://www.nhl.com/news/penguins-sidney-crosby-signs-autographs-at-fan-fest/c-282512838?tid=281396148 )
To say my 2016 was amazing would be pretty accurate. I had so many great adventures and some awesome memories made with the people in my life. 2017 right now is a big question mark. I don’t know where I’ll be working after I graduate; I don’t even know what country I’ll land a job in. I used to be scared of that question mark that hung above the year 2017, but now I am ready to embrace it and see where life takes me. I know life will take me back to Disney World in March for my spring break. I also know life will take me somewhere in Canada to celebrate Canada’s 150th Year of Confederation. (Maybe Ottawa or Montreal over Canada Day?) I do know this: If 2017 is half as great as 2016 has been, then I have nothing to worry about.
Lastly, here is my current “Canadian Bucket List” check list. This year I crossed off Nova Scotia on that list and have now travelled to three provinces across Canada. In 2017 I would like to make that list grow to four. I’m thinking Québec might make the short list for provinces I want to visit. Only time will tell…