The First Snow

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The first snow I saw this winter was on my second day in New York earlier this month. I was getting ready to go to the Washington Capitals game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It was my first time in New York so I had never been to Madison Square Garden before and I was excited about going.

When I went downstairs to the hotel lobby I was in a rush because it was also my first NHL game and I was unsure of what time to be there and was worried I would be late. Puck drop was at 7pm and it was 6:30 when I got downstairs. Outside the revolving door the soft white flakes fell to the street in the darkness and they surprised me even though snow was in the forecast. A taxi was parked outside and a doorman stood by it. When I got outside, there was a couple, a few years older than me, who were also waiting for a cab. When we realized we both wanted the cab, the doorman asked who was in the biggest rush. I said I had a hockey game at 7. The man joked saying compared to him, I was way ahead of schedule. So they took that cab and I took the next one. They were waiting there first anyway.

As we traveled through the streets the snow was falling on the taxi windshield and on the street but didn’t seem to be sticking. I asked the taxi driver how long he had been driving for and he said for over ten years. He said it was very stressful. He seemed to be a happy person though, and was good at his job. At that point there were so many taxis it was almost as if they were trying to weave themselves together on the road and the lanes disappeared. The taxi honks were like shiny sequins of sound. But suddenly I was there, stepping out of the cab in front of Madison Square Garden with the snow falling on my hair.

Growing up I must have remembered every first snowfall of the season. Sometimes the snow did not arrive and we would be in class before Christmas in elementary school, folding white paper over and over and cutting out the shapes to make the paper snowflakes which we taped on the walls and hung from the ceiling from string. I always liked the snowflakes we made, and wished real snow was like that. The snow I saw as it fell always looked like white lumps, but I still thought it looked pretty when it covered everything.

Back then, one day after-school I was over at a friend’s house down the road. It was snowing and we were talking about real snowflakes and the flakes we made at school. She said actually, the real snowflakes are all those fancy shapes, it’s just a lot of the time you don’t realize it. She grabbed a red woolly blanket that she had and said we should go outside. There we stood on the road and let the snowflakes fall on the blanket. I really could see the separate flakes and their intricate shapes, just like the ones we had made in class.

These days, most of my friends were Canucks fans, but I had started watching a few hockey teams since I had moved back to Vancouver. Sometimes I had even watched the KHL games on my laptop early morning, after I had been out for a run. I had started to follow the Washington Capitals last year at the start of the short season. I couldn’t go to the game when they played in Vancouver recently, but I now had the opportunity to get a ticket and combined it with a trip to New York, which I had been planning since last year, but I had given up on it happening until recently.

I had prepared myself to enjoy the game whether the Capitals won or lost. I was determined to enjoy the game for what it was, my first time in New York, at Madison Square Garden, first time seeing an NHL game, and the first time seeing the Caps play. I also treated myself to a good seat for the game rather on tickets for other things.

I sat behind the Capitals bench. I snapped up a ticket that seemed to be released a few days before the game. So there was my seat, then the glass and the Caps bench, which I was pretty ecstatic about. I surveyed the area for Caps fans. There was a fellow a few seats down in a Caps jersey. The guy beside me I spoke to said he was from Chicago, so I wasn’t sure who he was rooting for, but he seemed happy enough when the Caps scored. I had practice cheering when I watched the Capital’s games in my living room, so I was all ready for the real thing.

 

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It seems like there was a good crowd there at MSG. There was the odd plonker and some “Ovi sucks,” chants when he got a two minute penalty. I assumed this was normal behaviour for the crowd when the Capitals played there. I was glad that people were mostly well behaved. I had watched a video of the Feb 12th, 1986 Canucks game at MSG, lots of beer throwing and the odd player trying to climb over glass to get at the spectators. So I was hoping nothing like that happened, due to my close proximity to the benches.

It was different being almost level to the ice and watching the fast pace of the game, all the line changes and the players climbing up and over the wall to the bench, then back again. It was well worth it. The Caps won 4-1 and I couldn’t believe my luck. In fact, at the end I wished it had gone to overtime so I could have watched more hockey. Chimera, Olesky and Schmidt scored and Grabovski scored on a penalty shot. And there was no beer-throwing donnybrook.

I don’t know if it is normal to feel this elated due to a hockey result, but walking out of there I felt good. I had seen my first hockey game at Madison Square Garden and the Capitals had won. It was one of those feelings where you swear you are going to be in a good mood for at least a month after. Of course in the days after, as I returned home from New York and real life encroaches on everything I have to remind myself of this.

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That night I walked back from the Garden and along the way any trace of snow was gone. I don’t know how long it had fallen for when I was in the rink. I was sure that I would see the snow again soon, if not in NYC during my stay, then at home. The streets almost seemed quiet to me as I walked back to my hotel room. I looked up at the Empire State Building and saw the lights. My dream of New York and a Capitals game had materialized in a way that seems to rarely happen these days.

 Sketch and photos by Wendy Stewart

This is a work of creative nonfiction; it contains no composite characters  and no names have been changed. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them, but I have taken some storytelling liberties, due to my interpretation of events, fading memory, lack of time machine, and need to cherry-pick some memories over others in order to express my thoughts within the story.