We took the kids to see the Carolina Hurricanes on Thanksgiving Eve! Before the holiday hoopla descended upon us, Stephanie and I felt a family outing was definitely in order. And as we walked through the parking lot, the excitement level of our children grew exponentially greater as they took each step toward the arena.
We quickly passed through the turnstiles and found our seats. As the crowd grew, we went through the regular rituals of the hockey game. We were on our feet and loudly singing with twenty thousand enthusiastic fans as The Scorpions ushered the team onto the ice with “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” We stood for the national anthem while the locals added their own touches to the “Star Spangled Banner” and soon after, the referee dropped the puck at the center of the rink.
The battle on the ice was awesome. The first period was a nonstop frenzy of constant pressure on both sides of the blue line but before we knew it, the Capitals were up two to nothing.
The action in the stands was extremely entertaining as well. The Jumbotron scanned the crowd for the biggest Canes fanatic at each break in the game and there were bigger contests during each of the television breaks as well as in between periods. Stephanie, Josh, Chloe and I were full of smiles and having a great family adventure as the concerns of the outside world just melted away.
One of my duties, at any and all of the sporting events we attend, is to keep the snacks flowing and the souvenirs stocked. Josh and Chloe both had their Stormy Bears in hand and after the round of one dollar hot dogs because it was “Family Night,” Chloe wanted a big box of popcorn.
Halfway through the second period, I went back to the concession stands to get Chloe her popcorn and a couple of sodas. As I stood in line, I could hear that the game had reached another television break. I waited my turn, purchased the concessions and then returned to my section. At the top of the stairs, the usher stopped me because play on the ice had resumed. While I stood at the top of the stairs, I noticed a man in a suit talking to my wife. She handed him something. Then he stood up and walked away.
When the whistle blew, I returned to my seat. I handed Chloe the popcorn and asked Steph who she was talking with a few minutes earlier. Stephanie told me that she had won a contest. The Hurricanes wanted to see the best smile from someone in our section. Stephanie had been on the Jumbotron twice and according to her version of the story, she had been declared the winner.
The Hurricanes cheerleaders (I still understand why they need cheerleaders in hockey, but I digress) had come down to her seat, handed her an IPod Shuffle and congratulated her. She was psyched. She didn’t have an IPod. But a few minutes later, the gentleman from the promotions department came down to our seats and told her that they had given the prize to the wrong person. He explained that she hadn’t actually won the contest and then he asked for the IPod Shuffle back.
Stephanie reluctantly gave it back to him. The gentleman got up and gave the IPod to a young man sitting three rows in front of us. The fans in the row behind us and in front of us were all talking about how the Hurricanes should have let Stephanie win. There were gruff comments from all of people around us about what had transpired and as I told Stephanie not to worry about it, the incident silently irked me. But I put on a happy face for the kids and redirected our attention to the game being played on the ice.
As the game progressed, the Hurricanes tied it up at two goals apiece. We were sitting on the edge of our seats in the third period as the action continued to unfold. And as we caught our breath during the television break, the gentleman from the promotions department returned with a consolation prize for Stephanie. He gave her four Hurricanes T-Shirts as well as a game used towel that had been washed and autographed by the entire team. And, once again, he apologized for the confusion.
Stephanie and I thanked the gentleman for the gifts. It was a classy gesture on the part of the Hurricanes organization after realizing the mistake that had been made. The kids will grow into the t-shirts. The game towel can be framed and hung in one of the kids’ room, but Stephanie was still a little bummed out.
“I had an IPod Shuffle for two seconds. I had an IPod,” she quipped as she laughed it off. But as I watched her turn back to the game, I could see that there was a little glimmer in her eye that told me that she really would have preferred the IPod instead.
As we headed home that night, I was completely relaxed. I knew that Thanksgiving would be a hectic day of cooking schedules. I also knew that lurking on the other side of Thursday was Black Friday and the rest of the Holiday insanity. I had a great night with my family, even if the Hurricanes lost in the end.
I can guarantee that every time Stephanie tells this story, it will start with the sentence, “I had an IPod for two seconds! I had one!” But as we laugh about the events that transpired that night for years to come, we will also remember the smiles, fun and contentment that we enjoyed from spending quality time as a family. And to be honest, isn’t that what the holidays are all about in the first place?