NEW YORK - I went to Brooklyn to cover a game and ended up covering a practice.
I mean, we're talking about a practice.
The original assignment: the Flyers vs. the New York Islanders Saturday night at the Barclays Center. As tasks go, this did not rank up there with covering the America's Cup in Australia, which The Inquirer did once during the golden age of newspapers and United States yacht racing.
Still, I was looking forward to seeing Brooklyn's relatively new arena for the first time.
That appeal wore off, however, in the middle of last week when the forecasts started calling for the whale of all blizzards in the Mid-Atlantic region. In Philadelphia, they heeded the warning on Friday and postponed all Saturday sporting events until Sunday, including the 76ers game against the Boston Celtics.
Not so in Brooklyn, which meant I had to travel Friday ahead of the storm to make sure I'd be in place for Saturday's scheduled 11:30 morning skate and the 7:30 p.m. game. I wanted to make the most of the situation, so I went to dinner at a sports bar on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn on Friday night in search of some Islanders fans.
Apparently, however, the Brooklynites are as unaware of the Islanders' arrival as the Islanders were about the winter storm. The bar had at least 100 flat-screen televisions, but not one of them was tuned into the Islanders' game against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
Lots of screens had the New York Rangers' game against Carolina. The New York Knicks' home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden was on, too. But no Islanders, and no one seemed to care, which might be why Brooklyn's hockey team is ranked 28th among 30 NHL teams in attendance. That's too bad, because the Isles have more points than all but six teams in the league.
Too bad for me was the inaccuracy of the forecast. When I went to bed Friday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city should expect between 12 and 18 inches of snow. The worst of it was supposed to be south of New York. They were wrong. I awoke to blizzard conditions at about 7 a.m. and was sure the game had to have been postponed in the middle of the night.
Finally, at about 10 a.m., the word came that the game was indeed postponed. Practice, however, was on for the Flyers. The Brooklyn streets were undriveable - this time because of snow rather than gridlock - so I pulled on my hat and gloves and climbed uphill on unshoveled sidewalks from my hotel to the Barclays Center in the blizzard.
The seventh-tenths of a mile trip took about 25 minutes, which was roughly the same amount of time it took Friday afternoon in my car when I went to the mall across from the Barclays Center to buy a coat to replace the one I had foolishly left at home.
For my effort, I wanted some good snow tales, and what better place to get them from than an NHL locker room, where the players grew up in places like Canada, Switzerland, and Austria.
Austrian winger Michael Raffl admitted to being a little bit amused by the reaction to Saturday's storm because he had seen much worse during his two seasons playing in Sweden.
"It was like this, but for a week straight," he said. "There were huge mountains of snow when they cleaned the roads, but it didn't bother people. They were used to it. People would go out and walk around and drive around like it was normal, as if nothing happened. The people had spikes on their wheels, so they were prepared for it."
Jake Voracek is from the Czech Republic, but he said the worst snowstorm he ever had to deal with was a couple of years ago in Philadelphia.
"We were supposed to play Carolina, and I had to go see a doctor in King of Prussia in the morning," Voracek said. "I was with [trainer] Jim McCrossin and it took us six hours to get back from King of Prussia to Philly. I got to the rink about 5 p.m., and the game was canceled, thank God. I got really lucky because I would have been out of it."
Veteran defenseman Mark Streit had some vivid snow memories from his time playing in Davos, a ski resort in his native Switzerland.
"One year I think we were snowed in for a week," he said. "Nobody was going in or out of the whole village. It was pretty neat. I like the snow, so I'll take it. I'd rather have a day like that than having it be 72 on Christmas Day."
Nearly 30 inches of snow fell in Brooklyn.
Give me 72 degrees on Christmas and I'd love to cover the next America's Cup in Australia, too. Anything but practice in a blizzard.