So the lockout is happening, and you want some other hockey to watch, obviously. Luckily for you, the next best level of hockey can be found a short fifty-mile drive from Boston. The Providence Bruins are a great team to watch; despite being not so awesome at hockey the last few seasons, they're looking pretty solid for the upcoming year. They play in the Dunkin Donuts Center (affectionately referred to as "the Dunk") at 1 Lasalle Square, adjacent to the Convention Center and steps from the Providence Place Mall.
A little bit of team history, for those who are curious: although Providence has had hockey teams for nearly as long as its big sister city up 95, the P-Bruins began as a team just 20 years ago, in the 1992-1993 season, when Frank DuRoss negotiated with Buddy Cianci a move of DuRoss' franchise, the Maine Mariners, to Providence. The Mariners existed from 1977-1992.
Before the P-Bruins, the Rhode Island Reds existed in Providence, from 1927-1977. They moved to Binghamton in 1977, where they existed until 1997. In 1997, the Binghamton franchise was purchased by MSG and moved to Hartford, where they became the Hartford Wolfpack...and eventually the Connecticut Whale. So there's some fun trivia for you.
Going to a P-Bruins game is a really fun time; even in non-lockout years, you're getting to see lots of future NHL talent - and the guys who aren't future NHL talent often have neat stories as well. After the jump, some tips and tricks to maximize your experience at the Dunk. Read on, and keep in mind: Providence opens against Manchester just four weeks from today.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Dunk is a fairly sizable arena, seating 11,940 for hockey. Usually, the arena is about 3/4 full on Friday nights, and about half that on Sunday afternoons (competing with Patriots football is sort of a killer.) Most home games are on Fridays and Sundays, as Saturdays are reserved for PC Friars basketball, with whom they share the building.
The AHL is divided into Western and Eastern conferences. Unlike the NHL, where teams play all 29 other teams at least once a season, there is rarely any crossover between conferences. The P-Bruins will generally see everyone in their own division (the Atlantic) at least eight times - except for the St. John's Ice Caps, who, despite being in the Atlantic, only make one trip to the Dunk all season. I don't really know why a team from Newfoundland is in the same division as these other teams when they only see each other four times....but that's a different topic for a different post. The Northeast division also accounts for a large number of games, especially with the Springfield Falcons and Connecticut Whale.
Which leads us to......
WHO TO HATE
The short answer: Worcester. Worcester sucks. The long answer: The P-Bruins play the Manchester Monarchs (AHL Kings) and Worcester Sharks (AHL Sharks) TWELVE times every season. The reasoning behind this is that it's a short, cheap trip for these teams to make, which makes sense. Familiarity breeds contempt, and Sharks/P-Bruins games especially are always a good time....especially if you like fights.
Also, Worcester apparently likes to collect old Hockey East players about as much as Providence does, so that's enjoyable. Also if you're going to a game and you know who they're playing, tell me so I can tell you how to appropriately react to that team.
Also you'll never see the Habs or Leafs affiliates in Providence, sadly.
So yeah, there's Jared Knight, and Carter Camper, and Dave Warsofsky, and Ryan Spooner, Chris Bourque and Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Maxime Sauve and all those other names you've heard a billion times at Bruins camps over the last couple of years. But what about the rest of the team, all these other players whose names are unfamiliar? Who are they, exactly?
- Bobby Robins is a former UMass Lowell Riverhawk who fights a lot and became a quick fan favorite after being called up from the Chicago Express of the ECHL. He writes this awesome blog which you should definitely read, including really powerful stuff on kicking addiction and getting the call up last year.
- Zach Trotman was drafted last overall in the 2010 draft; Justin Florek was taken slightly earlier that draft, with the Bruins' fifth round pick. Both are set to start their first professional years, after finishing college careers at Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan State, respectively. Florek is a forward, Trotman is a defenseman, and I've been getting them mixed up for some reason for the last two years. Hopefully my confusion will end in Providence.
- Kevan Miller, a UVM product, might be the biggest sleeper signing in the last year; he trailed only David Warsofsky among P-Bruins defensemen for points; yet, while Warsofsky was a -6 on the year (on a really crappy team), Miller managed a +20. No one else on the team came close to matching that stat. While that doesn't say anything about the quality of competition he was on the ice against, that's something to keep an eye on this season.
HOW DO I GET TO THE GAME WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK?
So first of all, Providence runs about a bajillion ticket deals throughout the season, but the best value is probably the 10 flex tickets package. (Keep in mind, we have the All-Star game this year as well). Pick a day, look for discounts. You'll probably enjoy how cheap the tickets are compared to Boston. If possible, try to get a seat in the lower bowl. It's worth it.
The commuter rail runs to Providence. If you take it down on a Friday, you'll want to leave South Station at 5pm. The train back leaves Providence at 10:40. Perfect timing in case of overtime/shootout stuff. This is probably the better option for Friday games, since traffic on 93/95 can be total nightmare fuel. Google Maps says it's a 10 minute walk from the station to the Dunk, which seems about right.
If you drive down, keep in mind that parking is FREE on the streets on Sundays, and free after a certain time (I believe 8pm?) on Fridays. Also keep in mind that on Fridays you will be driving down 95 in the middle of rush hour. Leave on time. If you leave at 5 you will make it for puck drop and possibly warmups. Seriously, traffic sucks. On Sundays, the drive is a piece of cake.
Try to avoid parking in the garages. They're mostly about $10. Get there early.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE/AFTER THE GAME
If you get to Providence early, or you want to go out for a drink or some food after the game, there are two places that are better than everywhere else in Providence.
1. Trinity Brewhouse. GET THE RHODE ISLAND IPA. Their food is pretty awesome, their beer selection is always good (it's all brewed in-house). I would not be surprised if they made some sort of special beer for the ASG - I believe they had a P-Bruins beer for their 20th anniversary last year. Good stuff.
2. Luxe Burger Bar. DELICIOUS. Nothing more needs to be said. It's around the corner from the Dunk, and a great place to go if you're super hungry after a game.
If you're lame, the Providence Place Mall next door has tons of chain food places, but no seriously go to Trinity and Luxe they are the best.
ARE YOU CLOSER TO ANOTHER TEAM?
Are you like Ed, and live in the sad northern regions of New England, far far away from the Dunk? Excuses are lame. Get to at least one game at the Dunk this year. DO IT. Just go. Go to Monarchs games and enjoy how cute their sparkly-cat-attired selves are, but at the end of the day you are a Bruins fan. Go to Providence. Enjoy it.
PS I don't think Tyler Seguin will be in Providence. That's my official prediction. Book it.