I have covered several games in Ottawa since joining MSG Networks and the Islanders last season, but this past trip for the Islanders-Senators matchup was the first time I really experienced Ottawa. For those who aren’t familiar with Canada’s capital city, you should really plan a visit. It’s a quick flight, only an hour and some change from New York.
After landing at the airport, our crew took a bus to downtown Ottawa. The city features some beautiful architecture. The Parliament building is one of my favorites.
Once we checked into the hotel, my coworker Mike and I ventured out to explore the city. We walked just a few blocks to ByWard Market, a shopping area with tons of great options. On our way, a man overheard us talking about how nice the city was. He stopped us to chat. We learned more about Ottawa in our 20 minutes talking with him than our combined six previous trips to the city.
Yes, Canadians are really this friendly. Towards the end of our chat, we were joking about how cold it was and our new friend explained that we, “Absolutely have to return in the spring for the Tulip Festival.”
He then shared a story about the exile of the Dutch Royal Family during WWII. He told us Princess Juliana gave birth to a daughter here in Ottawa during her stay in the Canadian capital. As a sign of gratitude for all the Canadians had done in her home country as well as during her stay, she started sending Tulips every year after the war ended. Eventually a Tulip Festival was organized and more than 500,000 Canadians and visitors attend the spring welcoming each year.
After wandering through the market, Mike and I made our way to the famed BeaverTails pastry stand. Calvin Dehaan told me that I had to try one and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love fried dough! They have a few stands around the city and also along the canal. More on the canal in just a bit. They make the BeaverTails fresh to order. People stand out in the cold and eat them right there at the stand. The best way to describe the delicious treat is a mix between the best carnival fried dough you have ever tasted and a croissant. I had mine with Nutella, sugar and cinnamon. Mike had some chocolate candies on top. Both of us agreed we could eat them every day of our lives and be happy as clams.
The Rideau Canal is probably the most famous attraction in Ottawa. It is the world’s largest skating rink and thousands enjoy the nearly five mile Skateway daily. We had the chance to see it up close on the morning of the game. Our producer, Jim, is very creative and for weeks has planned on Butch Goring and I skating the canal and talking about the game as our open to the show.
We had one small problem: The Skateway was closed! The weather has been so mild this winter, the ice wasn’t thick enough to skate and the canal was still closed to the public. Plan B: We still shot the open of the show down by the Rideau Canal, and Butch and I had some fun joking about how I can’t really skate. He even brought his famed helmet for me to borrow if I needed it.
It is mornings like this that remind me how lucky I am to work with such great people. We laughed so hard my stomach hurt until game time.
The Isles beat the Senators, 5-2, Friday night and I can say it was my favorite visit to Ottawa to date. I’m looking forward to next season when hopefully the Skateway is open and Butch can give me a few lessons before we tape anything on camera. Dehaan suggested I use skates with double blades. I think I’ll wear Butch’s helmet just in case.
Oh by the way, I hope you enjoyed the snow this weekend. The Isles sure did. Saturday’s game vs. the Flyers was the first game the Isles have postponed since 1993. Here are some of my favorite tweets from the blizzard.