TD goes to the Garden

The last time I covered a sporting event at the pro sports arena on Causeway Street in Boston, it was 1998. And the place was known as the FleetCenter. Now it’s TD Garden.

I was at the Fleet in ’98 to cover the Hopkinton girls basketball Div. 4 state championship game against Tyngsborough. We sat along the baseline behind one of the baskets as the Hillers defeated Tyngs for the title. Hopkinton and Tyngsborough are now in Div. 2, and the Tigers just played in the state title game over the weekend in Worcester. The more things change …

On Sunday, I was back in Beantown to cover two state championship hockey games for the MetroWest Daily News. And driving around Boston is still a challenge for me, even after living in Natick for more than 20 years. I didn’t get lost, but got stuck in the wrong part of town at one point. I knew where I was without knowing where I was at the same time. Get it?

I took Route 2 in from Ayer and decided to take that all the way in, rather than hop on 128, then 93 and over the Zakim Bridge. When I got to Storrow Drive, I knew I was heading in the right direction. Then I saw signs for North Station. Bingo. I’m in. Or so I thought.

At one point, I suddenly realized I needed to take a left onto Causeway. But I wasn’t in the left-hand turn lane and it was filling up. I put my blinker on to try and sneak in, hoping someone would be kind enough to let me. Oh yeah, it’s Boston. Doesn’t usually happen.

So I went straight at the light, thinking I’ll just take the next left. Oh yeah, it’s Boston. The next left wasn’t a left at all. It was a one- way street – in the other direction. And of course there was a “no U-turn” sign. So the only option was to go right … straight into the Callahan Tunnel toward the airport. I was so close and now I’m nowhere where I want to be.

I zoomed through the tunnel, knowing it wasn’t as simple as making a U-turn at the end. There was a toll booth there, and I didn’t have a dime on me. So I drove through East Boston hoping to make it back to North Station without having to go through the tunnel again, and thus going through the toll, which I didn’t have money for.

Well, you can’t get back to North Station because of all the water. Thus the need for the tunnel (Duh!).

But the first game I was covering was about to begin. I HAD to go through the tunnel. So I pondered my options: zip the Fastlane and hope no one busts me; or tell the person taking the tolls that I didn’t have any money. Maybe I could pay on-line. And for Christ sake, three dollars and 50 cents to go through a simple tunnel? What a racket that is.

Anyhoo, I told the tolltaker I didn’t have any money. So he asked me if I knew my plate number (I didn’t; my plates are new since we just moved back here). He jotted down some information on my car, handed me a copy and said someone would contact me within 20 days. Great. Wouldn’t want the city of Boston to miss out on another three frickin’ 50.

After I parked under the Garden, I had to find my way to the press entrance. Had no idea where that was. After asking a ticket taker, I was told to go to the Command Center. Which I did, then zoomed up 9 floors to the press area, where the players below looked like ants.

After the game, which Hudson won, one of my goals was the get fan reaction. Someone else from the paper was writing about the specifics of the game, but since I was writing a column, I wanted to get some “color” for my story from a different perspective. After interviewing players and coaches on the third floor, I began looking for Hudson fans. There were all dressed in red, so they shouldn’t have been hard to find.

But the game ended a half hour ago, where’d they go?

They must be outside, I figured. It was like summer (even though the calendar still says it’s winter) out there. So down the stairs I went. I knew how to get back in (Command Center!) for the next game, so that wasn’t an issue.

Once outside, I still couldn’t find anyone in red. Until I found a fenced-in area with buses inside. There they were, all in red and carrying the banners they had displayed inside. Paydirt.

I found two aunts of the Fahey brothers, and interviewed them. Then I found a hockey mom. She was wearing her son’s hockey jersey and holding a two-sided sheet that read “Go Hawks” and “We love you Alex.” It was Alex Pantalone’s mom. Gold mine.

She gave me some great quotes just before the players – hair still slick from showers and dressed in shirts and ties – started to file in. Time to give the players and their relatives some space. Back into the Garden I went.

It felt good to go the extra mile for my column, even though all I did was go down a few flights of stairs. And once I got back up to the summit of the Garden, the opening 13 minutes of the first period of the Franklin-Wilmington game were already gone. But it was still a 0-0 game. Didn’t miss a thing. It felt like a personal victory.

And all that extra driving I did in Eastie and through the tunnel seemed like a long time ago.

I still owe $3.50. Maybe next time I get “lost” in Boston I can make amends.



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