Am I in a 'Seinfield' espisode?
If you've ever seen the "Seinfeld" episode where the manager of the Chinese restaurant keeps telling Jerry and friends they will be seated in "Oh, five, 10 minutes," you know how the Lightning, and especially hockey ops chief Brian Lawton, felt Sunday morning.
The team and the rest of us support and media types got to the Prague airport for an 11 a.m. flight to Berlin to play an exhibition at 4 p.m. against Berlin Eisbaren. Well, of course, the Czech Airlines charter plane was not at the gate. So, we sat down in two different lounges (players in one with food and drinks, media in another with a bottle of water and a small carton of apple juice) to wait.
The person in charge of the charter, a Czech gentleman who spoke with a thick English accent and was receiving phone calls every 30 seconds, it seemed, assured Lawton the plane would be coming, and he really said this, in five or 10 minutes. He said there was a maintenance issue and the plane was parked at another terminal.
Well, five or 10 minutes go by and Lawton asks again. This time he is told seven minutes. Seven minutes later, we're told, I'm not kidding, five or 10 minutes. On the next go-round, the Czech Airlines guy says he has word from the control tower that the plane is on the move. How long will it take to arrive? No joke, five or 10 minutes. He scurries out of the office to take yet another phone call.
Five or 10 minutes later he rushes back into the lounge, looks out the window, sees no plane and throws up his hands as if to say, "What the (blank) is going on?" He didn't have the nerve to say five or 10 minutes at that point, but that is actually what it took until we finally saw the plane being towed from another part of the airport.
So, the plane finally arrived and we took off about 90 minutes late. The game in Berlin was pushed back to 4:30 to accommodate the delay. I really can't believe I'm saying this but I found an airline that has even less legroom than United States carriers. Czech air must have been built for midgets or bean poles. Absolutely no room to move. Good thing it was a 45-minute flight.
Berlin is a sprawling city and the O2 World Arena, is brand spankin' new, having hosted just two hockey games. It is so new, the gentleman, who wore an official arena uniform, did not quite know how to get us to the press box. "We're feeling our way around here, too," he said.
Finally made it up to the top of the building, which is beautiful, by the way, and has a spectacularly clear sound system -- the St. Pete Times Forum should take notice -- that is loud but still does not rattle the backs of your teeth with too much treble, as happens in Tampa. It was playing Ian Hunter when we came in, so it wins points there as well.
The arena also was built in what was formerly East Berlin, and is across the street from one of the remaining sections of the old Berlin Wall that has been completely covered in graffitti. Very cool.
This part of Europe has embraced wind power. As we flew in to Berlin, you didn't have to strain very hard to see numerous windmill farms along the countryside. They're smarter than we are, that way.