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Today: Rangers-Flames and the tale of the ice storm

 

 

                  After a well-deserved off day---especially for yours truly and some of the Rangers press corps---morning skate 10:45, and a pre-Thanksgiving home game against Calgary at 7.

                 You may have read Andrew Gross' rant on our lovely post-game trip in Minneapolis. Here's my account, which I wrote early Sunday  after arriving at the airport.

***

                  A black-iced highway after midnight. We're in a rented Nissan warily crawling past dozens of abandoned cars implanted in snowbanks.
                 Smoke rising from too many wrecks to count.
                 The smell of burning rubber.
                 Trucks, sideways, with rear wheels spinning and sliding.
                 Dead stops, with only a trail of blinking hazard lights in the dark.
                 Welcome to a surreal 14-mile trip through apocalypse Minnesota.

****

                 Creeping along the left shoulder, where the traction improved, but rarely rolling more than 8 m.p.h., then braking ever so carefully, fighting a stomach-churning sense of foreboding with no rescue or emergency vehicles in sight. No sanders or salt trucks until way too late. No radio stations reporting on the weather issue and road closings: Plenty of sports and religion.
                 Just finished with one and veering toward the other.
    
                 As I observed to my passengers about an hour into the 2-1/2 hour odyssey, The Record’s Andrew Gross and The Post’s Larry Brooks: “It’s like ------ Mad Max”.
                 Fortunately, I wasn’t alone on this surreal, white-knuckled post-game journey from the Xcel Energy Center to the Marriott in Bloomington, normally a 20-minute trip. It would have been far, far more unsettling. Brooks, who has logged more miles in his career than Magellan, and Gross, who started us off on the trip by attacking the windshield with the ice scraper, were pros, as usual. Thanks for the emails, but you guys don’t owe me anything: company and encouragement was more than enough.

****
                 The bigger issue: How did this region, which experiences months of blizzards, power outages and Father Winter’s rage, be caught so unawares?
                Criminal.
                Someone should be prosecuted for abandoning the residents and visitors to this burg. Seriously. This wasn’t unequipped Florida caught by a rogue nor’easter. No excuses.
                 Lest anyone think I’m overstating this, on our way, Michael Russo, the Star-Trib sportswriter, tweeted us from a similar treacherous situation on some nearby god-forsaken byway that he had never seen conditions this horrible in five years. Not that your message eased our minds at all, Russo. Thanks, pal.

               A 7 a.m. news bulletin at the airport had state police calling it “one for the ages” and reporting hundreds of accidents.

****

              The first sign of trouble was a couple who warned us of the slick walking as we stepped outside the arena. We carefully picked our way to the parking lot, where Andrew wielded the scraper and I pumped out the defrost.  We didn’t get a block before the entrance to I-35E was blocked.

              A volunteer directed us toward a clogged street through the city, and after about 20 agonizing minutes, when it appeared a truck or bus had blocked the route, we took a chance on a left that somehow got us to another entrance. Not even sure a GPS would have helped at that point.

           At about 2:30 a.m., when we thankfully arrived, a hotel employee coming to work on the night desk said his truck had spun out on familiar roads and advised me not to drive to the airport, just four miles away, in a few hours. Certainly not on three hours of sleep. Hey, when a Minnesotan tells you not to drive, I listen.

           At 3 a.m. couldn’t get anyone at Hertz to pick up at the counter at the airport, but roadside assistance took my info and agreed that I should err on the side of caution (warned me that it might cost me extra though) and drop the keys at the airport counter this morning before my 8:35 Delta flight.

           At  6:15 a.m., the cautious shuttle driver and I watched two teenagers slip and fall in the hotel lot, then took the ride to MPS, observing a couple more abandoned cars, and discovered that, surprise, no wonder I couldn’t reach the Hertz number hours earlier:

          The attendant confessed that it had taken her four hours to get to the airport, partially because a bus had overturned and an airport entrance road was closed for more than an hour. (As it turns out, the Rangers made it to the airport post-game, but their charter couldn't leave, and they had a scary bus ride to a hotel and left Sunday. Tortorella was told the freezing rain had begun earlier than expected.)

           Haven't  been so overjoyed to get to a security line in years. Body scan? My pleasure. Pat down? Go right ahead, Mr. TSA drone.

         Just get me some coffee and the oasis of the gate and a flight back home, where yeah, the taxes are high, the jobs are intense,  the folks are hurried and rarely go a day without some snobby response to the rest of the U.S., but, hey, the cops and response crews are prepared, there’s information on the radio, and major roads generally are cleared. You’re not left to your own devices.

          For Rangers and Wild fans, Nov. 20, 2010 was the night that Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard returned to St. Paul, where rookies Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer recorded assists in their first pro game in their home state.

           For me, it will be always be remembered by three words. The Ice Storm.

          “I think the finish line’s a good place we can start.
          Take a deep breath, take in all that you could want….”

                                                                                                               ---Snow Patrol

 

 

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