Yesterday was the best/oddest day I can remember in a LONG time.
Brian and I began our afternoon by traveling about various malls and stores in our area, searching for a Team USA jersey. We're headed to BWW today to watch the game (and pouring one out for Team America is quintessentially American, yes?).
We didn't really have high expectations for our quest. As I've written before, our area of the world has only started paying attention to hockey with the advent of the Pens' success, little girls' (and boys') crushes on Sid the Kid, and people having wet dreams imagining themselves capable of Ovechkian feats on the ice.
So, what did we find?
1. A Team Russia Ovechkin jersey
2. A Team Canada Crosby jersey
3. A Team USA Orpik T-shirt
Now, I will fully concur with the guys over at TPL that Orpik, as one of a handful of "relative enemies" (isn't that terminology oh-so-appropriate?), has worked his ass off and deserves our admiration.
But going so far as to wear a T-shirt with his name on it? Sorry, no dice. I have many levels of hatred, and while Orpik doesn't incur the full-tilt wrath that others receive, I'd still rather wear a shirt composed of bat barf and possum pubes. That's just how I roll.
Defeated, we had run out of places to look in and around our shopping nucleus until it dawned on Brian: We should check out this souvenir store in Breezewood, Pennsylvania.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about Breezewood, PA. It's about a half hour from where we live, and it's the point at which Interstate 70 merges with the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There is absolutely nothing there, no legitimate center of town or neighborhoods; it's nestled in the Southern Alleghenies, surrounded, most likely, by moonshiners and people who don't wait for deer season to show a 10-point buck who's boss. But because Breezewood is at a much-traveled crossroads, it looks like this:
And there, in that very picture, right behind the McDonald's sign, you see the place that will forever be known in TSO circles as The Greatest Store In The History Of Mankind.
We'd visited said store before when we were in the area; it's a hell of a place to go if you're a sports fan. You can definitely get your fill of Steelers' paraphernalia: drop $20, walk out with a mug that has the greatest hits of your local dialect, which consist of 50,000 different ways to drop "Yinz" and "nyeeeeat" into everyday conversation; a T-shirt with Big Ben's face enclosed in a heart; and a hat with long, flowing curls attached so you, too, can be Polamalu-gorgeous. The only things I haven't seen there that disappointed me a little are actual steel curtains, but I'm quite certain if you asked the owners about them, they'd probably pull some out of their basement or out of their own bathroom or something. In addition to Steelers' gear, they have various throwback jerseys from practically every NFL team ever over the last 40 years or so.
In recent times, they, too, have gotten into the spirit of the Pens' victory by building an extensive collection of merchandise, including an old-school Lemieux jersey and purses made to look like Crosby's and Fleury's jerseys. They even had a lineup of bobbleheads of each person from last year's roster holding the Stanley Cup. I thought about how awesome it would be to see this for the Wings and became intensely, almost violently, jealous.
We were about to leave disappointed and empty-handed because they had no Team USA merchandise whatsoever when Brian left me to go in another room of the store. He came back a few minutes later and said, "I have to see you right now." Confused, I offered, "I'm...here?" to which he replied, "No, you need to come with me right now."
Back in the other room, which, it turns out, is the clearance room, were a couple of authentic Red Wings jerseys. For a disgustingly low fraction of the price typically attached to them. And these were the real deal, too. We combed them over to look for any defects or anything weird, like a missing "T" in Hank's name or some sloppy stitching. Nothing.
Turns out, according to the co-owner, that they had ordered a shipment of Wings' jerseys in anticipation of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, to appease Michiganders who had passed through and commented that they'd like to see some Wings' gear. These represented the remnants of the supply, which hadn't sold as well as they'd initially anticipated, so now they're just anxious to get rid of them.
To ballpark how lucky we felt at being the ones to find them, let me say this: To find these jerseys, at that price, in an area that barely acknowledges hockey exists, particularly outside of the white-hot Penguins, was just astoundingly lucky. We felt like Jonathan Rhys Meyers at the end of Match Point. What are the odds?
With that, we raided every Sheetz in the tri-state area to procure lottery tickets. You don't just pass up a day like that without going for broke, right? Go big or go the fuck home.
FYI: If anybody happens to be traveling through Breezewood, there is a size 50 Lidstrom jersey waiting with your name on it. Check it out.