HELSINKI, Finland -- Imagine, if you will, you're sitting on a trolley when the conductor goes into a long spiel in Finnish. You don't speak Finnish, which comes into play when the train detours from the road you're supposed to be on.
Thankfully, a college kid from Canada who is studying abroad tells you the train is just going off route for a few stops then will come back. Sure enough, the train heads back on to the right road. Kid gets off at next stop, says everything should be fine.
Then, a few stops later and about eight shy of the arena, another Finnish announcement. This time when the train stops, everyone gets off. Um, OK. Thankfully, yet another English speaker explains why. It seems because the train is so late they're taking it out of service. Time to start the long hike.
And the reason for the sweat-inducing troubles? Finland is hosting Sweden in a European soccer qualifier, and half the city is shut down.
Thankfully, I made the walk to the arena without all the German sausage, Finnish reindeer and beers from all over the Eastern Hemisphere causing me to keel over. Now it's time for some hockey.
We're less than an hour from the Sabres' season opener, and the fans are streaming into Hartwall Arena. For some reason, most of the fans are wearing stupid-looking paper helmets being handed out by EA Sports. And when I say stupid looking, that's being nice.
Should be an exciting game. The Sabres have Cup hopes, while the Ducks have Finnish national hero Teemu Selanne and arguably the best line in hockey -- Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
More when the puck drops.
1:02 p.m.: A word of warning -- the Internet in the building is as consistent as Tim Connolly. What is churning with regularity is the '80s metal. Twisted Sister is on right now.
1:18 p.m.: Internet connects just as Thomas Vanek scores with 15:58 left.
1:19 p.m.: The Ducks have a bigger backing in here, with the fans rhythmically clapping for them when they have the puck, but the Buffalo goal brought a big cheer.
1:21 p.m.: One quick rant then it's back to hockey: The NHL, which prides itself on being a cutting-edge member of New Media, cannot put together an event with effective Internet. Past drafts have been a disaster. This is turning into one.
1:23 p.m.: The commercial break with 12:24 left features North American Ducks players trying to speak Finnish. It's funny because they are as bad as the NHL's Internet.
1:27 p.m.: The Sabres take a 2-0 lead with 11:30 left, again scoring from the slot. A pinching Andrej Sekera feeds Finland native Ville Leino in front, and he goes gloveside on Jonas Hiller as he's falling down.
1:32 p.m.: Sabres power play is 0 for 1 after Ducks kill a tripping call to Perry with 9:24 to go.
1:35 p.m.: Ducks back on power play after interference by Robyn Regehr on goal-mouth scramble with 6:42 left.
1:37 p.m.: Sabres kill the penalty.
1:39 p.m.: A press box has been set up in the corner of the lower bowl, and our seats are mixed with the fans. Two Sabres fans are sitting next to me, so anyone who knows Casie Attardi of Brooklyn and Nick Jordan of Olean, they say hello from Helsinki.
1:40 p.m.: Terry Pegula used to be Nick's hockey coach. Exhibit No. 123413508980284582067426 that Buffalo is just a big small town.
1:43 p.m.: Regehr and George Parros head to the box with 1:23 left with roughing penalties.
1:45 p.m.: And the Sabres head to the dressing room for the first time in the 2011-12 season with a 2-0 lead and 9-6 shot advantage.
2:04 p.m.: The second period has begun.
2:07 p.m.: Ryan Miller makes a big save with 17 minutes left to keep it scoreless, and the arena goes even further back with the metal as Led Zeppelin blares through the speakers.
2:09 p.m.: Drew Stafford limps to the bench with his left leg not doing much work after colliding with HIller with 15:32 left. Stafford is not getting any medical attention on bench so must be OK.
2:11 p.m.: The Ducks' Nate Guenin scores (for now) with 15:28 left, his point shot getting tipped by Maxime MacEnauer and deflecting through Miller's pads.
2:14 p.m.: The captain answers with 14:15 left. Pominville gives Sabres a 3-1 lead, getting a rebound in front, taking it out to the right dot, turning and beating Hiller through traffic. Stafford is back.
2:18 p.m.: There is no way this Finnish dude in the row in front of me is going to make it through the game. He's all kinds of messed up.
2:21 p.m.: Stafford and Koivu go to box after mixing it up following a whistle. The Finns were not happy that Christian Ehrhoff returned the favor of knocking down Koivu during play.
2:24 p.m.: Drunkie and his gal pal depart midway through period. Not sure where they're going, but he was nice enough to lift her jeans back above her exposed thong.
2:27 p.m.: Four-on-three for Sabres for 35 seconds after Ducks penalty.
2:29 p.m.: Vanek's second goal of the night comes on the power play, with help from Anaheim's Cam Fowler with 8:01 left. Vanek, in front, takes two whacks after a pass from Ehrhoff, and instead of clearing the rebound, Fowler shoots the puck into his own net to give Buffalo a 4-1 lead.
2:33 p.m.: By the way, it's 9:33 p.m. in Finland. I'm just writing in Buffalo time because that's what's at the bottom of my computer.
2:35 p.m.: Miller stops Bobby Ryan on the doorstep after a turnover by Adam deep in the Buffalo zone with 4:46 left.
2:39 p.m.: Sabres back on PP after Guenin goes for interference with 2:59 left.
2:41 p.m.: Ducks kill penalty, and Miller stops short-handed goal try in front by Andrew Cogliano.
2:43 p.m.: Sabres head to the dressing room with 4-1 lead and a 25-19 edge in shots.
3 p.m.: The concession stands in Hartwall Arena sell cigarettes. They also sell Tupla candy bars. I went with the latter. Game on.
3:06 p.m.: Drunkie and his thong-wearer have yet to come back. So far this season, I'm 1 for 1 on predictions. The Sabres maintain their 4-1 lead with 16:13 to go.
3:07 p.m.: Roy goes for hooking with 15:51 left.
3:09 p.m.: Anaheim calls a timeout with 14:35 left after Ehrhoff heads to the box, giving the Ducks a five-on-three for 44 seconds.
3:11 p.m.: Sabres easily kill the Roy penalty.
3:12 p.m.: And they kill the five-on-three.
3:17 p.m.: The Sabres are halfway through the third period still holding their 4-1 lead. The fans are whistling. I don't know what that means. Normally, it's for a no-penalty-call, but here it's whistling for some other reason.
3:21 p.m.: The wave is in full swing in Finland with 8:36 left.
3:26 p.m.: The Sabres kill yet another penalty, this one to Ehrhoff, and maintain their 4-1 lead with 4:30 left.
3:32 p.m.: There's one minute left, and I've got to head downstairs to beat the concourse crowd. The Sabres open the season with a convincing victory and look as good as advertised.