Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chuck the Writer's Premier Basketball League trip: Week 1

Over the weekend, I began my first of what will be many trips this year for the Premier Basketball League. The PBL is a minor league circuit with 13 teams spread throughout the United States and Canada, and is entering their second season of operations. I currently freelance for the PBL, in both writing and photography.

So last weekend, which was the PBL's opening weekend, I needed to make sure that all 13 squads have their team's "head shots" and action shots. This means I must travel to several of the PBL cities and get as many good photographs as possible. With that, I plotted out the schedule and estimated which teams would be in which buildings, so that I could photograph everybody as early into the season as possible, while still minimizing my travel expenses.

So Week 1's schedule looked like this - drive from Albany NY to Montreal (3 1/2 hours) for a Saturday night game with the Montreal Sasquat'ch and the Halifax Rainmen; then travel to Quebec City for a Sunday afternoon contest between the Quebec Kebs and the Manchester Millrats. Then drive home.

Rule #1 of my PBL road trips - when entering Canada, make sure your car is cleaned out of any unnecessary junk. Make sure your passport is in order, and that all your electronic equipment (cameras, lenses, laptop) are registered with Customs and the Department of Homeland Security so that nobody gets accused of smuggling. So that when I made it to the border, I got through the checkpoint without any trouble.

Got to Montreal way early - much earlier than I originally estimated, so I did some time-killing at a nearby shopping mall and had lunch at a bar and grille called Nickels (it's going to take a while for me to get used to smoked-meat sandwiches). Then drove to the Pierre Charbonneau Centre, which is part of a sports complex near Olympic Stadium.

Really tight contest between Montreal and Halifax, it went into overtime and the crowd was really into the match. Here's a shot of the game, which Halifax won 127-125:

Then it was off to Trois-Rivieres, where I had a Days Inn reservation for the night (the MTL-HFX game ended about 10:00 pm, if I tried to drive to Quebec after that I would have reached the city limits at about 2:30 in the morning, so I needed a rest stop).

Like the Charbonneau Centre, the Pavillon de la Jeunesse is part of what appears to be a sports complex, with the Quebec Nordiques' old building, Le Colissee, nearby. Again, it was another tight and spirited match, with the Kebs fans cheering their team on with chants of "Go Kebs Go! Go Kebs Go!" There were some spectacular dunks and defensive expertise, and - oh yeah - here's another shot of the action, with Quebec's Michael Anderson trying to make his way to the hoop:

Quebec won the game and the fans went home happy.

I just went home. 7 1/2 hours home. Stopped at a duty-free shop to pick up some gifts for the way home (and to get rid of my Canadian coinage; I kept the bills for a future trip), and made it back to the ALB at about midnight.

Some minutiae about the trip:
  • Make sure you pack lots of tunes for the trip. I had 200 songs plugged into my iPod/car stereo combo, and that seemed to be enough for northern travel; but by the time I was on the road home, I was reduced to listening to archived podcasts of "Car Talk" and "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," which helped kill time a bit.
  • Once you get into Canada, go to an ATM and take your money out there; that way, you have the proper amount of cash at the current exchange rate.
  • The parking at the Charbonneau Centre is on an "honor" system, you have to put ten bucks into a kiosk computer and receive a little receipt that goes on your dashboard. Make sure you get this - you don't want to spend your weekend in Canada looking for the tow shop.
  • Great shooting angles in both places; the Charbonneau Centre has an upper level that doubles as a running track, and I got some great overhead shots in that location. The Pavillion's basketball court sits on a hockey rink (with boards separating the ice from the hoops floor), which provided me with lots of mobility in terms of shooting and setup.
  • The Kebs have a mascot called Dunky. It is a big green jumping frog. Of course, this team originally wanted to call themselves the "Jumping Frogs," but how many Quebecois would have supported a team with a nickname that would be the equivalent of the Munich Krauts?
  • This is going to be a really strong PBL season. I can tell from the competitive and close games that have already taken place on Opening Weekend.
  • Car held up nicely, camera and lenses worked out well.
So let's see. Head shots for Quebec, Manchester, Montreal and Halifax - done. Head shots for the other nine teams - Augusta, Battle Creek, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Mid-Michigan, Rochester, Vermont and Wilmington - on their way.

1 comment:

Chris said...


You have to do this for all of your trips this season. Although, nothing will beat this trip unless you make the 14 hour trek to Halifax.