Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HockeyBroad goes Wild! Errr, goes to the Wild!

This weekend, I did my first road trip for hockey. I've been to quite a few baseball parks over the year - spring training ones especially - but this is the first season that I've decided to really start working on my hockey arena "bucket list".

This is what my list looks like so far; those cities with team icons are the cities where I have attended an NHL game. Of course, I have been to many games at the United Center now. I have also been to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Capitals at the Verizon Center, and now, the Wild at the Xcel. This map will be updated several times this year.

The Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul is home to the MN Wild. It's a good-looking building on the outside, but inside is a really nice hockey arena, with wide concourses that allow you to keep an eye inside the playing arena from almost anywhere in the building. Like the team it hosts, the Xcel is 10 years old, and the arena seats 18,064 for hockey games. It's not surprising to know that this arena is consistently ranked for "Best Stadium Experience" in ESPN polls.

The 100-level concourse near the main entrance. Notice all the jerseys up on the wall above the private suite level. Also, you can't really tell much from this picture, but the interior wall on the left is open to views of the inner arena, which really makes the place feel very wide-open. It also makes you feel less like you're missing any of the game if you are out in the concessions area.

It was the night before Halloween, so fans came out in costumes.

A view into one of the suites at the top of the 100 level. 

Pre-game, view of the ice from one of the corners.

Team captain, Mikko Koivu #9, who was on the bronze-winning 2010 Finnish Olympic men's hockey team. The Wild sent three players to the Finnish team for the Olympics, the most from any single NHL team.

Primary goalie Niklas Bäckström - Bäckström was the backup goalie to Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary Flames) for the bronze-winning 2010 Finnish men's hockey team at the Olympics in Vancouver. 

Backup goalie José Théodore, who won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last year

John Madden #11 during pre-game warmups. Madden spent 10 years with the New Jersey Devils, and won his third Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He is a very consistent, hard-working player; I was glad that we had him on the team last year.

During the pre-game warmup, you could see various Blackhawks players greeting him with smiles. I captured this shot just a second too late to show Duncan Keith (2) sharing grins with him.

Fans watching the pre-game warmup skate. The Minnesota fans were for the most part really, really great. I expected - and got - some teasing wearing the Blackhawks sweater. People were very friendly and the whole arena had a great social atmosphere. Hockey is taken very seriously in Minnesota - it's the "State of Hockey", after all - and the fans were pretty welcoming. 

The National Anthem being sung. It was easy to pick out Blackhawks fans in the audience because they were cheering during the anthem. (psst, that's a UC tradition, other arenas don't do that... respect the local traditions.) 

Player benches right before faceoff. Notice the two guys dressed as the Blues Brothers on the Jumbotron, as it was the Halloween game. At the Wild games, they have people start off the game saying "Let's play hockey!"  These guys were chosen that evening for the annoucement.

A view of the arena banners from my seat (section 205, row 1). Yes, it does say "Wild Karoke" on the Jumbotron, and yes, that was what they were doing complete with in-game arm/dance moves during a commercial break during one of the periods.

Lots of Chicago fans in attendance for the game. 
The person near bottom center is holding up a sign that says "Thunder Bay Loves Sharp".

Troy Brouwer gets one in to put the Blackhawks on the board first.

When the Wild scored a goal, the corner that looked like a lighthouse put out smoke. I wish I'd known/seen that one of the interior corners was an organ shaped like a zamboni, but I have the feeling that I'll be back to see another game in Minneapolis one day. Really enjoyed the atmosphere at the game.

Tomas Kopecky high-fives Marty Turco after the Blackhawks win, 3-1. If you're going to another barn to see your team play, it's nice to see them come home with a win.

Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, where I met up with friends pre- and post-game. Pure hockey awesomeness, and the burgers were really good, too. Tom Reid was an NHL player back in the 1960s and 1970s, playing for the Blackhawks for 1-1/2 seasons and then the MN North Stars for the rest of his career (10 seasons). If you're a hockey fan, then this is a great place to hang out on game day, or any time you need a little hockey.

Hockeyween isn't complete without the Hanson Brothers. Seen at Tom Reid's, and they were sitting behind the visitor's bench for the Blackhawks vs. Wild game.

The hot new trend in hockey costumes: Green Men from Vancouver.

The boards advertising behind Marty Turco stretching pre-game says it all:
It's better at the game.

 * * *

The only exception to two fun days in Minneapolis was when I had made a quick stop at a Target to pick up a quickie addition to make a "costume". (I got little red sparkly devil horns.) It's an incident that took maybe all of five seconds but is still bugging me four days later.  Some random guy decided to make some really, really nasty comment to me (I'm not going to repeat it here) - actually, he wasn't making it "to" me, he addressed his two little kids while staring pointedly at me, his expression nasty and bitter - and he said it loud enough that it was pointedly aimed at me and for me to hear. His kids were perhaps five and six years old. His wife looked ashamed, so he not only insulted me but embarrassed his wife, too.

Look, I'm not going to tell you how to raise your kids, but I took lesson from Brent Sopel's book. You want to insult me at a hockey (or other sports) game, I get it - that's part of the whole "sports atmosphere", my team vs. your team; at least in that situation, I'm braced to deal with a little rivalry. I must say, though, it never ceases to amaze me the crass and downright vicious things that some sports fans will say to each other in sports arenas. I'm also constantly surprised by the fact that sports fans will spit on or throw beers or - and this was something else - vomit onto fans for rival teams. (Those actions are assault, by the way, and being part of "sports rivalry" doesn't make them in any way okay.)

Anyway, to the jerk in the Target store: I hope you're proud of yourself for the example you're setting for your kids. I get that you're proud of your own home team. But by verbally insulting a total stranger in a non-sports forum, unprovoked, means you're setting an example for your kids that it's ok to just randomly insult, abuse, or demean other people because they don't hold the same views/opinions as you do. Way to go, dude.

And when you come to my town, I'm not going to insult you. I'm always happy to welcome fans from other teams to Chicago. They're proud of their teams, just as I am of mine; and they're taking the time and the money to come check out my city and my team's arena and to have a good time. I love my city and I'm very proud of it; if somebody tells me they're visiting here, I'm always willing to give some advice to help them get around the city better, or find a restaurant they'd enjoy, or point out some places to go/things to see and do, so that they have a good time and want to come back again.

I love Minneapolis. One random idiot isn't going to put me off visiting there again. The city and area reminds me a lot of New England, actually, so it sort of feels like visiting home. I always have a wonderful time in Minneapolis - yeah, even the time I was there and it was zero degrees the whole visit - and am looking forward to my next visit to the State of Hockey!


  1. The xcel center is in St. Paul. Not Minneapolis

  2. At the top of the post, I clearly stated, "The Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul is home to the MN Wild." I talk about Minneapolis quite a lot at the end of the article because 1. my hotel was in Minneapolis, and 2. I spent the majority of my time in the Minneapolis, not St. Paul, area.


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