Minnesota is affectionately referred to as the “State of Hockey” by some.
and Justin Faulk
call Minnesota home.
For the first time in their National Hockey League careers – McBain’s spanning over two seasons and Faulk’s comprising just 55 games – they will play a game in their home state on Saturday when the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Minnesota Wild.
“That’s always a fun thing – your first time going back to where you’re from,” head coach Kirk Muller said.Home
For McBain, this homecoming trip would have happened last season, had the Canes not met the Wild in a “home-and-home” set in Helsinki, Finland. He didn’t have anyone that could come out for that pair of games. Saturday night, though, he’ll have almost enough people there to fill a section.
“As a game, it’s definitely something I’ve had circled,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve got a lot of family and friends back home that haven’t seen me play in awhile, so I’m looking forward to getting back there and seeing them.”
McBain grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, a bit southeast of St. Paul. His first hockey team was the Apple Valley Mites after starting to skate at the age of two.
“We had a pond in our backyard. My dad would always go out and flood it,” he said. “Every winter, we’d go out there and skate, and my buddies would come over and we’d play pond hockey all winter long. I grew up on the ice, and hockey has kind of always been ingrained in me.”
Born in 1988, McBain was five years old when the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas. The first hockey game he saw in person was when the North Stars played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1991 Stanley Cup Final. That’s about all he remembers.
“They were gone by the time I got to really know anything about hockey,” he said.
McBain was 12 during the Wild’s first season in the NHL. He does remember those times.
“You go to the Wild games and it’s kind of surreal when you’re sitting there watching them and you’re like, ‘Wow, how fun would it be to play in this arena in front of the State of Hockey and the Minnesota fans?’” he recalled.
Years later, he’d be back in the same building playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Final Five with the Wisconsin Badgers.
“But, that still doesn’t compare to playing in the National Hockey League there,” he said.
McBain now spends his summers in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, just north of his birthplace, Edina.
“It’s the place that’s always going to be my home,” he said. “It’s where I always expect to go back in the summers, and when I’m done playing hockey, it’s a place that I’ll call home for a long time.”Returning to See Old Friends
At this time last calendar year, Faulk was in the midst of the WCHA playoffs in his freshman season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A month later, his team would be national champions, and he made the jump to the American Hockey League shortly after.
Now nearly a year later, Faulk has cemented his lineup spot with the Hurricanes and is one of the top rookies in the NHL. It’s not been long since he left Minnesota, but it will be nice to go back. In fact, he even plans on catching the tail end of the UMD hockey game on Friday night.
Faulk hails from South St. Paul, Minnesota. As an eight-year-old, he lived just 10 minutes away from the Xcel Energy Center. UMD is located a couple of hours north of his hometown, along the banks of Lake Superior.
Sixteen years ago, when Faulk was just three, his mom got him to start skating. His older brother was already playing hockey.
“With that, I was just kind of like, it’s the cool thing to do, so I started playing hockey that way, and it’s gone from there,” he said.
Typical of the “State of Hockey,” Faulk found it easy to continue playing the game, especially during the winter months.
“There are rinks everywhere. I could go two blocks, and there’d be a rink,” he said. “My buddy had a rink in his backyard, and we’d be out there every day. It was really small, but we’d just be out there messing around, like I’d play goalie.”
Now a defenseman, Faulk wasn’t sure if he’d get to return to Minnesota this season as an NHL player. Though he started the season with the Hurricanes, appearing in the team’s first three games, he was reassigned to Charlotte for close to a month.
“At the beginning of the year it was like, ‘Well, if I’m up at all, it’d be nice to be up for that game,’” he recalled.
He was recalled in late November and has remained with the team since. Now, he gets to go back home.
“I’ve played in front of family and friends for a bit now, especially in college,” he said. “But, it’s still a pretty big deal, especially for the first time. It will be good just to get home and see everybody, more importantly.”