ST. PAUL, Minn.
-- One Hockey Day Minnesota down, hopefully many, many more to go ...
I'm not big on self-referential treatment in most formats -- however anachronistic that is for guy who has worked for sports websites since 1996 -- owing to another anachronistic belief that those who write are not those who take part in the action. There are times, however, when being part of something is worth its first-person perspective.
Looking back to Hockey Day Minnesota 2007, I was then living in Colorado Springs, Colo., and can remember being envious of those who sprung for the sports package on their cable systems and could watch hockey at any point they chose to turn on the television that day. I thought of it as one of the many charms of the State of Hockey, and had looked forward to the '08 event since.
Of course, arriving here near March, I was welcomed by more hockey than I could have imagined -- and there were a few weekends I went to see at least two high school games, at least two NCAA games and at least one women’s adult league game (the latter of which suggests the reason for my move to the Midwest) during a Friday-to-Sunday run. In other words, I'm a fan of hockey and have been since growing up in one of those other hockey-playing "M" states out East.
Now working for the Wild organization, I had been waiting for Hockey Day as much as any day on the calendar. We're up to our ears in hockey every day, but I thought it charming that anyone with FSN North could just flip on the tube and watch hockey. I saw it as a perfect day for the fans, a gift for the legions here who care.
So, like many of you, we turned on the TV Saturday morning, while I wrote a preview for the Islanders vs. Wild game later in the afternoon. That was the scene: writing about hockey, watching hockey and looking forward to hearing about hockey everywhere we went. (As a native New Englander, I felt as if I had missed that local esprit de corps during Super Bowl weekend -- which ended badly, as you might recall -- but Hockey Day served as a nice replacement.)
At home in St. Paul, we enjoyed watching the high school players who didn't want to be denied their opportunity to showcase one of the best sports-related events in the country. We used the DVR to rewind all the nice plays they made and marveled at how threatening the early morning weather was in Baudette. What a show. Catching old friend Jim Rich and our intrepid blogger Matt Majka (check out his three blog entries
, all very good reads, by the way), dressed for the occasion of the -40 wind chills, was among the many joys of the coverage, and kudos to everyone involved in the event up north.
Talk about a place worthy of a road trip.
Which reminds us ... were we the only ones who found it quaint that the diehard fans in Baudette were wearing neon credentials? As if people might crash an event where Fahrenheit and Celsius are meeting on the below-zero scale?
I was also heartened to hear from my sister in Washington, D.C., where she was celebrating her birthday with her husband at the Caps game. Since temps were in the 70s earlier in the week there, we didn't have the heart to tell her how much hockey she was missing out our way. Simply, there was no better place to be in the country than right here on Saturday.
Soon, it was time to tear away from the television coverage for some live hockey here at Xcel Energy Center, where Hill-Murray and St. Thomas Academy provided the arena's matinee event. In addition to the very entertaining game (St. Thomas’ goaltender was excellent, though Hill kept coming and eventually won in OT), we also had one of those only-in-hockey moments that help round out a perfect intro to Hockey Day here.
Without knowing it, we picked a seat one row in front of my fiancée’s cousin, and we spent the next hour or so talking hockey, catching up, and talking some more hockey. As you all know, the Wild game followed, and that, too, could not have turned out better for the home team's fans. An overtime game-winner on Hockey Day? That's hockey.
Spend enough time around rinks -- from the rink rat existence of many of our youths, to the countless memories in locker rooms and on road trips when we get a little older, to the comedy that comes from having a "real" job and still hanging around the game in adult leagues, to carting kids hither and yon for more hockey -- and you'll hear the phrase: That's hockey.
It works in so many ways and is worthy of so much of what makes Hockey Day Minnesota special. Whether it's waking up to sideways snow that gives way to crisp and clear skies for an outdoor game, that's hockey; or the time an adult league teammate trips over the blue line, that, too, is hockey; or ripping a puck off the short-side crossbar and in during a pickup game; or fans seeing two overtime games in the same building, one in front of a couple hundred lucky souls, the other in front of 18,568.
Hockey Day Minnesota is all of that and more. The event celebrates not only those who participate, but it pays tribute to all that goes into the ebbs and flows of the game, its many characters, its rhythms, and the texture of the sport so many of us love. Hockey Day Minnesota ... can't wait until next year.Jamie MacDonald | Web Content