Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Minnesota here I come!

            Next up is the State of Hockey, Minnesota and its Wild.  On the day after Thanksgiving, I embarked on an epic journey to Minneapolis, to see the resurging Wild play host to the young Oilers (again).  I’ll see Edmonton at least once again before I head to Alberta, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Wild have come from pretty much nowhere to become one of the top teams in the NHL, and I needed to find out why (plus I needed to go, so it was a good fit).
One piece of advice, don’t go to the Mall of America on Black Friday, just don’t.  Stuff was needed, and we figured that by noon the place wouldn’t be as crowded (it was).  However, this did give me an opportunity to gauge the popularity of the Wild in the area.  Of course, the fact that I was in the “State of Hockey” (more on that later) helped facilitate the process.  Between the hockey stores, the sports stores, and Sears, there were plenty to choose fr from.

Now, the place itself is pretty easy to get to, there’s a bus that goes right there from the airport (and the mall).  That’s another great advantage as opposed to some cities, where getting to and from the arena is a nightmare (also that’s why I haven’t been to a Chicago Express game).  Also, it’s in the heart of downtown St. Paul, right across the street from this nice place called the Eagle Street Grille.  It’s a beautiful arena, with plenty of tokens to Minnesota’s hockey heritage.  

Now, the Wild.  While they were never a truly bad team per se (except for the expansion years, obviously), they were rarely a serious playoff contender.  That’s changed.  Playing in a soft division helps, Colorado is a pretty bad team, Calgary isn’t much better, Edmonton still has a few years before they’ll get really good, and Vancouver seems burnt out, which gives the Wild a window to a division crown (in their last year in the Northwest, next year they’ll be in the tougher Central conference.  So how are they this good?  Well, their defense has improved (admittedly not playing as tough of a Vancouver team helps too), having the 5th least amount of goals allowed in the NHL (3rd in the conference).  But, I think it’s something else.  I think it’s the awesome factor.  Watch this intro.

Awesome, was it not?  That’s what I think it was, the awesome.  Even their new alternates, which I admit I didn’t like before seeing on the ice, have that classic, proper, feel to them.  Obviously I jest, but the team has certainly turned the corner this season, especially with the additions of Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley from San Jose during the offseason.

Of course, after saying all that, they were then beaten by the Oilers, because that’s how life works.  The Oilers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a few questionable calls, until Minnesota scored just before the end of the period.  The teams traded goals in the second, and Edmonton scored twice in the final period (once with an empty net) to seal the deal.

However, that didn’t put a damper on my day, as the entire experience was incredible from top to bottom.  The arena, the fans, and the game, all great (except for the gaggle of Edmontonian brats, but I’m just going to forget that for now).  Just remember kids, don’t get in the way of people shopping.
Since I'm in Toronto right now, I don't have a picture of the Board to put up, it'll be there after I finish Buffalo on Friday

1 comment:

  1. It was a good trip, even with the screaming brats behind us. One note on the Eagle Street Grille, though. Just a one-stall bathroom. Not cool. There was a huge line. I can't imagine how long the ladies had to wait.