Sam and I gleefully headed out to the Wild game tonight. I have been looking forward to this game for weeks. Until tonight, I’d only attended games at HSBC arena, so I was very eager to get a glimpse of the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.
First of all, the arena is beautiful. Gorgeous. Wide concourses which are open to the arena, plenty of delicious food, lots of friendly staff, and chock full of charming details. The usher guarding our section, wouldn’t let people in during play. When he did let them in, he chastened them to get to their seats and sit down quickly. I seriously wanted to marry our usher. He is possibly the best usher in the NHL. Everything about the Xcel experience was ten times more glamorous and more produced than at HSBC. From the gate, to the intermissions, to the way the players were introduced, to the look and feel of the actual space, everything is just slicker. I cannot rave enough about the arena.
Sam got us incredible seats at center ice in the Club Level. In the Xcel Center, the Club Level means the single row of seats circling the arena above what we call the 200 level in Buffalo. Not only did we have a great view, but we were sitting at a little bar. Because there was no one behind us, we could stand up as much as we wanted, and no one had to shimmy by us to get to their seats. I can highly recommend watching a game at the Club Level at Xcel Energy Center.
Sam is making his “this game is not going well” face. We don’t know that weirdo behind us.
The game was…..well, it was…..not good. The Detroit Red Wings are a very good hockey team, and the Minnesota Wild were just not up to the task tonight. I seem to have a real knack for attending frustrating, slow games in which the home team looks brutally ineffectual. But, as we said as we were leaving the arena “It’s still hockey.” Bad live hockey is still better than no live hockey at all. In fairness, there was exceptional hockey at our game, it just wasn’t being played by the Wild. Stupid Red Wings.
It would be unfair to judge the crowd based on tonight’s game. The Wings were in complete control from start to finish and one lone goal at the end to the second period was our only real moment of celebration. Minnesotans are true hockey fans, and this game, like all of the games that have occurred since the Wild came into existence in 2000, was sold out. In Buffalo, I’m used to a pretty rough and tumble atmosphere, in Minnesota, things are a lot more manicured, for better and for worse. We were also sitting in some pretty expensive seats, and I’m willing to bet that things were a lot feistier up in the rafters.
So, there I was, sitting in amazing seats, in a beautiful arena, with one of my best friends…..watching a pretty shitty hockey game. Due to the slow pace of the Wild game, my attention began to increasingly drift towards the out-of-town score board. It was quickly deduced that the Sabres and the Flyers were playing a pretty good hockey game. Sam is a Flyers fan, so we had a lot of fun announcing the score to each other as the score crept higher and higher. Things seemed to rest at 4-5 (Flyers) for a long time, and that is where it was when our game (the one we were attending in person), entered the second intermission.
Sam and I headed out to the concourse and watched the last three minutes of the Sabres/Flyers game on the television with hoards of Wild fans milling all around us. I jumped for joy, along with my fellow and distant Buffalonians, when Vanek tied the game with 7 seconds left in regulation. Sam, understandably was less enthused than me, so he returned to his seat to watch the start of the third period. I stayed. I stood alone, in an empty concourse and watched overtime and the shootout. To the amusement of the guy manning the beer kegs, I did a little happy dance for the Sabres when Crunchy won the game. I am so proud of the Sabres and these games that they played against the Flyers. Surrounded by live hockey, in my home town, at a beautiful arena, my heart filled with love for the scrappy Buffalo Sabres. I had so much fun standing in that concourse watching the Sabres win. So. Much. Fun. (Sorry, Sammy. I’m sorry that it had to be against your team. I’m also sorry that your team is the Flyers, but that’s a post for another day.)
Here, Sam models my incredibly righteous souvenir. You wish you had a foam Minnesota Wild souvenir bear claw hand. Just admit it. But don’t be jealous; I’ll let you borrow mine.
All in all, it was a SUPER fun night. I ate a burger made out of a buffalo, I saw an incredibly beautiful arena, I sat in amazing seats, I found out that in person the Minnesota home jerseys do not look like elf costumes, I saw the best team in hockey, I got a feel for what NHL hockey in Minnesota is like, I bought a foam bear claw, I hung out with my dear friend Sam, my seats were guarded by the best usher in hockey, I got a free promotional puck, and best of all, I saw the Sabres win.