The One Where I Attend a Minnesota Wild Game, and Fall Deeper in Love With the Buffalo Sabres.

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.


21 Responses to “The One Where I Attend a Minnesota Wild Game, and Fall Deeper in Love With the Buffalo Sabres.”

  1. 1 Meg December 23, 2007 at 3:00 am

    You know, looking at that picture of you and Sam makes me think that the Wild jerseys–which I love, incidentally–are actually quite Christmasy. How appropriate.

    Also, there are few things that fill my heart with such glee as the Sabres beating the Flyers. Doing so twice in two days is totally one of those things.

  2. 2 Matt December 23, 2007 at 3:28 am

    I found out that in person the Minnesota home jerseys do not look like elf costumes,

    I’ve always thought those jerseys were instant classics. I adore the simple lines and the old-skool circle emblem. I must admit that it wasn’t until much later that I found out they’re red/green (colorblindness is a bitch), but I still think they’re one of the best Uni’s in the league.

    I always find it distressing when I go to newer arenas than HSBC, because I come “home” feeling like a city with such die-hard fans should have better. Then I remember the really nice things about HSBC that other arena’s don’t do well…

    * A large entrance atrium, so you don’t have to stand outside in the cold. NJ does not do this well.

    *Comfortable steps to climb. Even in the upper tier, it never feels like you’re going to fall to your death. Chicago, NJ, Toronto, and Long Island are particularly bad for this.

  3. 3 Becky December 23, 2007 at 8:40 am

    “Comfortable steps to climb. Even in the upper tier, it never feels like you’re going to fall to your death.”

    That was one thing that the orange level in the Aud definitely failed at. However they were good seats to buy to get into the door. Where to actually sit became an excursion in stealth.

  4. 4 Anne December 23, 2007 at 9:57 am

    The keeping people from wandering about in the seats during play happens at HSBC too. It’s called “wait for the whistle” you usually don’t know about it until it happens to you. It happened to me at the Columbus game in October, but I didn’t miss much so I didn’t care. But Friday’s game I was firmly planted in my seat, I didn’t want to miss a second. Ok I wasn’t firmly planted when we scored, then I jumped and screamed like a loon and when Kotalik scored, almost dumped my beer on the woman in front of me who said 1 thing all night: “don’t you think it’s cold in here”…uhhh lady, it is called ICE hockey, they have to keep it cold in here and maybe if you cheered once in a while, you’d be warmer.

  5. 5 Katebits December 23, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I always find it distressing when I go to newer arenas than HSBC, because I come “home” feeling like a city with such die-hard fans should have better.

    Xcel arena was a real revelation. It was just SO much better. BUT, HSBC is filled with Sabres fans, so it has that going for it. :P

    Anne, the mini-pack seats I sit in at HSBC are way WAY in the rafters, far away from the watchful gaze of any ushers. I think part of the reason our usher last night seemed so hard core is because he was literally standing next to me during the game, and he seemed to take a particular interest in making sure my personal view was unobstructed at all times. He had the people in front of us ducking as they scuttled to their seats. It was awesome.

    Meg, the Minnesotans were in FULL Santa-hat Christmas mode, and yes, it looked great with the jerseys.

  6. 6 ReigningFrog December 23, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Katebits, is there an equivalent of the “Carubba Collision” moment in Minnesota?

  7. 7 Heather B. December 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Also, there are few things that fill my heart with such glee as the Sabres beating the Flyers. Doing so twice in two days is totally one of those things.

    It’s especially fun when we let the Flyers think they’re going to win and THEN beat them :-)

    And did you guys see Hank trying SO HARD to get the GWG for me? What a nice guy!

    Kate, I was hoping you were watching because the Sabres were bounding around like little puppies after pulling out the victory. So cute.

  8. 8 Sam December 23, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Kate’s bouncing was not unlike that of a puppy, especially when Buffalo tied it. She was squealing and jumping and clearly wanted to grab and hug me in a fit of joy. She couldn’t, of course, because I had turned my back and was knocking my head repeatedly into the nearest wall.

  9. 10 Not!Gambler December 23, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I would love to go to Xcel, because it looks absolutely gorgeous from the outside. I’m so glad the Sabres showed you a good time while you were there, even if the Wild couldn’t!

  10. 11 Lisa December 23, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Hey there Willful Caboose!,

    I’ve been reading your blog since October and recently decided to start my own one! Thanks for the inspiration and I hope you don’t mind! Its nowhere near as good as yours but its great fun to write! Lets go Buffalo (and the Penguins, and the Edinburgh Capitals!)

    All the best,


  11. 12 Katebits December 23, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Lisa! Hooray for your new blog! Make sure that you leave your url in the form when you leave a comment so your name will link back to your blog. I want to read it! Thanks for reading TWC, and congratulations on your new blog!

  12. 13 elise December 23, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    aw, Kate, that poste makes me so happy. like Jacoby Ellsbury is sitting in my living room happy. we must attend a game together sometime!!

  13. 14 jonhoepfinger December 24, 2007 at 9:23 am

    So kate who jumped higher on the tieing goal, you or Thomas Vanek

  14. 15 Lisa December 24, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I have no idea how to change the web address from my username!



    Happy Christmas everyone!

  15. 16 Steph December 27, 2007 at 2:31 am

    Now see…I thought that was a wonderful game :)

    I love hearing what you had to say about the Xcel Center though – I was supposed to make it down to the Wild/Oilers game this week but my travel plans fell through. I’m hopefully going to grad school in Minnesota and I obviously can’t go anywhere with a subpar hockey experience – but this sounds anything but! (And Kirsten keeps telling me it’s great but she lives there, of course she does! :P)

  16. 17 Courtney S.F. January 9, 2008 at 12:51 am

    That sounds like it was almost as much fun as WNBA game.

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  1. 1 Hey! It’s Just Like a Sabres Game! « The Willful Caboose Trackback on December 29, 2008 at 1:24 am
  2. 2 Sudden Death Chipotle Challenge, and Other Disgusting Atrocities: A Story in Two Parts « The Willful Caboose Trackback on December 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm

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