Tonight, Sam and I headed out for our annual Christmastime trip to the Xcel Energy Center to watch the Minnesota Wild get trounced. Last year, the team doing the trouncing was the Red Wings, this year it was the Blackhawks. While the game was a bust, the company was excellent, and in spite of the grim situation on the ice, there was much laughter and all-around merriment.
I really can’t express how much I love the Xcel Center. I only have HSBC Arena to compare it to, but honestly, I can’t imagine a hockey arena being more beautiful. The whole atmosphere is warm and extremely inviting. This might sound crazy, but the lighting there is somehow softer and more intimate than HSBC. I can’t really describe it, but if you ever get a chance to see a game in St. Paul, I highly recommend that you do so.
In addition to being pretty, Xcel Energy Center also has a wide variety of interesting beers and snacks. We started the evening out right by ordering up a couple of gigantic Summit Pale Ales. (Just as a side note, I totally convinced the new guy working the taps to pour us a giant micro-brew when the giant “Bomber” cups were clearly only intended to be used for the 22 ounce bottles of beer. When I ordered our beers the kid said, “Well, I think the Bombers are only these Corona bottles, but I suppose I could just pour the Summit into the big glass. I don’t see why I can’t do that.” I quickly replied, “You should TOTALLY do that. Do it!” and he did. I still haven’t figured out why 22 ounce beers have to come out of a bottle at the arena. What’s uo with that?) Later on, once I had a nice little buzz going, I realized that what I wanted most in the world were some mini-donuts. Fortunately for me, the Xcel center sells mini-donuts.
Don’t even try to claim you don’t want to eat mini-donuts while watching hockey, because no one is buying it.
The game was….almost comically bad. The Wild were not good. At all. Sam was in very high spirits considering, and I have to say, I was impressed with the overall spunkiness of the crowd. At the game I attended last year the Wild were defeated by of a ruthlessly effective Detroit team, but tonight they were just plain B-A-D, and the crowd was UNimpressed. There was booing of the home team after ALL three periods, and derisive cheering for the random lackluster Wild shot on goal. I think of Minnesotans as very manicured and polite, so it was interesting to hear them let loose in giddy frustration. While the crowd was clearly displeased, it also never lost its fundamental friendliness, and I was downright impressed with the camaraderie between fans. I really hope that someday I get to see a spirited game in Minnesota, because I’d love to be apart of a celebrating Minnesota crowd. The crowd deserved much better than what it got tonight. On a personal note, it was fun to realize that although I’m a Sabres fan through and through, there is something fundamentally “Minnesotan” about how I express myself at a game. I felt very at home with the Wild fans. (Sadly, I also felt very at home with the Wild’s level of hockey. Heh.)
The Blackhawks are really zippy and fun to watch. Even Soupy. I was not-so-secretly hoping that a disastrous Soupy spin-o-rama would lead to a Wild goal, but it was not meant to be tonight. I even found myself kind of missing old sweaty Soupy. When he’s not falling apart for your team on the ice because of his contract negotiations, he’s not so bad. Ya know?
The Hockey Gods really seem to want me to see hockey from a very specific angle this season. When I got my Sabres tickets this year, I got half of them from a Sabres mini-pack, and half of them from Lizzie B’s season tickets. I was very surprised to discover that through sheer coincidence, all those seats were in the same section (310). I thought it was very charming to settle into our seats tonight and find myself with a familiar view. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this season has been staking claim to a specific part of the arena, and I’m amused that this claim seems to extend beyond HSBC Arena.
Upper deck, home team shoots twice. This is my territory.
All in all, great night. Thanks Sammy McSammerson!