Introducing a new Game On! Minnesota franchise MEME, MYSELF, AND I, where we talk to the top high school players in the state. But unlike your regular morphine drip of an interview, we’re going to put these players to work asking them to create Internet memes to be included in the conversation. For our first MEME, MYSELF, AND I, we went straight to the top of the chart and started with the Don, the head of the Minnesota Mafia of high school hockey, Eden Prairie’s own Casey Mittelstadt.
Game On! Minnesota: So you decided to stay for your senior year rather than accelerate into college or play Juniors. How did you arrive at that decision?
Casey Mittelstadt: I think obviously with how last year ended, the main thing for me was you grow up playing with these guys. And they’re the main reason I fell in love with the game in the first place growing up and playing pond hockey at 2 a.m. To be honest, that was enough to know I had to come back.
Game On! Minnesota: You talk about the guys you grew up playing hockey with as a kid. Who are those players on your team?
Casey Mittelstadt: It’s been a lot, really everybody. But our goalie Nick Wiencek, Nicky Leivermann, Nolan Sullivan, Cory Schoo, and Noah Deraney are a few guys I remember playing backyard pond hockey with at 2 a.m.
Game On! Minnesota: Was there a moment you knew you were going to stay in high school for your senior year—whether it was right after the State Championship or driving in your car a month later?
Casey Mittelstadt: It’s not one moment. It’s a tough decision, obviously. I talked to a lot of the guys who stayed in the past, like Mike Graham, Riley Tufte, and Luc Snuggerud. And they all told me the same thing, “best year of your life.”
Game On! Minnesota: Wow. Best year of your life. That’s a lot of pressure, so how’s that going so far?
Casey Mittelstadt: It’s been great. I got home, and my boys took me out for dinner. We’re getting through tryouts now, and it’s going well.
Game On! Minnesota: Do you think you’ll make the team?
Casey Mittelstadt: Hopefully, I’m trying.
Game On! Minnesota: I’ve seen it said that you’d like to accomplish everything Kyle Rau has in his career. Can you talk about the unfinished business you have and the influence of Rau on your career?
Casey Mittelstadt: The biggest thing is a state title. Obviously, growing up in Eden Prairie, everyone’s idol is Kyle Rau. He won the two state titles, and had the big goal against Duluth East. Winning state would be a great way to go out.
Game On! Minnesota: A state championship is a big deal, but who is the front-runner on Eden Prairie for the All Hockey Hair Team?
Casey Mittelstadt: We’re pretty clean-cut, but I think it’d be Andrew Erwin. I don’t think he’d make the team for good flow; I think he’d make it for a little bit of gross.
Game On! Minnesota: A little bit of gross; what’s he got going?
Casey Mittelstadt: He’s got the long hair, and he just grows gross facial hair. His hair is super-long. It just looks like, I don’t even know. It’s shaggy. He’d be good for the hockey hair team.
Game On! Minnesota: What music are you listening to these days?
Casey Mittelstadt: Last year’s theme song was “Do or Die.” But I’ve actually been doing a lot of Country. Back in Green Bay [Editor’s note: Mittelstadt also has spent some time with the USHL team in Green Bay], we got really into old Taylor Swift. Songs like “Fifteen,” “You Belong with Me,” and “Blank Space.”
Game On! Minnesota: So you’re telling me the Green Bay Gamblers crush Taylor Swift.
Casey Mittelstadt: Yep.
Game On! Minnesota: So, how did you decide on the University of Minnesota Gophers as your college choice?
Casey Mittelstadt: That was an easy decision for me; it’s what I always wanted to do. My parents have pictures of me at age two or three wearing a Gopher jersey everywhere I went. It’s been a big dream of mine.
Game On! Minnesota: Eden Prairie has the outdoor game this year on Hockey Day in Minnesota. That has to be exciting?
Casey Mittelstadt: When we drive back from Green Bay, we drive pretty close and I was thinking about it. It’s going to super-cool down there on the river. Both teams are pretty deep— it should be fun on the pond. I’ve never played in an outdoor game.
Game On! Minnesota: What are the top 3 apps on your phone?
Casey Mittelstadt: I used to be a gamer, but not so much anymore. Probably NHL Gamecenter and Snapchat. One game I used to play a ton when I was younger was Clash of Klans. I like basketball a lot, too.
Game On! Minnesota: Who is your favorite basketball player?
Casey Mittelstadt: Russell Westbrook.
Game On! Minnesota: What are you watching on TV these days?
Casey Mittelstadt: One Tree Hill is my favorite show ever. But I’m usually only watching hockey and basketball. I watch the Penguins when they’re playing, or the Blackhawks and Wild.
Game On! Minnesota: Movies?
Casey Mittelstadt: I haven’t seen a movie in a long time. Oh, wait. I went to see that movie “Sully” about the captain while I was in Green Bay. That was good.
Game On! Minnesota: All right, let’s get into the memes you sent me. This first one with Sidney Crosby as the Greatest-of-All-Time (GOAT), what’s that mean to you?
Casey Mittelstadt: Well, he’s been my favorite player as long as I can remember. And to this day someone can say something so dumb like, “Someone is better than Crosby,” and I still get in an argument. I defend him to the death, and the way he ended last year—that helped me out.
Game On! Minnesota: How about this shot with your buddy that says MEMS?
Casey Mittelstadt: That’s a shot of me and Mike Graham from so long ago. He always sends me that picture. Even though it’s just the two of us, it represents me and all my buddies that grew up together playing in the backyard.
Game On! Minnesota: Okay, I’ve been hearing about this mythical Mittelstadt rink in the backyard. Does it have a name? Tell me more.
Casey Mittelstadt: It doesn’t have a name. We’ve done a backyard rink as long as I can remember. In the summer it’s a sport court where we play street hockey, and in the winter it’s pond hockey.
Game On! Minnesota: Now I know you have a couple younger brothers. Are we dealing with a Minnesota version of the Staal family here? How are they as players?
Casey Mittelstadt: They’re both really good. One is a first-year Bantam, and the other is a second-year Bantam. They’re both on the Bantam AA team. My middle brother is pretty similar in style to me, he’s just a little smaller. He’s quick and small, and makes plays. My other brother is a defenseman, which I think was confusing to all of us. But he’s an offensive defenseman.
Casey's younger brother Luke (the defenseman)
Game On! Minnesota: Your last meme has a shot of Eden Prairie at the Xcel Energy Center and reads ONE MORE GO. What does that mean to you?
Casey Mittelstadt: One more go this year—it means one last chance. You grow up as a kid going to the tourney; it’s something you want super-bad. You don’t even realize it until you get there.
Game On! Minnesota: Last year, getting so close, what was it like in the locker room after losing the state final?
Casey Mittelstadt: Man, it was pretty much everyone going around the locker room hugging each other and bawling their eyes out. You’re seeing your best friends go, obviously you’re super-sad. Later on, you remember all the memories you had getting there, but it’s a pretty sad night.
Game On! Minnesota: As a player you must have a bullseye on your back. Who gives it to you the most on the ice?
Casey Mittelstadt: I think honestly it’s Wayzata; they’re always going after us. But I don’t mind going after us; it’s been that way for me for a long time.
Game On! Minnesota: So all these guys like Tufte and Sunggerud that told you to stay in high school promising the “best year of your life.” Knowing what you know now, what would you say to a kid in a similar situation who is feeling pressure to accelerate or fast-forward to the next level, leaving high school early to go to Juniors?
Casey Mittelstadt: I’d tell him to slow down. High school is the last year before it comes to business. It’s the last chance to play with your buddies. So, whether you want to fast track to the NHL or college or whatever you want to do, the first thing is to remember the reason you fell in love with the game.