Creation No. 0022
Game On! Literally
Full disclosure: I was really excited for last weekend’s Stadium Series at TCF. Maybe a little too excited.
When my buddy texted me the five words, I GOT A HOTEL ROOM, things went to the next level. I arrived at The Commons Hotel, or mission control for the Stadium Series, with a bag of cigars, a case of Coors Light, a cooler, Pedialyte, and an orange Ion Job Rocker portable stereo. I walked into the hotel bar to meet my two buddies feeling like a senior about to have his high school overnight lock-in. I was an accident waiting to happen, but that’s a story for a different (and probably better) article.
A little over 24 hours later, after attending both the Alumni Game on Saturday and the Stadium Series on Sunday, the only way I can describe the entire weekend was Hockey Christmas. It was simply perfect, and here are 10 reasons why:
10) Franchise Jedi Mind Trick
We can all admit it: We never quite got over the North Stars leaving. And while the Wild are our favorite NHL team today, all it takes is a glimpse of that old North Star logo to get us all dewy-eyed and hearts aflutter. That’s why the Wild’s move to embrace the North Stars with the alumni game was so brilliant. It must have taken some openmindedness from the NHL, because technically the North Star history now belongs to Dallas. However it happened, the blurring of those lines was pure magic. This entire weekend felt a bit like an in vitro fertilization where both the North Stars and Wild franchise were mixed in a cocktail never to be separated again. It was a brilliant and brave move, finally connecting the present with the past. I’m not sure what they did, but somehow after this weekend I’ve already started depositing those deep emotional North Star memories into my Wild account.
9) Cue the Fluffy Flakes
When it started snowing on Sunday, the flakes were so big and fluffy that they looked more like the fake snow packed around the rink on TCF Field than real flurries. Personally I don’t remember seeing snow at an outdoor game since the first one when Pittsburgh beat Buffalo, the falling snow snow falling down turned TCF into a giant snow globe. It looked so good live at the game you couldn’t help but turn to your buddy with a sense of Minnesota pride and say, “This has to look good on TV.”
Let's Play Hockey
8) One Word: Flyover
Actually, make it four words. Besides my buddy saying WE GOT A HOTEL ROOM, the next best words of the weekend have to be FLYOVER and LET’S PLAY HOCKEY. The choreographed and made-for-TV puck drop at Sunday’s Stadium Series game was perfect with the fighter jet flyover and half the stadium spelling out Let’s Play Hockey using synchronized cardboard cards.
7) Rah, Rah, Rah for Ski-U-Mah!
There was something special about all the former Golden Gophers taking charge of the game played on campus at TCF. Eric Haula had a goal and two assists, Thomas Vanek scored, and Mike Reilly added an assist. Spin your head! Spin your head!
6) Secord Sucks!
The crowd was electric both Saturday and Sunday—from chanting “Secord Sucks” at an Alumni Game from which he was noticeably absent, to chirping “Craw – Ford, Craw – Ford!” until he was relieved of his duties on Sunday. I also loved hearing smatterings of the old “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant randomly mixed in during a game that so clearly angered Canadian poster boy Jonathan Toews on Sunday.
5) State of Hockey Roll Call
The video tribute to Minnesota’s top ten scorers on Sunday was a perfect nod to the State of Hockey. It really put a bow on the weekend, and it was impressive how many of the guys came in for the tribute, including current Nashville assistant and top scorer Phil Housley. I also loved how many teams were present at the game all sitting together and wearing their jerseys. If the State of Hockey had a theme party (just like all the great “This is Sports Center” commercials), it felt like it was happening this weekend at The Bank.
Rob Lowe - Neal Broten
4) The Commons Was Uncommon
As former Gopher Tony Dungy would say, the scene at The Commons Hotel was uncommon to say the least. The hotel was headquarters for the alumni who were in town, and packing all those hockey heroes into one place felt like the hockey equivalent of the Star Wars bar. A few highlights from the VIP events in the building included a dapper Tony Esposito seeming to play the role of the Blackhawk’s Tony Bennett. Spend 5 minutes talking with cool cat Tony O, and you’ll want to buy a pair of white leather shoes. The VIP festivities also featured the appearance of Neal Broten, who was there but of course snuck out a little early (as Neal Broten is wont to do) from the events. By the way, is there anybody cooler than Neal Broten? He’s like Rob Lowe coming back to campus in St. Elmo’s Fire. At one point when Broten was sneaking out at the end of a VIP party, someone asked if I wanted to meet him. I had to say no, because there’s something about just watching Neal Broten from afar that’s so much better than knowing more. Stay cool forever, Neal; I know you will.
3) Old-Time Hockey Gear
The retro mask 65-year-old Gilles Meloche wore in net was truly amazing. If goalies looked that cool now, every kid in America would be strapping on the pads. And if you still weren’t convinced hockey used to be so much cooler, CCM rolled out some retr- looking brown gloves that were perfect for the event.
2) Supporting Cast Get Their Swag On
While faces of the franchise Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were held pointless, the supporting cast was off the charts. From Ryan Dumba’s first goal and corresponding jump into the boards, to Jason Pominville (yes, Jason Pominville) putting up 3 points and cellying like a young Jack Eichel. It felt like the Wild franchise was howling at the moon again. And it felt good.
1) We Had Six, They Had One.
Oh yeah! Didn’t hurt that the Wild absolutely destroyed the Blackhawks 6-1 on Sunday. Am I the only one who feels a deep sense of calm just because our new coach is nicknamed “Torch”? Zucker getting hurt was the only real letdown in a game that played out like a Disney script.
I guess the only question that remains is, where do we go from here? The Wild did a brilliant job, as did the city of Minneapolis, the National Hockey League, and the University of Minnesota, in putting this thing on. It really was a perfect event. I’m not sure how you would dial things up for a Winter Classic, but even if it were the same, I’d gladly watch the sequel.