X marks the spot


Forgive my lack of fresh posts. I was a tad busy last week.

My last un-planned post was last Monday’s – when I complained about the snow. Still not super happy about it, but I promise this post is not a Debbie Downer!

mnmeditations original photo

Last Tuesday I was at the X as the Wild took on the two Taylors (Hall and Chorney) of the Edmonton Oilers.  O, Canada and the Star Spangled Banner were sung. By the same man. His voice rang out strong and true. And everyone sat in silent respect for both hockey-loving nations. Though the first and second periods seemed a little sluggish, the Wild did a great job of putting on a show for the home-town crowd. J.R. (Jeremy Roenick) and the guys at Hockey Central sure were impressed with Bouchard’s spin-o-rama move in the third! So was the crowd at the X! When the crowd cheers, they cheer. And it’s so fun to be part of that atmosphere. I was proud to be a Minnesotan.

The X is hands down an incredible arena – a true showcase of all things Minnesota hockey. Wild hockey, of course, but it does not limit itself to just the pros. The X recognizes what all Minnesotan’s know – professionals don’t start out as professionals. They play youth hockey, high school hockey, and sometimes college hockey. And if they play in Minnesota, their chances of playing at the X before reaching the pros increase greatly. Because here, in Minnesota, they have opportunities to play on the Wild’s ice in high school – whether they are a boy or a girl.

mnmeditations original photo

Not even 48 hours after the Wild beat the Oilers, I was back at the X watching high school girls shatter stereotypes and score goals that would make a pro proud. Parking was much easier to come by. Seats were general admission. Free of restrictions, I moved around the X in order to find the perfect seat. I took in two games on Thursday, even though I only cared about one – the one the kid-now-adult I used to babysit was playing in. Her mom saw me before the game and we hugged in excitement and marveled at the incredibly awesome experience that was about to unfold.  And boy, was it incredible. Her team celebrated a W and advanced to the semifinals – thanks in large part to her determination and skillful scoring. And the crowds, so different from the Wild games, cheered their hearts out. Back and forth the bands battled. Back and forth the students bantered.

During one of the intermissions, I chatted with her parents and grandparents, and her older sibling, another kid-now-adult that I used to babysit (and yes, I felt like an ancient artifact when I saw the older sibling!).

That’s what the X is all about. Bringing people – friends, families, communities – together to celebrate Minnesota hockey.

mnmeditations original photo

24 hours later, I was in another city, at another Minnesota rink. Semi-bummed that I couldn’t be back at the X cheering on the kid-now-adult in the girls’ semifinals, I re-focused my hockey cheering and arrived at the beloved Minnesota rink, named after the late John Mariucci. One of my cousin’s friends, who happens to be one of my friends, too, scored us some great Gopher tickets. Very thoughtful of her since she is not a Gopher fan. She, for some reason is a loud and proud just-MacNaughton’d UND Fighting Sioux fan. So loud and proud that she never once stood when the Gophers scored, five times, on Friday. Just sat in our great seats and shook her head, while I rouser’d it up with the rest of the fans.

Thankfully, her “Save the Sioux name” love is not something that keeps us from talking to one another. So, while I kept a close eye on the plays at hand, the Gopher seniors I’ve watched for four years, we talked the entire game. About hockey. We tried to steer clear of debates surrounding UND and the Gophers, about Hakstol and Lucia, about top players and goalies. Instead, we found neutral ground and discussed other college and pro teams. We predicted the Gopher vs. Tech outcome – I said 4-2 Gopher win, she said 2-1 Gopher win. Clearly I was closest (5-2). We discussed the Final Five and Frozen Four. We agreed on our dislike of East Coast hockey. We debated the best college rink – both agreeing we want to see Bemidji and UMD’s new facilities. We talked about high school hockey. We talked about teams we both dislike, coaches we both can’t stand. We talked about March Madness – the State Tourney, the Final Five, the Frozen Four, and the NHL Draft.

Because those are all happening right here. In Minnesota. At the X. This year.

The Herb Brooks Award is waiting. Gold and Silver medals are waiting. State Trophies are waiting. At the X. Because they will be presented. This year.

The Broadmoor and Hobey are waiting. At the X. Because they will be presented. This year.

So, pull out your maps, folks. Grab a big black pen. And put a capital “X” on Minnesota.

PS (because this has to be told) – On Friday, while the Gopher band loudly blew their horns in the exiting fans’ ears, I somehow heard someone calling my rather common name. I turned and saw that it was one of my cousins. We waved from afar, I think we said a typical, “how are you?” and yelled out “I’m good!” And it was good. So good. Good to see family. At a Minnesota rink.

_________________________________________________________

I ask. You answer.

  1. Favorite NHL rink?
  2. Favorite college rink?
  3. Predictions for the Boys’ State Tourney?
  4. Predictions for the Final Five? Frozen Four?
  5. Hobey Baker predictions?
  6. NHL Draft predictions?
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