Believe me when I say, I don’t take mini-weekend trips.
I enjoy staying home on the weekends. Catching up on cleaning and laundry. Paying bills and watching TV shows I am too tired to watch during the week.
That’s a typical weekend.
This past weekend was very un-Megan-like. Yet, completely in the norm.
The first-ever Hockey City Classic took place in Chicago. At Soldier Field.
Four D1 Men’s teams, all nationally ranked, played outdoors for a crowd of 52, 051 people.
On Friday, I frantically packed for the trip. Caught up on Facebook (which I have now removed from my phone due to my compulsive checking). I had the Gopher game on in the background and was aware of their win against the Badgers.
Saturday involved a long drive, ride for me, to Chicago. Stops at Dunkin’ Donuts and Culver’s in Wis Dells reminded me why I love road trips and must add more to my yearly calendar. Writing that on my “To Do” list now..
When I finally arrived at the hotel, Hilton Chicago, I knew I was in good company. Everyone in the lobby was sporting their team colors. Badger fans milled about amidst a sea of Gopher fans. Miami of Ohio alumni bumped elbows with Fighting Irish college students.
It was like being home. Away from home.
The hotel was an upgrade from the typical rooms I am accustomed to. Not complaining. From one window I could see clear to Navy Pier. Not bad. I threw my junk all over the room, as per usual, and freshened up a bit (I feel like I just aged myself with that comment), before heading to the lounge for appetizers.
The lounge afforded me another glance at the fact that the entire hotel was full of hockey fans, families, and friends. Gopher fans warily eyed Badger fans. Notre Dame fans gave Gopher fans the once-over. Miami fans side-stepped Fighting Irish fans. Overall, it was a beautiful sight.
Once apps were inhaled, I took to the street in search of Lou Malnati’s. Along with everyone else. The place was packed. It was almost like being in Minneapolis, surrounded by Gopher fans…comfortable. The deep dish was, as expected, amazing.
When I got back to the hotel, I noticed a ball of some sort on the grand staircase/ballroom of the hotel. I watched and realized it was a Cotillion…a coming out party. Since I had never witnessed such an event, I stood and watched for a few minutes. Some Minnesota kids walked by and commented, “It’s a red and white ball.” Clearly, Minnesotans are big on formalities and traditions. Hockey traditions. Not societal traditions. We care more about hockey celebs than actual celebrities. For instance, two seconds after spying on young girls being presented to society, I caught a glimpse of Lou Nanne Sr. sitting in the lobby and watched as Mike Eaves exited an elevator and met Lou for a long chat. Tid bits of the conversation were overheard as I walked past, smiling over the exchange and enjoying the hockey connections occurring before my very eyes.
That was that for my evening out. Pizza and hockey celebs.
Since morning comes early and I knew there would be a long day ahead, I turned in around 9:30 pm. Call me a party pooper, but I was exhausted. My normal weekend bedtime is 9:00pm on a Saturday. Did I just admit that?
Have no fear. I did end up going crazy later on Saturday night. Or morning.
At 12:30, I was startled awake by the sound of loud base-pumping music, guys yelling, girls screaming, and the floor/walls shaking. I thought I could fall back asleep. Usually, I’m a very heavy sleeper. Not Saturday. I tossed and turned and hoped the noises would cease. Finally, I stumbled across the room for the phone and hit the button that I was pretty sure said “customer service.” A nice lady answered the phone, and I told her the issue with the noise and party. The woman at the front desk apologized and said she’d contact security.
I waited and heard someone with an official sounding voice talk to the people in the room above mine. Then things died down. I fell back asleep at 1 am…and at 2:30 am my eyes flew open when I heard a room full of drunk kids singing…Bohemian Rhapsody? Yes. I recognized the guitar part. I couldn’t believe my ears. The singing went on for a while. Girls were screaming. Guys were yelling. The floor was shaking. The walls were vibrating. Pleasant. Finally, everything stopped at 3 am. Closing time, apparently, and I was able to go back to sleep.
Sunday was bright and sunny. A sight that was tough on the sore eyes of the tenants in the room above mine. I smiled. Showered and readied for a quick breakfast in the lounge. The fruit was fresh and the muffin was warm.
Once again, I took to the streets and located Millennium Park. The Bean was hopping with tourists – hockey fans dressed in their team colors – killing time before the games.
Around 11am, the streets and sidewalks filled with bright colors as fans flocked to Soldier Field. It was not hard to get lost. Following the crowd guaranteed you’d arrive at the right spot.
As a non-football fan, I was quite impressed with Soldier Field and found it to be a great venue for outdoor hockey! The walls were covered with pictures of Bears’ players of yesteryear. Nagurski, a familiar Minnesota name, caught my eye and I was filled with Minnesota pride.
The first outdoor game, Notre Dame vs. Miami of Ohio, began around 12. The stands were sparse, but slowly filled in. The sun provided warmth and glare, but was better than blizzard conditions or sleet. CCHA hockey is not quite my cup of tea, but it was an interesting game. Lucia’s kid, Mario, scored a goal, and Notre Dame beat Miami. The best part of the game…a runner. On the field…avoiding the security team. He was caught and cuffed, and the crowd roared their approval by chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
Immediately following the first game, the crowds dissipated and the sun disappeared…leaving the stands empty and cold. Gopher fans and Badger fans moved in and took in the sights. College kids and alumni yelled at each other from their seats and cheers and jabs flew all over the stadium. Whenever a Bucky fan did something stupid in their drunken state, Gopher fans called out “Typical Badger fan,” shaking their heads in disgust.
Gopher fans surrounded me, and I was thankful for the support, and protection against rabid Bucky fans. Deeply missed was Goldy and the pep band, but the Gopher fans improvised with their own voices and sang their songs loud and proud.
The Gopher vs. Badger game was much faster paced than the first game. The hits were harder. The shots on net much prettier, and the score…not quite what I wanted. It was obvious that part of the issue was the unfamiliarity with the outdoor conditions, but still, the Gophers looked good and the Badgers got the puck to bounce their way.
The late third period rally and second goal were much needed for the freezing fans. A Gopher fan sitting next to me, gave me a set of hand warmers because he said he was cold just looking at me. That’s right folks, I had opted not to bring the hand warmers and toe warmers with me because “I don’t need those.” We talked for a second about how our layers were not what we’d hoped they’d be and discussed how Under Armour must only work when one is running…moving…not sitting still in the stands of an outdoor football stadium in 20 degree weather.
When the game ended, some Badger fans who were sitting amongst the Gopher fans surrounding me, commented that we were part of history.
And I guess, in the end, that’s what the game was all about. Enjoying outdoor college hockey. Celebrating USA Hockey. And cheering on two teams we know will dominate the Big Ten and show everyone what the WCHA has created. Power houses that cannot be stopped, despite conference expansion and the disbanding of the best conference in college hockey.
Thank you, Hockey City Classic.
For pics from my weekend, find me on Instagram @mnmeditations
If time permits, I may upload more here…can someone add more hours to the day?