Wednesday, December 05, 2007

2007 Hockey Road Trip Recap Part I

The second annual hockey road trip was a great success. Well, unless you were a Phoenix Coyote fan or player. More on this in a moment. This will be a long entry which includes my thoughts and observations about the three hockey games I attended as well as notes and thoughts on the road. If you’re a sports fan, there will be plenty here about hockey and the arenas where the games were played. If you’re not a sports fan, there will be plenty here about Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit and points in between. I should probably start at the beginning.

This year’s road trip actually started in the air. I was all prepared to start this post by complaining about AirTran. Although the airline provided the cheapest tickets by far, I was not all that keen on taking a 6:40 AM flight from Dulles to Atlanta with a 3-hour layover before flying to Minneapolis/St. Paul. My return flight featured only 30 minutes between stops, so I figured that I had an excellent chance of missing the second flight and staying in Atlanta for hours, possibly missing Sunday night’s Steelers-Bengals game. Plus, if you want to chose a specific seat, whether it is window, aisle or even middle, AirTran charges $7.50 per leg. So what happened? I had window and aisle seats on all four segments, the flights departed and arrived on time, and AirTran has XM satellite radio, so I was able to listen to ESPN radio on Sunday’s flight in order to get updates on my fantasy football teams. Overall, I’ll give AirTran a thumbs up, particularly for XM, but did I really need to fly through Atlanta to get from Dulles to Minnesota and then again from Detroit to Dulles? Plus, charging to choose a particular seat seems a bit absurd.

Wednesday, November 28

After arriving at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, the first stop was naturally the Mall of America (MOA). Actually, my first stop should have been an attempt to find the famous “Larry Craig bathroom” at the airport, but after a long day of traveling, I just wanted to get my bag, get the rental car and start the trip. According to its website, the “Mall of America is the nation’s largest retail and entertainment complex.” My thought: “This is a big mall.” MOA features an indoor amusement park, aquarium, movie theater and hundreds of shops and restaurants. Of course, what I noticed most was the multiple Caribou Coffee and Orange Julius restaurants. There also seems to be a good number of Minnesota related stores selling Minnesota items. Despite the hundreds of stores, including a giant Lego store and a Green Bay Packers store (in Vikings territory!), there was no Leftorium. There was, however, a Long John Silvers, which made me very happy. In case you were wondering, my food for the entire day consisted of a Dunkin’ Donuts donut; Egg McMuffin meal; Long John Silvers meal; arena popcorn; and a beer. Breakfast of champions!

Following the trip to the mall, it was time for the first hockey game: your Minnesota Wild versus your Phoenix Coyotes. A few notes about the XCel Center, the Minnesota Wild and the game:

- The XCel Center is located in downtown St. Paul, both of which are very cool. The arena opened in 2000 and still feels like a new arena with a huge merchandise shop and numerous food and beer options. I was also really impressed with the area directly surrounding the arena. Besides the numerous bars and restaurants, the arena is attached to a convention center and theatre with a beautiful small park just behind it.

- The arena was filled with signs for the “State of Hockey,” which apparently is Minnesota. They even have a neat little song and video. As much as I wanted to make fun of the song, it is significantly better than “The Hockey Song” (otherwise known as The Gold Old Hockey Game).

- I searched for nearly an hour online to find a picture of the ticket stub without success. The ticket features a picture of Brain Cutter, a Wild fan in Section 218 wearing a Wild hat and jersey. What I don’t understand about the picture is that Cutter is holding three plastic cups, one of which has the Buffalo Sabres logo and another one for the Nashville Predators. I don’t get it.

- Former Penguin Mike Ramsey is an assistant coach for the Wild.

- As for the game itself, Marion Gaborik scored a game-winning goal on a breakaway, after getting behind the defense on two other occasions and getting stopped by Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The final score was 3-1 and was perfectly summarized by Coyotes defenseman Nick Boynton who said, “"I didn't think they were very good either. It was two bad teams out there and it's unfortunate that we didn't come out on top. They were ready to be had and we didn't play well enough."

- It really was a terribly boring game. Even though there were 18,000+ in attendance, there was no excitement and the crowd was fairly quiet. Maybe this has to do with the game itself, but if you claim to have the world’s greatest fans (or something like that), call yourselves the “Team of 18000” and retire the number 1 as a tribute to the fans, I expect some enthusiasm and passion.

Finally, I learned of the following Minnesota saying: “Uff Da.” It is featured on T-shirts and bumper stickers in several of the Minnesota stores. I asked someone I know from Minnesota what this means, and he replied that it is a Minnesota way to say Oy Vey. I really would like someone to use Uff Da in a sentence.

Oh, the temperature on Wednesday night was a whopping 7 degrees with a very cold wind chill.

I’ve only written about one day of the trip, but I’m done for now. Stay tuned for part two.


Archi said...

"My in-laws are comin' to tahn 'n 'at. Uff da!"

Sean said...

That's a great sentence!