The hardest of part of travelling out of state for hockey tournaments is trying to fit all of the luggage and all of the players into the trunk. It’s a bit of a game as you fight with the hockey bags, maneuver the suitcase and ultimately decided you can live with the sticks in the passenger compartment. Success comes with a true sense of accomplishment once you finally get it all to fit. Once we got the luggage jigsaw puzzle figured out in the trunk, we headed to my parent’s house in the Northern suburbs. The ride home was filled with the boys laughter and excited energy. They were excited to finally make it to our destination, and we were too, but we were exhausted and they were wired.
Once at my mom’s house, Michelle and Andrew got acclimated and felt at home – like most people do at my parents- in short order. My mom was ready for us with plenty of fresh cookies to go around. My dad, two weeks post hip surgery, was surprisingly agile and mobile compared to what I had expected. My parents and my niece and nephew were thrilled to see us and our friends. Thankfully my parents were able to help us convince the boys they should take a nap before we headed to the Wild game. They fought taking a nap, but were soon asleep.
After a nice, lengthy nap we got ready and headed down to St. Paul to see the Minnesota Wild take on the Chicago Blackhawks in game 4 of round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a must win game for the Wild, so the Mayor and I were hoping our squad would show up. While I’ve been to several Wild games in Minnesota and Michelle had been to several Chicago home games, our boys had only been to Florida Panthers games. This was going to be a completely different experience for them.
We got to the game with plenty to spare having hit much less traffic than I had anticipated. Since we had the kids, we couldn’t really pre-game at McGovern’s or Tom Reid’s so we headed into the Excel Energy Center after buying some nice souvenirs. The kids were quick to notice that unlike at the Panther’s games, a lot of the crowd starting to file in was already drunk. Fortunately, neither the Mayor nor Andrew were shy about sharing their observations with others. They were a magnet for trouble and for the second night in a row, Michelle and I were convinced we were going to get shot or beat up on account of their mouths.
The pre-game started and their mouths were agape. The game experience in the Excel Energy Center is second to none as is the energy in the crowd. Having only been to Panthers games previously, the boys’ mouths were agape. They had never seen a building alive with that much energy. For them, the experience was incredible and one they still talk about to this day. As the festivities continued, the fans continued to file in and the boys continued to comment on how they were so drunk they had already spilled beer down the front of their pants.
Unfortunately for the Wild, the most dynamic part of their game was the pre-game and the introductions. They were flat the entirety of the game. The few chances they did have, they did their best to make Crawford look like a god of goal tending. While the Wild’s play was lackluster, the entertainment from the crowd around us was not. A couple comprised of a Wild and a Rangers fan, got into a huge fight and at the behest of the surrounding crowd and his other friends, he ditched her. There was drunk goal to the right of us that managed to fall down two rows barely spilling her beer and not hurting herself.
Perhaps the best moment of the game, was when Andrew started talking smack to the two fans sitting behind him and the Mayor. They were both drinking and one was spitting some chew. Andrew felt compelled to tell him that he was going to call his mother and let her know that her son is a drunk that chews. Thank god they had a sense of humor and thought that the boys were hilarious.
By the skin of our teeth, Michelle and I survived another adventurous night with our crazy boys. The Wild lost and the Blackhawks went on to become Stanley Cup champions that year. Two years later, the Mayor still talks about how incredible it was to be in the Excel Energy Center that night and be a part of the experience. Making new memories and sharing great experiences with my boys, their friends, and my friends is one of the best parts of having our kids participate in a travel sport.
Part 1 and part 2 of the story can be found below: