I posted this on a few other NFL fan forums, and thought maybe some of you would enjoy...
March 17th, 2009, I took my wife out to an early dinner in downtown St. Paul and then surprised her with a Minnesota Wild game for her birthday.
She's a HUGE Wild fan..
Hockey fan in general.
And, I will say, I'm a big Wild fan, too.
But, I wasn't as big of a Wild fan before that day as I am now.
You see, the Xcel Center is known for it's supreme viewing angles and sound system.
It was even considered in the top 5 of ALL professional sporting venues (including NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL).
But when we went, and experienced the awesomeness that is the X, nothing prepared us for the culture of environment that building holds.
I don't think it has anything to do with the building itself, but the electric excitement the fans have for hockey.
The Wild are a struggling team, fighting hurt, to keep in the playoff race.
As of right now they are 11th in the Western Conference playoff hunt, 2 points behind the 8th and lowest playoff berth.
(Though, at the end of 2 periods, they are beating the Islanders 3-1) They have been without their 'superstar', Marion Gaborik for all but 8 or 9 games (He's back..
Other noteworthy contributors have been in and out of play as well.
They have been inconsistent as a team can be.
Yet, the Xcel and the excitement for hockey in Minnesota was as if the state had JUST gotten it's first NHL team.
The Xcel Center is a place where a lot of casual 'fans' and people tend to migrate to during hockey games.
I don't know why, but they do.
And they contribute BIG TIME to the environment there.
Why am I posting this?
Well, because, since March 17, 2009, I can say without shame that I'm more proud to be a Wild fan than any other professional franchise, including my beloved Vikings.
I've always loved hockey as a kid.
Since we were very poor when I was growing up, I never got to play the real sport, but I always played boot hockey (same sport, just with boots on the ice versus skates).
When the North Stars left Minnesota for Dallas, I remember crying.
And I also remember boycotting any and all hockey.
Seriously, how do you take professional hockey out of Minnesota?
The state that virtually shuts down school during the high school state tourny?
(Well, not completely shuts down, but teachers stop lessons to wheel in the TV and turn on the hockey tournament.)
But when Minnesota announced it was rewarded a new team, and that it was going to build a new arena for said team, a tiny spark of hope flickered.
In 2003, when the Minnesota Wild not only made the playoffs for the first time in team history and in the 8th seed, but became the NHL's cinderella team and made history..
the Wild had beaten the favoured and third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the first round in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit and winning both Game 6 and 7 in overtime. Brunette scored the series clinching goal. In the Western Conference semifinals, the Wild beat the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks, again in seven games, and again after being down 3-1 in a series. In the process, the Wild became the first team in playoff history to capture a seven-game series twice after facing elimination during Game 5.
Those playoff games, my dad, Shanna (my wife, then girlfriend) and I watched.
Every one of them.
And that little spark, started on fire pretty quick.
Lasted the entire playoff run, and well into the next season.
Then, with this trip to the Xcel with Shanna, my passion for hockey was ignited.
Like none other.
The best sports anthem, by the way, is the Minnesota Wild Anthem.
No team, ever, has better fans than the Wild.