Week Five: Is it the “L Word”?

After attending my first NHL game this weekend, I had an epiphany of sorts.

As the Minnesota Wild were defeating the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center, I realized that I had started to develop a stronger feeling toward hockey. I’m not yet ready to say the “L Word” but let’s just say there is at least an infatuation.

However, those feelings had very little to do with the NHL game I was attending. In fact, it all started a night earlier.

On Friday night, while channel-surfing I stumbled upon the North Dakota and Minnesota WCHA game at Mariucci Arena. At the moment I turned the channel, a Gopher player had just been ejected. I don’t know why, or even the player’s name, but North Dakota was starting a five-minute stretch on a power play. Those five minutes may have changed everything.

I sat in my recliner, watching the clock tick down that power-play. The Gophers on the ice played hard … no wait, more than hard. I can’t think of the exact word to describe it … let’s just call it “uber-hard” for lack of a better term.

I found myself getting more into the contest every time the Gophers cleared the zone. By the end of those five minutes, I couldn’t turn away. I watched every moment of the rest of that game, and when the Gophers scored the winning goal I pumped my first. Sure, I felt silly as I was in my own home pumping my fist at a game on the TV, but it didn’t matter. I was hooked.

The next night I packed up the wife and two kids and headed out to St. Paul for the Wild game. We parked for $15 in the Kellogg Ramp, and toured the Xcel Energy Center pregame and we all were impressed with what we saw. It’s a beautiful arena. Our seats were in the second to last row of the upper deck, and we paid more than $40 per ticket. The pregame introductions were fun, the game itself was OK. The most memorable part was when a woman in the lower deck got bloodied in the head after being hit by an errant puck.

Quite honestly, the NHL game didn’t do much for me.

But when I got home, I turned on the Gophers and North Dakota and watched every minute of the third period. I was hooked again. The Gophers scored late to tie it, then the game-winner with less than a minute remaining. Don’t tell anybody, but I fist-pumped again.

For me, it’s becoming clear. The NHL might not be for me, but college hockey is everything it is cracked up to be. I have already put a plan in place to get to Mariucci Arena to catch a game in person.

Hockey, this might be the start of something beautiful.