Every area of the country has some particular sport they are especially fond of. For some areas it is basketball, for others its football, and for even more, it is baseball. But no area of the country bleeds hockey as much as the upper midwest. I am the first to admit I know very little about the sport. In fact, my first and only experience witnessing a live hockey was a few months ago when I had the opportunity to go to a UND Sioux game. You can read about that awesome experience here. For me, my knowledge of hockey consisted of that one game and the movie Mighty Ducks. And if I ever did watch a sport involving ice it was figure skating. While I knew there were a few professional sports teams and obviously some college teams, I still considered it some what of an unpopular and relatively unknown sport, similar to field hockey or synchronized swimming. (I can say this because I played field hockey in high school… I have no excuse for my synchronized swimming insult). Little did I realize just how deep the game of hockey was to midwesterners, especially in Minnesota and North Dakota.
I began realizing that this hockey thing was a little bigger than I imagined when hockey rinks began being built in the grass at local elementary schools and parks. I remember being in shock when I first noticed crews building walls and flooding the field to form a rink. “They’re BUILDING a hockey rink here?” I said to a friend. “Well, yeah?” they replied like it was as typical as an outdoor basketball or tennis court. When the weather turned cold and the flooded grass began to freeze and form a solid rink, kids began gathering in droves forming pick-up games of hockey just like they would football or basketball. Apparently, hockey starts as soon as kids can hold a hockey stick and hit a puck. They practically emerge from the womb with a pair of skates strapped to their feet. While I grew up watching pee-wee football, midwesterners experience pee-wee hockey. And while those little budding hockey players could skate full force up and down the rink, I’d be falling flat on my face.
Then came the high school state hockey tournament for Minnesota. One of my instructors explained that state hockey was like nothing I could even imagine. Entire schools would get our early to drive down the “The Cities” and cheer on their teams. No sport like that could ever compare to anything we had at my own high school in Maryland… though I don’t claim that we were actually any good at very many sports… besides field hockey that is.
The epitome of hockey came tonight as I met up with family at Buffalo Wild Wings to cheer on the Sioux for the regional title. I knew I had caught the hockey bug when I was up out of my seat cheering as they blew the Gophers out of the water (or… well… off the ice?). As I watched them pull off a major win during the last period, I couldn’t help but think how I got through the vast majority of my life without this phenomenal sport. So good luck tomorrow night Sioux. I’ll be cheering!!