Last year, Hockey Wilderness earned the opportunity to do something we wanted for years before that. We were granted full access to the team, along with press credentials and a spot in the press box for every home game. We are still honored, and slightly humbled, by that chance, and would not give it up for anything. Oh, who am I kidding, we aren't humbled. It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way, right?
Last night, however, I took the chance presented and not only attended the game as a fan for the first time in two seasons, but also had some experiences most Wild fans don't get to have everyday. Humor me, and make the jump for a quick overview of my night.
The evening's attendance at the game was not selfish in the slightest. Defending the Blue Line was out as the game's program sellers, and I offered up my services and those of my daughter. If you ever have the chance to sell programs, do it. What an awesome experience. Watching the kids belt out their sales pitch is something anyone can love, even after hearing it a couple hundred times. My daughter rocked it, by the way. People kept walking up and telling her - "I could hear you all the way down the hall, even over the crowd. I just had to come buy it from you."
She's loud. I wonder where she get's that from.
I also got to talk with a couple members of the Wilderness who just happened to stop by our little section of the rink. It is always amazing when people know our little site, and it comes up in random conversation. Thank you all for that. The hits, the page views, all mean nothing. The look on the one guy's face when he found out I wrote for HW was priceless. Like he had met Mikko Koivu randomly in the hallway or something.
Awesome. Thanks for that.
We missed almost the entire first period selling programs, but who cares? It was worth it, and it earned us a couple free seats in with the DTBL gang. Section 125, back row, close to the food and the restrooms. Perfect seats.
I spent the game chatting with my daughter about the rules and what was happening on the ice. Yes, at nine years old, this was her first ever NHL game. And I made her work. Mean ol' dad. Down one after one, we talked about how to read the scoreboard, what a penalty meant for each side, and what a "shot" was compared to a "goal."
When Guillaume Latendresse scored to tie the game, my daughter was shocked by how loud the X got, and the reaction from the fans. It didn't take her long to catch on that when I said "This is the only place you will get told to be louder." When Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored to tie it, she was one of the first ones up and screaming. By the end of the game, she was doing a little dance with Joe Satriani leading the way the whole time.
At the second intermission, the DTBLers were invited up the NHL Alumni room. It helps to have firends in high places (thanks, Mr. Maxwell.) I had met all of the guys before during DTBL events, but had never been in the lounge set aside just for them. I explained to my daughter that this was a special honor, and that the guys in the room were all hockey players in the past.
I watched in delight as my daughter explained her favorite parts of her first ever NHL game to three or four different former NHLers. The guys were all genuinely interested in her answers to their questions. Amazing experience for both her, and her proud papa.
As you all know, the meaning of a hockey game is not determined by the outcome of the game. Certainly a winning score helps matters, but if you ever have the chance to attend a game with a kid, do it. Watch the game through their eyes. Help them learn to love the game you love so much. Sell some programs to make sure other kids get the chance to play hockey, just like most of you did as kids.
The game could have ended with the exact opposite score last night, and I still would have wrote this piece in the same tone as I just did. The look in a little girl's eyes as she sees the ice at the X for the first time and stops dead in her tracks just to look at it. The smile on her face when she realizes she got caught staring at an empty sheet of ice, and the comfort on her face when her dad walks back and joins her to just stop and stare at the ice.
She could not wait to go to school today with her brand new Wild shirt and hat on, to tell all of her friends and her teacher about her experience. She likely won't mention the staring contest with the ice, or the visit to the Alumni room. She will talk about goals and the yelling, the speed and rules. Someday, though, she'll remember stopping and staring at that ice, and getting to sit and talk with Brad Maxwell about her first NHL game.
I've been to a lot of hockey games, folks. More than should likely be allowed in a world rife with poverty. I still remember the first time I walked into a NHL arena with my dad. Now I get to know why my dad talks about that game so often.
What a night. Just a fan in the stands.
Thank you to Defending the Blue Line for the opportunity to help out last night, and to have the experience we had.