Hockey Night in Minnesota

Last updated on October 3rd, 2014 at 05:02 pm

Minnesota has a deep and rich tradition in the game of hockey. There are portions of the state, especially this time of year, where kids can actually play the game outside. The high school state tournament is an event not to be missed if you love hockey—just as the Indiana state basketball championship used to hold such reverence in that state for that sport.

Professional hockey also holds a special place. When the National Hockey League made the controversial decision to expand from the ‘Original Six’ to ‘twelve,’ Minnesota was sought as an expansion destination. In 1967, the Minnesota North Stars were born and for 26 seasons, they called Bloomington home. Though they never won the Stanley Cup, reaching the final twice, the love for the North Stars was undeniable.

In 1993, owner Norman Green (facing personal scandal and citing financial woes later contradicted) moved the beloved franchise to Dallas where they did win the Stanley Cup in 1999 and still skate as the Dallas Stars. Signs of the North Stars are still everywhere in Minnesota, the familiar green N with the golden star is still seen, and sold, throughout the state. Residents of Minnesota refer to it as ‘The State of Hockey.’

Much as the National Football League reacted after the Cleveland Browns left town to become the Baltimore Ravens, the NHL made it a priority to return to the state. In 2000, the Minnesota Wild took the ice in a beautiful building in Saint Paul. Now known as the Xcel Energy Center, the building is an ode to Minnesota’s rich hockey history.

The arena does not feel like a modern arena at all, though all the modern amenities so important are there. It has the feel of an outdoor lodge, a place you would expect to come and relax with your friends after a hard day. Hockey arenas are often referred to as barns and this building has that feel all over. It was a place I wanted to see, and on Saturday I got that opportunity.

It was the second visit of the season to Saint Paul for the Nashville Predators. Like the first, it was Chris Mason in goal. It was a game the traditionalists in attendance certainly enjoyed. Though the crowd was a bit standoffish early, the Wild had lost three straight. The crowd was glued to every hit, every shot, and every pass.

Paul Gaustad got the Predators on the board at 10:11 of the first. Minnesota tied it in the second at 12:59 on a perfect deflection by crowd favorite Cal Clutterbuck. The game was tense through a scoreless third before a controversial penalty gave Minnesota the advantage in overtime. Gaustad went to the box for a faceoff infraction, and is said to have passed the puck with his hand from the faceoff circle. Devin Setoguchi won the game for Minnesota at 4:21 on a perfect one-timer.

A disputed and likely incorrect ruling did Nashville in. What is not disputable is the amazing atmosphere that was found within Xcel Energy Center, in ‘The State of Hockey.’