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Rocket's Red Glare: Two hockey games, one day. A running diary (Part I)

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • March 23, 2012 - 1:16 PM

Commenter Rocket writes about hockey because he mistakenly thinks we don't care about it. We proved him wrong by going to two hockey games in one day with him -- and then he demanded that he got to be the one to write about it, anyway, and that he was going to include utter fiction about our mood. Here is Part I of his running diary. We'll split it into two parts so we don't break Ramon's old record for longest guest post. Rocket?

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Question: What happens when you add a trip from the Carolinas back to the motherland, two hockey games, St. Patrick’s Day, downtown St. Paul, an unseasonably warm Saturday in March, and two idiots who met in junior high and haven’t grown up much in the quarter of a century since then?

Answer: A RandBall running diary.
 
Saturday, March 17, 6:15 AM – I am starting this day at the unseemly hour because I am about a five hour drive from the cities and if I have any hope of getting to game one on time I’m going to have to hit the road by at least 7:30. I am not a morning person and I am especially unenthusiastic about being awake before the sun rises. Nonetheless, I refuse to be denied the rare opportunity to see a hockey doubleheader. The Wild are clashing with my recently adopted team, the Carolina Hurricanes, at 1:00 with the championship game of the WCHA Final Five set for the puck drop at 7:00. Tickets for the Wild have not been hard to come by for a while now and the equally baffling, if otherwise completely different, losses by the Gophers and the Bulldogs strongly suggest that tickets for the WCHA championship won’t be impossible either. Luckily, I set out my clothes for the day the night before, including my sweet UNC hockey jersey, and it looks like I will be getting out of the door on time.
 
10:00 AM – I can’t wait for Beyond the Pond. Not only will it help me kill the last two hours of the car trip, but it’s going to be a lot of fun after Minnesota’s epic collapse to UND. Like RandBall, I have seen both sides of the UND/Minnesota rivalry and I am having a hard time imagining life without it. I will forever hold much loyalty to Minnesota for my time spent at the institution, but I just can’t help but feel that the school and the Big Ten as a whole have ruined college hockey with this stupid new conference. Maybe I’ll learn to hate Penn State someday, but I really just can’t envision there ever being the same level of intensity of that tremendous 2008 Gophers/Mavericks first round series or the venom for St. Cloud State or the same level of big brother swagger the Gophers hold over the four other D-1 hockey programs in the state. Yeah, yeah, we can still hate Wisconsin and blah, blah, blah. One real rival isn’t going to replace the almost weekly hate-fest the WCHA is able to produce.
 
10:30 AM – Beyond the Pond never disappoints. One host is really good, thinks through what he has to say, and is very slick. Another is still a little rough around the edges, but often makes salient points. The third ways whatever pops into his head. I’ll let you guess who is who.
 
12:03 PM – I arrive at RandBall’s house and he informs me that not only is there a hockey game at the X, and not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but that there is some sort of parade taking place and it is unseasonably warm. It is becoming more and more clear that the nearest parking spot might be in St. Cloud. Also, I can’t help but notice that RandBall seems quieter than usual. Is something wrong?
 
 
12:50 PM – Having parked away from the crowds but still within walking distance, we were able to make our way to the epicenter of the ridiculousness reasonably quickly. The haggling for the tickets with the scalpers was short and sweet. We shaved maybe a little more than 40 percent off of the face value, leaving us with almost moderately priced tickets for where we are going to sit. The guy selling the tickets practically shook our hands with tears in his eyes after our first counteroffer. Just how long can the Wild continue to charge those prices with the product it is putting on the ice? I’ll say…until January 14, 2013.
 
12:52 PM – As we make our way through the horde of humanity to the arena I don’t think I can say that I fear for my life exactly, but I can’t say that I don’t either. There is a certain kind of rowdiness hanging in the air; the kind that has a way of dropping on peoples’ heads like the anvil on the coyote in the old cartoons. I start hustling to the arena because it feels like the fuse has been lit and I would prefer to be inside the building when whatever is at the end of that fuse goes off.
 
1:07 PM – Dave Hakstol and George Gwozdecky, the coaches for the Final Five championship game, give the ceremonial “Let’s Play Hockey” invocation. Hakstol is lustily booed. Somewhere (likely no more than five hundred yards from us) Clarence Swamptown punches someone or something dressed like a leprechaun. RandBall remains distant and seemingly distracted.
 
1:18 PM – The first seven minutes of the Wild/Hurricanes game sees two weak goals and one weak fight. Everybody on the ice looks like they would rather be at the parade.
 
 
2:03 PM – If you are a long time sports fan (and of course you are, if you are reading this blog) then you know that one the greatest joys in going to a game is getting to occasionally watch some clown who knows next to nothing about the sport try to explain what’s happening in the game and/or around the league to the unfortunate woman sitting next to him who knows nothing about the sport. The things that come out of this blustery fool’s mouth are so often comedy gold and can turn even a relatively boring game – such as this one – into a dangerously thrilling roller coaster ride of idiocy with all kinds of leaps in logic, shaky proclamations, and twisting, looping streams of pointlessness. The blowhard sitting next to me has strapped us all in for the afternoon and is bound and determined to take us for quite a ride. I can’t help but really start to pay attention when he declares, “That’s why I quit watching the Wild two years ago. Because they stink.”
 
2:11 PM – Carolina stretches together a furious rush, the high point of which is Eric Staal hitting the pipe on a shot that had Matt Hackett beat. My newfound source of amusement, who apparently thinks that the world is dying to hear his public declaration about everything that happens at all times, once again voices his displeasure with the local squad. “You know what? I’m clapping if Carolina scores.” Time stops and the very earth shakes at this terrifying possibility and I swear I see Cal Clutterbuck look up at us, trying not to bawl and vowing that he’ll grow a second or even a third moustache it that is what it will take to keep this invaluable man-god from denying his love and/or life essence from the franchise.
 
2:24 PM – A couple of quick goals give the Wild their first lead in a game in approximately seven years. They are up 3-1 and looking like they finally realized how close they have been to losing the good graces of the man-god who was so furious only moments ago.
 
2:28 PM – Aaaaaaand Carolina gets one back. Both teams are almost equally awful in the standings, but they seem to be on different trajectories. The Wild, of course, was incredibly hot over the first two months of the season and has been unbelievably awful since, raising questions about the young coach and much of the roster. Carolina, on the other hand, buried itself early in the season but has been playing really well since Kirk Muller took over. I’ve watched plenty of both of these teams this year and, despite the present deficit for the Hurricanes, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how this one is going to end.
 
2:45 PM – Oh sweet sassy molassey, no. No, no, no. He is trying to engage me in conversation. He has noticed my sweet UNC hockey jersey and now he wants to tell me how he is a fan of Michael Jordan. Oh dear heavens, make it stop. I don’t want to have to explain anything to him. I don’t want to tell him how I got the jersey or who I am rooting for or how I came to be sitting in the X today or even the time of day. I know if this conversation starts its just going to be me desperately trying not to get frustrated while I search for a polite way to refute every stupid thing he says. The best defense in this situation is short, polite answers to questions while stealthily seeking out an opportunity to turn and begin a very important conversation with RandBall. After a brief engagement, I turn to a very unhelpful RandBall who refuses to throw me a life preserver. He still looks distant. I ask him if something is wrong and his voice meekly trails off as he says, “No, not really …”
 
3:05 PM – In the space of about two and a half game time minutes the Wild drew a penalty, threw the power play away by taking a bad penalty, gave up the tying goal, and then gave up the go-ahead goal. There was some half-hearted booing from the crowd after the penalty, but since everybody in the building knew what was coming there seemed to be no point in putting too much effort into it. The sense of dread was so great even the blowhard was incapable of doing anything other than gulping his beer after the go-ahead goal. The Wild is in a bad way, folks. [Proprietor note: The Wild is 2-0 since Rocket left town. Just sayin' ...]
 
3:21 PM – Please just make it stop. This time it was the blowhard’s female companion. She also noticed the sweet UNC jersey and said, “I’ll bet that guy from Carolina is happy.” Pretend you didn’t hear it. Just keep staring straight ahead. Where the [redacted] is RandBall when I could use him? Sure, he’s sitting right next to me, but it’s like he’s a million miles away.
 
3:28 PM – Chad LaRose first puts the puck and then himself into the empty net to make it 5-3 Hurricanes. The game is effectively over and so is my ability to hide from whatever is happening outside the X right now.
 
3:35 PM – Unusually quiet today or not, it’s nice to have RandBall around because he is still pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the Twin Cities. Happily, the bacchanal is relatively confined and after heading north for a block or two we were able to escape most of the tomfoolery. I have to believe that St. Patrick is easily the most embarrassed saint in all of heaven. I imagine that, as he looked down upon the woman in the gold pants, green tank top, and shamrock shaped green sunglasses holding a beer above her head in the middle of the street yelling, “Woooooooo, St. Patrick’s Day,” he shook his head, turned to the other saints, and said, “Seriously guys, you know this is not me. You know I'm not like this at all and I don’t know why they do this every year. I don’t even know that woman. This is so embarrassing. It’s the worst part of my annual review every time.”

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