Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
I was at Mariucci Arena last night to watch the Gophers crush Michigan State 5-1 in the team's regular-season opener. It's Homecoming weekend at the 'U'. It was a game against a Spartans team that, from next season on, will be the Gophers' third-biggest conference rival. And with the NHL still stubbornly in drydock, it was the most popular game going in what the Wild's marketing staff would have us believe is the "State of Hockey." Yet last night's crowd was a sedate group that filled the arena maybe three-quarters full, and left with four minutes to go, to beat the traffic.
Maybe last night was an aberration. Maybe the 6 p.m. start on a Friday night in the early fall killed the attendance. Or maybe the truth is that, for all the Wild's marketing efforts, Minnesota is not so much the State of Hockey as the State of Basketball.
It's not such a dumb theory. When the Timberwolves are good (an admittedly rare event), they draw just as well as the Wild, and the days of Gopher hockey being a tougher ticket than Gophers hoops are over. As for the youth game, in a huge swath of the state it is virtually nonexistent. Sure, the climate here means we can have outdoor ice and outdoor rinks, but there are probably five basketball courts for every hockey rink in Minnesota. 155 high schools (and co-ops) play boys' hockey in Minnesota; boys' basketball, meanwhile, has 426 teams, and more teams play Class A boys' basketball (171) than play in all of boys' hockey.
I'm not suggesting that another state is collectively a bigger fan of hockey, because I don't think that's true; for all of the passion in Massachusetts and Michigan, neither one can touch Minnesota as a hockey state. But, after seeing the reaction to the biggest hockey game in the state last night, it does seem true that Minnesota's still waiting for its favorite winter sport to get into full swing.
On with the links:
*It's never too early to think about what the 2013 Twins are going to look like. Jesse at Twinkie Town looks at the Twins who are eligible for salary arbitration, some of whom probably aren't coming back.
*The NHL league office is just determined to make everyone lose his job, aren't they?
*Will Leitch writes about the phenomenon of the celebrity sportswriter, something that can probably be seen on some scale in just about every city in America.
*This story at Deadspin is about R.A. Dickey, and prep school, and selling out, and is in some ways the most fascinating look at the man who might be America's most fascinating pitcher.
*FC Barcelona, the world's most popular club soccer team, is in some ways an expression of Catalan calls for independence - but, as the Economist notes, Catalan independence would likely kill the club, something that may have a lesson for politicians in the region, as well.
*And finally: there must be something about catchers. Buster Posey can't get any love in San Francisco, either.