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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Celebrating Hockey Day in Minnesota From the Men’s Room

The gang dressed and ready for the Hockey City Classic

The gang dressed and ready for the Hockey City Classic, with me on the left

Outdoor hockey. In January. In Minnesota. Sounds like fun, right? Not to the normal person. As one friend messaged me, “Your idea of fun is very different from mine.” I can’t lie. It’s true. But only because it was fun. A lot of fun, even when I took my shoes off and huddled up with dozens of strange men in the bathroom in an effort to keep warm. But, before we get to that semi-awkward point, let’s start at the beginning.

My ticket to the Hockey City Classic

My ticket to the Hockey City Classic

Months ago, a friend emailed, asking if I wanted to head back to Minnesota to see the outdoor hockey game between the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University. It was going to be over his birthday weekend in January. I didn’t even need to consider it. The answer was yes before I even finished reading the question. Of course I’d be there to both see the Hockey City Classic and celebrate his birthday.

Tickets were purchased. Flights booked. And all of the arrangements made to get back to Minnesota, simply so I could stand outside, look at my phone, and laugh when it told me it “Feels like -3.” Truth be told, and more appropriately, it should have read, “Too cold to operate.”

The crowd packing the stands of the game

The crowd packing the stands of the game

None of us felt like operating. It was that cold. Instead, we only wanted to shoulder together, hunker down in our seats, and watch the game, wishing and hoping not another goal would be scored. The Gophers were up 1-0. We didn’t need anything else, because that meant another stoppage to prolong being outside.

Then a man in front of us said something no one in the stadium wanted to hear:

“This is going to go to overtime.”

“Watch your mouth,” I told him.

“It will, just watch.”

But it didn’t. And for that, as I pried my cold butt cheeks from my seat at the end of the game and headed to a nearby bar, I was thankful. As I later told my friend and brother, I’m glad I saw it. The experience was worth it, since outdoor hockey still is quite the novelty. But I never want to do it again. Not when it feels like -3.

The Gophers celebrate the lone goal of the game

The Gophers celebrate the lone goal of the game

But that was just the appetizer. The next night – or the whole day, rather – was the main course. Hockey Day in Minnesota. A celebration of all things hockey in the State of Hockey.

My Hockey Day in Minnesota ticket

My Hockey Day in Minnesota ticket

And so when it came time to see another hockey game, we went. Why? Because it was indoors. Did you really think I’d do another outdoor one? No way. Forget my phone. Then I’d be saying it’s too cold to operate.

Compared to the 45,000+ outside the night before, this game only mustered a crowd of 10,000. But it was warmer. More pleasant. And well worth it, since I didn’t have to stand huddled with so many strange men in order to maintain feeling in my toes.

It is likely that because of that one experience I will forever more avoid a public restroom at a sporting event. I never wish to again be standing in my socks in the men’s room, surrounded by dozens of other guys huddling together to keep warm, while switching out heat packs to save my toes from being sawed off at the local emergency room.  For that reason, I took care of any and all business in advance and completely avoided using the restroom at Saturday’s game.

Hockey Day in Minnesota started Saturday morning, and ran through the day with games broadcasted on television. The finale is the professional team, the Minnesota Wild. They beat the team that once called Minnesota home before relocating, the Dallas Stars. I watched most of it from the comfort of my brother’s home after we returned from the Gophers game. The college team pulled out a repeat victory and sweep against OSU, coming from 2-0 down to win it 4-2.

Celebrating Hockey Day in Minnesota with my Gopher mask and autographed puck, thanks to my donation to Defending the Blue Line

Celebrating Hockey Day in Minnesota with my Gopher mask and autographed puck, thanks to my donation to Defending the Blue Line

Quite the showing. Quite the experience. And quite the enjoyable weekend, going home to celebrate hockey in one of the few places outside of Canada where such a thing could happen. I mean, really, could you see something like this in Los Angeles? Sure, they have the outdoor game at Dodger’s Stadium between the Ducks and Kings. But w0uld anyone show up at -3? Would anyone watch so many games on television? No way. It’s just not possible most anywhere in the U.S. beyond a few northern communities, Minnesota being one of them.

The joy in this isn’t just celebrating hockey. No. It’s also celebrating who I am and where I’m from: Minnesota. Forever will I identify myself as a Minnesotan, no matter where I live or for how long. It’s too in my blood to consider otherwise. And returning for Hockey Day in Minnesota is definitely something I could make a tradition of, considering I did it last year with the same friend and much the same result – Minnesota winning – although thankfully all indoors…and not in the men’s room.

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