I have made it a personal goal in life to see at least one NHL game in every NHL city. My Wife and I were on a pretty good roll until one of my wanderers took hold back in November of 2008 and my little hockey buddy, Sam, arrived nine months later.
I have been able to knock out eight different NHL venues, so far (I have been to a lot of NHL games, but most of them have been in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh) and I had an enjoyable experience at all of them, but none of the other metropolises that I have visited can do hockey quite like the "Twin Cities."
To caveat my above statement, I am not a Minnesota Wild backer (I am a die-hard Pittsburgh Penguins fan and always will be) and, therefore, am not speaking with a fan’s bias.
Seeing a hockey game in Minnesota was a tremendous experience and I implore all hockey lovers to do your best to make a trip there to see the Wild.
The Xcel Energy Center is the best entertainment venue that I have ever visited. It was state of the art with all the technological and "new-wave" amenities a fan could want, while still maintaining the charm and nostalgic atmosphere of a good old fashioned hockey barn.
The fans were friendly, knowledgeable, and full-fledged hockey crazies. Almost every one of them was decked out in jerseys or some other kind of green and red Wild apparel (with the exception of the several hundred Montreal Canadian fans that were in attendance to cheer on their Habs).
I went into the game absolutely neutral and simply wanting to see an intriguing and well-played hockey game.
By the time the first period was over I found myself openly cheering for the Wild just because the energy that was emanating from the fans was so powerful and exhilarating that it just sucked me right in.
The home team ended up winning in overtime (3-2, I believe) and the stadium erupted upon the game-clinching goal.
The Wild had scored an OT goal against an Eastern Conference opponent to win a regular season, mid-December game. It felt like they had just won a game seven, triple OT series clincher.
The kind of excitement generated in the building that night was the type that can help turn a casual fan into a hockey lifer. Even my Wife, who goes on these trips solely so she can shop in different parts of the country, felt the riveting emotional blast from the 18,500 +/- fans in attendance.
I have yet to have the privilege of taking in an NHL contest in Canada, which I’m sure is a spectacle unlike any other.
There are several US cities that I have yet to visit that are homes to fantastic NHL franchises.
I know there will never be another place that I would rather watch NHL action then in the city of Pittsburgh, where my beloved Penguins play.
However, I truly believe that it will be difficult to find another place that can truly submerge you under the perfect tidal wave of hockey enjoyment like Minnesota.