I need help. What do they say? The first step is admitting I have a problem? Maybe you all on the interwebs can help me.
I’ve always been a multi-sport fanatic. My allegiances go back to my youth. My first love was the Minnesota Twins, and I am still very much rooted in that squad. But since the Wild came into existence, they’ve been my #1. For 9 years they’ve been the most important squad in my sports existence.
It’s not a front-runner thing. I didn’t get into hockey until 1991 when the North Stars made that surprising run. During that run, you couldn’t easily see a North Stars game. They were on a pay-per-view channel (remember Spectrum?) so all I ever saw was highlights on the news. And just as I developed a love for the sport of hockey, they were suddenly the Dallas Stars. I spent the next 7 years following Dallas, even becoming a fan of our former team. I’m talking purchasing the Center Ice package just to watch Stars games. I’m talking going to nondescript preseason games at Target Center just to get an NHL fix. And then in 2000, I was at the X for a preseason game, the inaugural game, the first Stars game, partial season ticket years, playoff games, Marian Gaborik 5-goal game, and many many others. There has been nothing better than the experience of gameday at Xcel Energy Center.
But the number of Wild games I’ve attended has dwindled over the last two seasons. Last year I went to zero games, and I had only been to one game so far this season. It’s become so cost-prohibitive. Just don’t have the money to spend on tickets when the minimum to get in the building is $24 a person plus fees. So when I won tickets to Friday’s game I was very very excited. But in the end, I think it exposed a problem.
Case Study: Free Friday Night at the X
Atlanta’s not exactly the most exciting opponent to go see. But, looking for deals, I checked TicketKing earlier in the day to see what was available. Cheapest were around $45, so that was a non-starter. But then I was fortunate enough to win tickets from Children’s Hospital in a drawing they held on Twitter. So that was awesome. My wife and I were very very excited. It would be her first game in 2 years. We lined up a sitter and were good to go. We left the house at about 4:45, thinking we’d get to St. Paul in time to make a stop at Cosetta’s before the 7:00 start.
So that exposed problem #1. We live about 50 miles from the X. Now back in the day that wasn’t a big deal. There were occasions we made the trip twice in one week. But Friday, the drive took a lot out of both of us. It’s not just the 50 miles. It’s traffic. All said and done, we finally got in and parked right around 6:15. That’s an hour and a half of drive time that dampens the spirits just a bit.
Picked up the tickets at Will Call. We didn’t know where the seats were until we picked them up…and they turned out to be in Suite 13. Excellent. Now this suite was not stocked with food and beverages, but that was OK- we had planned on spending some money in that department anyway. The suite was just icing.
Here’s where I lost more vibe. $8 for draft beer. $5.50 for the standby Wild Dog. $5 for nachos. That’s just under $30 for one trip to the concession stand. What if we wanted something a little more than a hot dog or nachos, like sustainable food? Pretty much every other item was $8. Has it always been this expensive at the X and I just didn’t notice, or have things jumped in price in the last 2 years?
Inside the suite, the atmosphere was stale. There were only 2 other couples, and then 2 or 3 others joined when they were smuggled in. My wife and I hung out at the chair rail, sort of between the seats that extend into the arena and the hob-nobbing section of the suite. So maybe it’s my fault for not moving out into the seats, but I felt pretty detached from the action. Don’t get me wrong, the view was great. But I struggled to pay really good attention to the game. Lost more vibe there.
The game itself was blah. The Wild played uninspired hockey after the first period, and went down 2 goals on a shot from outside the slot that Niklas Backstrom closed his eyes on or something, and it wound up the game winner. Perhaps poor hockey is the ultimate vibe killer.
Paging Dr. Frasier Crane
So I need help. I left the X feeling like something was missing from the experience. Like the bloom is off the rose. I’m trying to figure out why. It could be that I’m taking the experience at the X for granted. It could be that I’m so looking forward to Target Field in April that I couldn’t appreciate what was in front of me. It could be that I was most concerned with spending some time with my wife sans our 19-month old and the hockey really didn’t matter. And it could be that a Wild squad not playing playoff-caliber hockey trumps all.
Looking for some free psychiatric advice. I need to refocus and keep my passion!