Updated: Mar 17
St. Paul is a destination that should be on every hockey enthusiast's bucket list. The hockey culture of Minnesota needs to be experienced firsthand; words cannot do it justice. Go during the high school state championship games and try not to get sucked into the hype, I dare you!
When I travel places, normally to other countries I think it’s important to experience the culture. Dine where the locals dine, do what the locals do. I never realized there would be a culture waiting for me to experience in St. Paul. Quickly, I knew a fancy date night dinner wasn’t appropriate, so I put my Anthony Bourdain “hat” on and embraced the culture. When I hunkered down at the local hockey bar, Tom Reid’s, where the walls were adorned with hockey memorabilia and hockey games were on every TV it was obvious, I had embraced the experience.
Casey and I went to St. Paul for the Let’s Play Hockey Expo. The expo boasts the title of the largest hockey expo in the world and has vendors that encompass every aspect of hockey, even down to the collectors’ items. It was fun meeting other people in the hockey business and seeing what they do. Everyone there had one thing on their mind though, the boy's high school championship games.
Minnesota boy’s state championship games sell out the Xcel Energy Center where the Minnesota Wild of the NHL call home. I repeat, they SELL OUT a 20,000 seat arena for HIGH SCHOOL level games. These kids are local celebrities. They walk into the restaurants, bars, and expo between games, and you hear the chatter of excited fans. If you aren’t familiar with the players, you can spot them a mile away when you know what to look for. They are the kids showing off their flow by wearing their winter hats balanced on the very top of their heads. They are in trendy outfits only their peers understand. They are surrounded by their teammates, groupie friends and typically somewhere nearby the hockey parents.
I have much more to learn about the hockey phenomenon that is Minnesota. How did the hockey culture begin? Are the high school girl's hockey teams celebrated as well? What happens to the players egos when they go from local celebrities to just good hockey players in college/universities in other states?
Our St. Paul trip was a short one and due to the freezing temperatures, I can’t say I was sad to leave. I never thought I would say this, but I want to go back.